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Doing Business with the Recruiter- on the Phone, and in His or Her Office

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Okay. When a recruiter calls, your first reaction is to find out exactly who that recruiter is and... even if you know the person well...the exact nature of his or her mandate, if any. How appropriately the recruiter is tied to the employer and the job may be far more important than how attractive the job is.

From here on, we'll assume that you've examined the recruiter and his or her client relationship, both of which are fine indeed.

You've accepted the recruiter. Now let's do business.



Interestingly, whereas your first few minutes of the recruiter's call were somewhat adversarial-you brought up something not on the recruiter's agenda-now that you're getting down to business, your interests and the recruiter's are almost identical.

Of course, the recruiter is still trying to sell you something which you may be wise not to buy. That will be true up to the moment you accept the employer's job and resign your present one. But during this initial phone call, you and the recruiter both want to know the same things... although in opposite order of priority:

Recruiter's Priorities

1. Are you qualified?

2. Are you interested?

Your Priorities

1. Are you interested?

You want to find out whether the job is right for you... and whether the recruiter knows enough about it to actually have a proper assignment to fill it. The recruiter, on the other hand, wants to know whether you're right for the job. And if not, he or she doesn't care how interested you are.

Let's do it your way.

Let's indulge your priorities. First, are you "interested"? And only secondly, are you "qualified"?

If you've got a job and the recruiter's trying to get you to consider a different one, then you're the buyer and he's the seller. He'll have to follow your agenda, if you just assert it:

YOUR CALLER: "I'm in the process of filling an exceptionally attractive position for a management information executive in your industry, and I've heard some very good things about you.

But I'm not entirely sure that your background is a 'fit.' Tell me, first of all, are you in charge of systems-development throughout the entire corporation, including the subsidiaries in the U.K. and on the Continent?"

YOU: "Yes, I am. But I'm in very good shape here at Outstanding Corporation. Before we go into my background, why don't we just see if the situation you have is something that I ought to think about. And if it's not for me, I'll try to suggest some other people who'd be more appropriate."

Right at the outset you've got things rolling in the direction that's best for you. You've conveyed a pleasant, receptive, helpful attitude. But you haven't given up your superior bargaining position. You've politely asserted your obvious advantage.

Already the recruiter is sizing you up. On a subliminal level and probably on a conscious level, too...he's now alert to the fact that, on this call, he's dealing with a highly aware and competent person. Maybe you're the one he's looking for.

Of course, if you were out of work and the recruiter were calling in response to your letter and resume, your buyer/seller roles would be reversed. You'd be willing to answer all his questions about your background and track record prior to hearing the specifics of the job he's filling. He'd be the buyer.

Ask probing questions about the opportunity.

They will:

1. further qualify the recruiter;

2. rule out a no-benefit opportunity;

3. at the same time, demonstrate you're the caliber of person the recruiter wants.

If there's some reason for you not to deal with the recruiter, or not to be interested in the job, you want to find out right away. Then you don't waste your time or hers.

Ask probing questions. Simultaneously you'll find out whether the position is worth considering, and whether the recruiter is well-informed enough to really be on retainer to fill it. Sometimes, although far less often than most people think, even a retainer recruiter may not be at liberty to identify the employer. But if she's tied in, she can describe the job in detail.

So ask everything that will help you see whether you should spend any time beyond the initial phone call to explore the opportunity:

What are the specific responsibilities?

What's the title?

What position would you report to?

How many subordinates? With what functions?

Is it chief executive, reporting to an outside board? If it's president or general manager of a subsidiary, does it report to the CEO, or to the COO, of the parent? Or is there a group officer in between?

If it's a top marketing job, does the sales force report to it? How large is the sales force? How many product managers? Are manufacturers ' reps and distributors used? Which ad agencies? Budget? Media mix?

If it's chief financial officer, does the position have responsibility for administration, management information services, internal auditing, subsidiary controllerships (straight or dotted line), etc.?

If it's a top manufacturing job, does manufacturing engineering report to it? Quality control? Purchasing? Physical distribution?

How about off-shore operations and plants? Plants within the subsidiaries?

If it's a top engineering job, does it just include work on new products? What about quality control and manufacturing engineering?

Don't trust the tide to describe the job. Whatever your specialty, ask, ask, ask! And then go further:

What's the boss like? What characteristics does he value most in his employees? What's his preferred working style...lots of documentation or very little paperwork...lots of autonomy or close supervision?

What's the location? Would you have to move?

What about compensation? Will it include an incentive program? Stock options?

What's the structure, momentum, and atmosphere of the company or division? Highly centralized, or decentralized? Growing.... plateaued... in trouble? What are the short-term, intermediate, and long-range goals of the business? What's its share-of-market and its reputation for quality and customer satisfaction?

Why is the job open? What specific business problem is supposed to be solved-or opportunity exploited-by going outside to fill this position? What happened to the person who's had it up to now? And the person before?

I could go on and on. And you have every right to do so too. Find out whether it's worthwhile for you and the recruiter to go to the trouble of a face- to-face interview.

Fortunately, the same questions that will convince you to proceed will simultaneously show the recruiter that you're the right caliber of person...an alert, analytical executive, who can quickly ferret out key issues and come to an informed decision.

Indeed, the more your questions show an awareness of the problems and opportunities facing your industry and specific companies in it, the more he'll be sure that you're someone his client wants to meet.
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