Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Tag: Networking (page 2 of 2)

Behind the (agency) curtain

Some tips on engaging more effectively

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, agency recruiters and search firms are a fixture on the job search (or hiring) landscape. But they’re not interchangeable and they do need some cultivation. Here’s a roadmap to save you some time and potential heartache.

PART 1: they’re not all created equal :: Things to know

Agencies have different focuses. Some search firms only recruit and place people with deep skills in a particular technology tool (ie. Office 365 or Salesforce). Others focus on a skillset (developers, scrum masters, etc). There are agencies that target midlevel (2-10 year) candidates and others that only work on executive search (senior- and C-level). If you’re new to working with agency recruiters, take a look at their ‘available opportunities’ to get an idea of their practice. Make sure their area of specialization aligns with your skillset.

They often have different lines of business: some work strictly on contract or contract to hire job searches, others only work on permanent placement. Find out what their ‘bread and butter’ is ~ and then, if their focus isn’t the same as yours, keep moving.

Just because a recruiter calls does not mean you need to work with them. Do your homework! For instance, if you’re looking for a perm/direct hire role, don’t waste time (yours or theirs) with a firm that only places people in contract roles, unless you’re truly open to a contract position.

In the direct-hire / permanent placement world, there are different kinds of searches:

Contingent (the agency doesn’t get paid unless they find a candidate that the client hires); usually non-exclusive and a race with other firms to present qualified candidates.

Engaged (the client company pays part of the agency fee up front), which generally gives the agency some exclusivity and traction with the client.

Retained (the client company pays the agency fee in installments, even if the agency doesn’t find a candidate). Essentially, the agency is getting paid for its time, and hopefully for a well-suited candidate. Retained searches are most-often used for senior- and executive level searches.

Why is this relevant? Because the agency’s influence depends on whether the client is using them exclusively or putting the search out to many firms.

Recruiters vary wildly in experience. The big firms like Robert Half  and Modis hire inexperienced recruiters, train them up, and see who makes it. Recruiting is a tough and competitive game with a high turnover rate.  Especially if you’re 10+ years into your career, be discerning. Work with a recruiter with 5+ years of experience (and proven success).

Just like the rest of us, agency recruiters have relationships of different degrees with their client companies. It’s worth asking how well they know a hiring manager and whether they’ve made recent placements with the company before agreeing to be represented there.

Here’s why: once an agency presents your resume to a company, the agency can charge a placement fee if you’re hired. Agencies typically claim this right for 6 – 12 months.

The problem comes when a company is NOT willing to pay an agency fee. If you’re competing against someone who comes in via the company’s Careers page or a referral, it could easily tip the balance in their favor.

So ask your recruiter: how many people have they placed with the client company?  Who pays the agency fees: Talent Acquisition (which might say no even if the hiring manager agrees to consider agency candidates)? Or does the fee come out of the hiring manager’s budget (meaning s/he has decision-making power over paying an agency)?

An agency recruiter who’s invested in your success will generally have answers to these questions. They’ll also tell you if their relationship is strong enough to get traction on your behalf.

PART 2: How to work smart with your agency recruiter

NOTE: You are not the agency recruiter’s client ~ the hiring company is. You’re paying your recruiter zero dollars. Please don’t be that candidate who expects their recruiter to do everything. They’re not your agent, though a good and well-connected recruiter will often act as one for a top-notch candidate.

  • Unless you have sought-after skills (and even if you do), collaborate. Stay in touch (find out from your recruiter how often is appropriate). Ask about positions you’ve seen on the agency’s ‘opportunities’ page. Mention jobs you’ve seen posted on companies’ Careers pages to see if they’ve got a lead in.
    DO NOT APPLY TO THE POSITION FIRST AND THEN ASK YOUR AGENCY RECRUITER FOR HELP ‘GETTING IN FRONT OF THE HIRING MANAGER’. Once you apply to a role directly, the agency cannot represent you at that company.
  • Give back: offer to help your recruiter by tapping your network, by introducing them to potential candidates, etc. If you’re a hiring manager who needs help filling a job on your team and you can use a search firm / agency, your recruiter should be your first call.
  • Don’t be needy. Calling for daily updates or expecting your recruiter to fix your resume / LinkedIn profile is asking too much.
  • Slow down a bit and ask questions, especially as you get close to an offer. It’s your future. Here is where an unscrupulous recruiter (who’s getting paid to place you) might not be 100% forthcoming. If you have niggling doubts, address them. Ask for a final phone call with the hiring manager or HR if you’re not clear on things. Better safe than sorry.
  • You can work with different agency recruiters. However, you cannot (generally) be represented by more than one agency to the same company (even for jobs in other departments) within the same 6-12 month period. Once your resume is inside the company, that’s the agency who’ll get the fee if you’re hired.

A longstanding relationship with a trusted recruiter provides a lens into the marketplace, even when you’re not looking. As with any relationship, it needs attention, care and feeding.

Consider it an investment in your craft
to have a good recruiter on speed dial.

I use my agency- and corporate recruiting experience to help mid-career job seekers.
Got questions?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute Q&A.
Don’t be shy.

I got an introduction. Now what? 

Some thoughts on how to bridge the (awkward) gap.

“What do I do when someone in my network DOES make an introduction?”

Someone asked this recently. She was in a bit of a panic, wondering how to behave, what to say, and of course, whether she’d actually get to interview for the job she wants so badly.

A couple of suggestions:

If it’s an email introduction

You have a friend in the biz who graciously sends a joint introductory email to you and the person you’re trying to connect with (if they’re a really good friend and they know the person well, they also circle back a week or so later to make sure the connection was actually consummated).

The email you send to both people (your friend and the new contact) could read something like this:

Hi, X, thanks so much for the introduction!

Hello, Y,

It’s nice to v-meet you! I’ve gotten great intel on <your company> from several sources. It seems like an amazing place to be right now. When X mentioned he knows you, I asked for an introduction.

What works best? A call or a quick coffee near your office? It’d be great to have an opportunity to visit with you.

Warmly,
<your name>

Keep it short & simple, warm but dignified (you’re not desperate). You can mention the job you’ve spotted (if there is one), but don’t make it the sole focus of your email. Focus first on making the connection.

Please don’t be that person who says they’re “the perfect fit for the job.”  Don’t regurgitate your resume. Focus on the company more than the opportunity ~ who knows, maybe they’ve already gotten to final interviews on this job but there’s another one in the wings.

If it’s in person:

I learned early on at Robert Half that I could invite someone I knew to invite someone THEY knew for a joint coffee or lunch. Having that middle person who knows both parties takes a lot of the awkwardness away. Ask your connection if they’d do that for you.

If you end up meeting your new connection on your own, do a little research ahead of time so you can come up with a topic or two. Hello, LinkedIn. Maybe you’re both interested volunteer work, or you attended the same university.

Another idea: you can cold-call someone in the company (maybe someone in a role similar to the one you’re currently doing) and invite them to lunch. Coffee works too.

Be candid about the reason for your gesture. Say something like “I’d really like to learn more about your company, because it seems like you guys are solving some interesting problems” / “I’d like to be part of an innovative company” / “I like your company’s community involvement. I’m interested in being a part of a company like that.”

I think it’s important to identify with the WHY first (ie. why this company?). The job you spotted (if there is one) comes second.

Let the person get to know you a bit rather than lunging at the job. If they become an advocate, you’ve made progress toward ALL potential jobs. If you get so focused on this one position, you miss the opportunity to bond a bit. Take your time. Slow down a little.

Ask good questions: “What made you decide to join?” “What’s your biggest challenge been?” “What suggestions do you have for me?” “Do you have influence over this position?” “Is there anyone else you think I should chat with?”

Focus on the person you’re meeting. Be curious about the company. You’re doing research, not zeroing in for the kill.  Be helpful if you can.

Do this in a genuine way and follow through with a genuine thank you afterwards.  With practice, it’ll soon feel more natural. I promise.

I help mid-careerists better-tell their professional story.
Leverage my recruiting & writing experience (it’s like having the IRS prepare your taxes).

Here’s a link to schedule a 15-minute, no-obligation intro call.

Need a Fast Start?

a Recruiter’s Advice for Today’s Job Search


Are you arriving on the search scene after a hiatus?  Some of my clients have spent a decade or more with their companies (some thought they’d spend their whole career there).  It’s easy to get focused on day-to-day life, with job+family overriding networking.

If you suddenly find yourself on the brink of a job change, these guidelines will help:

Evaluate Your Professional Brand
  • Get help with your resume & LinkedIn profile from a savvy friend or a professional. Putting your best (digital) foot forward is super important, not only for your brand, but also for your confidence.
  • Spend some R&D time reviewing job postings (LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor). Figure out where your skill set fits. Job titles have evolved over the past 10 years.
  • Take an objective look at your appearance: do you need a more-current set of specs / haircut / interviewing clothes? I know of one outplacement coach who advises his clients to drop 5 pounds as a confidence-builder.
Get active on Social Media (LinkedIn)
  • More R&D: comb through LinkedIn to find former leaders & co-workers. Invite them to connect with you (if you aren’t already).
  • Change your LinkedIn visibility status to ‘open to opportunities’ so recruiters can find you. But don’t stop there:
  • If you’ve ignored LinkedIn (you’re not alone!), make it a daily practice to ‘like’ things that are professionally relevant. If you really like them, add a comment and/or ‘share’ them to your network.
Fire up your Networking
  • Think about where your next leader (or someone who knows her/him) might be found. Go there. Use Meetup.com to find professional events in your area of specialty. Attend regularly.
  • Get out for coffee / breakfast / lunch as often as you can. Invite former co-workers, people you’d like to know better, a recruiter or two (do your homework).
  • Regularly look for job postings (LinkedIn, Indeed, company Careers pages) that fit. BEFORE you apply, go to LinkedIn to see if you have a 1st degree connection at that company. If you do, ask them whether they’d be willing to promote you to the hiring manager / talent acquisition.
  • Don’t be a serial monogamist job seeker: have multiple lines in the water at any given time. This will help you from getting too attached to one opportunity.
  • Be curious about people you’re meeting outside work (at church, the gym, kids’ events, sporting events, volunteer activities). Find out what they do, where they work. If it’s appropriate, mention your job search. And connect with them on LinkedIn!
  • In addition to targeting a job / job title, talk to people to learn where the interesting problems (that you can help solve) are. Companies are growing, transforming, being born. Tap your growing network to find them.

It’s a brave new world out here in job hunt land. Social media has truly shifted the landscape. The old ‘apply and wait for a call’ doesn’t work. LinkedIn connections (the real kind) are golden , and it’s easier than ever to peer inside companies. There are even tools to help us assess cultures.

Here’s a quick article on bias-proofing your professional brand.

Looking for some help refining (or de-fining) your professional brand?
I can help.
Here’s a link to my calendar to set up a no-obligation intro call.

A Recruiter’s Guide to Professional Branding

10 Tips for Enhanced Clarity (+ better job-seeking results)

There are people with such in-demand skills (ie. web developers) that a simple ‘I’m ready to look for something new’ brings a flurry of job interview activity. Yet even these folks can benefit from the long view of professional branding. Fuzzy branding begets fuzzy results (don’t be fuzzy and frustrated).

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Know what you want to be known for. As you craft your resume, begin with a ‘Professional Summary’ which includes 2-3 sentences that capture the essence of your professional self. Keep the idea behind those sentences short and powerful: “I make databases sing” “I’m a change agent” “I’m a people connector”.  Are you calling out your superpower here? You betcha.
  2. Know your “why”: Even if you landed in a career ‘by accident’ (like I did, though I don’t believe there are any ‘accidents’), know your answer to the question “Why do you do what you do? “Because I love it” “Because I’m good at it” “Because I like making a difference”. What’s yours?
  3. Variety = Balance (and a bigger network): Across your career, it’s a good idea to work at companies both small and large, startup and established. Try working both contract and perm roles. You’ll have a deeper understanding of how things are done in each, a broader perspective, and…a bigger network.
  4. Know why you chose the jobs you did: Maybe you were recruited; other times perhaps you needed a change (or your job went away) so you hit the job boards. There’s a reason why you accepted each job. As you describe them on your resume (and in interviews), focus on what you learned & how you contributed. PS: “It was the best option at the time” is also a-ok.
  5. Look ahead to your next move: There’s nobody shepherding your career but you. Think like an independent contractor or entrepreneur: keep a shortlist of companies you’re curious about. Cultivate relationships with the people in them. Change is a constant, and nothing is permanent, not even a permanent job. Let your loyalty be fairly divided between your current employer and your own future.
  6. Always be adding to your network: Pick the style of networking that fits you, whether it’s 1:1 coffees/lunches or big networking happy hours. Meetups and professional events are the obvious choices, but strike up a genuine conversation wherever you are. Talk to people at kids’ activities, church, the dog park, the gym, in coffee shop lines, on vacation, doing nonprofit/volunteer work, at sporting or cultural events. Add the people you meet to your LinkedIn network if you like them and want to stay in touch.
  7. Offer help: Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help others get what they want.”
  8. Teach a class or mentor someone: There’s no better way to cement your knowledge (and your great reputation) than by sharing what you know. If you’re in technology, offer your help to the local high school’s STEM initiative. Find a student mentoring opportunity (Google ‘mentoring opportunities’ ~ you’ll be amazed!). Find someone in your current company who’s less-experienced that you can informally or formally guide.
  9. Ask for help: People generally like and enjoy helping others. Ask for an introduction, or tag along to a lunch or meeting. Find a Meetup with a topic you want to learn about. Take a class, either online or in-person. Find your own mentor who can help guide you in your career.
  10. If writing’s not your strong point: Hire a professional to polish your resume for you & make sure your LinkedIn profile is congruent. Whether you do it with me or get a recommendation from someone you know and trust, be sure your digital brand represents you well.

Why ‘professional branding’ and a long view toward visibility?

Because an ‘apply and pray’ strategy probably won’t bring great results when you need/want to find a new job. The most-successful and resilient job seekers have a robust network and a clear picture of their value proposition. You can, too.

And if you need help, here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro conversation.

 

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