How can you tell if you are working with a good recruiter?

I’m going to pretty heavily caveat this list because I think that different skills are required for recruiters to be successful in different markets. Its also quite common for recruiters to specialise in either permanent positions or contract positions, and most recruiters will tell you that there is a big difference between the types of personality that do well in one compared to the other. Furthermore I’d say it takes a different set of skills to be successful in a growing market (eg 2003 – 2007) versus a bad a market (2010 to now).

However I think as a general rule of thumb I would look for the following factors in a recruiter I was considering working with.

A good recruiter should:

  • be a specialist in something (development for financial markets for instance or high frequency trading for instance)
  • display a knowledge for what is going on in their market (who is currently hiring, what companies are good to work for, what sort of salaries are being offered at the moment)
  • be sincere. You’ve got to be able to trust this person
  • be able to give straight answers to direct questions. Try asking a few, see what happens.
  • be happy to tell you about what sort of clients they work with
  • have thought about why you might be interested in the job they are calling to tell you about and have a broad understanding of what the job is and why the company are looking for to fill it
  • sound like they enjoy their job, or at least like their job. Surprisingly recruiters who are unhappy with their jobs are not going to do a very good job at representing you
  • be reasonably attentive / a good communicator. How long does it take to get back to you answer phone message or email? Another way of putting this is what signs are they giving to show you that you are being treated like a priority
  • be accessible. Calling on a withheld number every time and never being there when you call (no-one is that busy) is bad sign, but then you knew that already
  • push back on you sometimes and tell you when you are being unrealistic about what you can expect to find. If a recruiter is a push over with you – just imagine what they will be like with their client when it comes to negotiating your financial package!
  • make sure you feel well prepared for an interview they secure for you and have done some investigation to make sure you are preparing for the right things
  • take an interest in meeting you in person.
  • be professional in the way they work with you. I mean like acting in the sort of way that means you might actually want to work with them again in the future
  • question you about the extent of your Java / technical skills and show some kind of understanding of what programming in a professional SDLC is all about.

To this I would add:

  • I don’t think choosing to work with a junior consultant is by any means a bad choice. If you have been contacted by a junior consultant I would suggest you think about whether you feel you can trust them and what clients their company works with. Junior consultants can be much better in some areas than more experienced consultants (enthusiasm, drive, accessibility and honesty about what is actually going on during the recruitment process for example). On the other hand there is likely to be another, more senior recruiter acting as a conduit between you and the client, so you might not get everything first hand. Its also worth bearing in mind that the more experienced a consultant is, the more they will know how to effectively handle unexpected situations.
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