Why You Need to Work with Recruiters in Your Job Search

Posted by Kathleen Smith

I’ve noticed there tends to be angst towards recruiters within the security community, but we can’t treat all recruiting and HR folks the same. That’s like saying all information security professionals are male hackers who wear black hoodies. It’s not representative of the community and it does everyone a disservice.

While there are trends in the industry for direct program managers to handle recruiting and hiring (which most job seekers favor), this is not always the case. Many companies have set policies and procedures for their hiring efforts. And with high demands and frustrating recruiting constraints, a confrontation between job seekers and HR/Recruiting departments has developed. This is an age-old problem that is not going to get fixed by everyone simply going around recruiting departments.

Don’t Evade the Recruiters, Avoid the Angst

In many cases you are going to have a more in-depth understanding of industry terminology and specific knowledge that will be required to successfully perform the security role in question than a recruiter, but being a know-it-all and scolding your recruiter will not increase your job prospects. Rather than trying to get around recruiters, reverse educate them. If someone contacts you about a job that you are interested in, but they’re not using the correct terminology or they’re not making sense, try to educate politely rather than berate.

Recruiters have inside knowledge about the company you’re applying to that can be valuable. Focus on collecting helpful and attainable information rather than wallowing in the potential shortcomings you might find with your hiring contact. Having meaningful interactions and building on the relationship can be of immediate and future benefit. Recruiters know other recruiters and if the job you were initially interested in doesn’t turn out to be the right fit, they can often connect you with someone else who might have an opening that fits you better—if you played nice and impressed them with your professionalism.

While some recruiters may inundate you with emails and solely concentrate on meeting hiring numbers, don’t let them give you a bad taste for all recruiters in the field. Let’s be frank. Not all job seekers are shiny great candidates either.

Understanding Who You’re Working With

Individuals have often asked me, what is a recruiter and why all the spam? This is a battle I’ve been fighting for a very long time, as our community is filled with “recruiters” but candidates are very unfamiliar with the different types. In a recent survey, among information security and cyber security professionals and students, only about half of the respondents said they knew the difference between direct recruiters, staffing firms, and headhunters.

You won’t necessarily know what kind of recruiter you’ll be interacting with, or the practice of that recruiter by just looking at a job posting, but here are some insights to better understand the possibilities you’ll face.

A direct recruiter works for the company and is responsible for finding the best talent to complement or lead the existing team. This person may be solely focused on the technical and security team or they may be a generalist who hires a sales person one day and then a reverse engineer the next. A direct recruiter’s goal is to make sure the company has the right talent to make the company successful. It’s a growing trend that recruiting is also responsible for retention, so they are additionally looking for people who will be a good fit and stay with the company for longer than the standard 18 months. They may or may not have a bonus tied to the number of people being hired.

The next type of recruiter is someone from a staffing firm. They’re serving their customers, and their goal is to get someone into a position to collect a commission. The practices and ethics of these companies vary widely in the community. Their commission is based on you staying at the company for at least 6 months, and they get a percentage of your first year salary—typically 20-30%.

Finally, headhunters or executive recruiters are retained by companies who are looking for C level executives. They have a fee that is associated with this search.

Of those survey respondents who understood the difference between these types of recruiters, 72% said they prefer to work with direct-hire recruiters. However, many direct-hire recruiters aren’t very active in the security community, nor do they always know how best to communicate with tech talent. There aren’t schools or degrees that teach people how to be recruiters. They come from a broad variety of educational backgrounds—so don’t expect them to be subject matter experts on every technical skill you personally hold. Regardless of which type of hiring framework you come into contact with, remain vigilant and continue to showcase your best professional persona.

Making the System in Place Work for You

The number one way to find a job is through a referral, but most of us don’t have networks large enough to provide us with all of the job leads that we’ll need for a lifetime, let alone when we really need a job. So for part of your job search at one point or another, you’re going to have to deal with the standard HR/Recruiting process. Many of us want to bang our heads against the wall until this changes, but if you don’t adapt to the process in place you will merely end up with a battered head and no job.

To support your job search, be sure that you are cultivating relationships with direct recruiters that you like working with. If you had a great conversation with a recruiter, stay connected with them. Even if you don’t get the job that they contacted you about, be sure to touch base with them from time to time. We all look to our network of colleagues to help us with restaurant and vacation recommendations. Why not also have a network of recruiters that can help you with your job search?

This entry was posted on Friday, June 21, 2019 7:32 pm

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