What Is a Recruiter (and How to Talk to One)?

What Is a Recruiter (and How to Talk to One)? was originally published on Forage.

recruiter talking to candidate with laptop in front of her

Recruiters are the connection between job seekers and a company. They help companies fill open roles by finding qualified candidates — people they think have the skills, experience, and ability to do the job well. If you’re looking for a job, you might come across a recruiter during your search. So, what exactly does a recruiter do, and how should you talk to one? 

We’ll cover:

What Does a Recruiter Do?

A recruiter helps connect candidates to roles they’re qualified for and helps companies find the right talent for their open positions.

On a day-to-day basis, a recruiter might:

  • Reach out to qualified candidates and ask them if they’re interested in applying for a role
  • Review resumes candidates have submitted
  • Have an introductory interview with a candidate
  • Check a candidate’s references
  • Provide information about company benefits, salary, and culture

Recruiter vs. Hiring Manager

It’s easy to confuse recruiters and hiring managers because they’re both trying to fill open roles. However, while a recruiter’s main job is to fill a position, filling a role is only part of a hiring manager’s job description. Hiring managers have another job title that describes what they do at the company, like VP of sales or content manager. They become a hiring manager when they’re looking to fill a role on their team.

>>MORE: Hiring Manager vs Recruiter: What’s the Difference?

Types of Recruiters

In-House vs. Agency

There are two main types of recruiters based on who they work for. Some work directly for companies, while others work for recruiting agencies.

Recruiters who work directly for companies usually sit within the company’s human resources or people and operations department. These recruiters are trying to fill roles only within that company. They also have a role in setting the company’s interview processes and keeping the company up to date with industry salary and hiring trends.

“We maintain the actual interviewing process and experience and change it with the times,” Elisa Pineda, senior recruiter at Forage, says. “[We want] a straight, uniform, and unbiased approach for everyone involved. Also, we make sure the [interview] processes don’t get too long or complicated. There is a lot of maintenance and awareness for what’s evolving in the field.”

Because this type of recruiter works directly for the company, they’ll have intimate knowledge of its benefits, culture, beliefs, history, and more. Therefore, you can ask direct questions about these topics when speaking with them.

Other recruiters work for recruiting agencies, which means they’re not loyal to one company. Companies hire recruiting agencies to help outsource the recruiting work, so agency recruiters are often tasked with hiring for roles at various companies. 

While these recruiters help with initial candidate screenings, they won’t have personal experience working at that company. However, they’ll have general knowledge of its culture and benefits and a good idea of the salary range. It’s still okay — and necessary — to ask about these things, but they won’t necessarily be able to give first-hand insights.

What Is a Technical Recruiter?

A technical recruiter recruits only for technical roles, like software engineers and IT professionals. Conversations with technical recruiters will focus heavily on your technical skills. 

“Expect to be asked questions about projects you’ve worked on, what your role was within that project, outcomes of work you’ve done, and technical questions about skills required for a specific position,” Wendi Reuter, senior IT recruiter at Carex Consulting Group, says.

Technical recruiters often have a background in technology that helps them stay up to date with tools, programs, and applications people use. When talking to a technical recruiter, know they’ll have some background knowledge of the concepts and hard skills you’re talking about, so it’s okay to keep your conversations on the technical side.

>>MORE: Learn how to ace a technical interview with Girls Who Code’s Technical Interview Prep Virtual Experience Program.

How to Talk to a Recruiter

How to Reach Out to a Recruiter on LinkedIn

If you see a recruiter looking to fill a role you’re interested in, you can reach out to them on LinkedIn. In your message, share your interest, experience, and the role you’d like to discuss with them. 

It’s best to be “short and sweet,” Matthew Warzel, certified professional resume writer and former Fortune 500 recruiter, says. “They are busy-bodies, usually juggling multiple openings at a time and speaking with tens, sometimes hundreds of candidates each day!”

>>MORE: A Beginner’s Guide to LinkedIn

How to Respond to a Recruiter Email

If you’re interested in the role:

Congratulations! Respond to the recruiter and state your interest and availability. For example:

If you’re not interested in the role:

It’s best to be honest and upfront with the recruiter. If you’re not interested for a particular reason (location, team, sector, happy in your current role, etc.), you can briefly explain why you’re not interested. 

“Respond and build a relationship with the recruiter,” Greg Togni, managing partner at 180one, an executive search firm, says. “If you spend two minutes to respond, perhaps the recruiter will know when to contact you and keep you top of mind.”

How to Talk to a Recruiter in An Interview

An interview with a recruiter is often called a “screening.” These are usually short phone calls where the recruiter tries to gauge if you have the minimum skills and experience to do the role. If they think you do, they’ll pass you on to the hiring team, who will schedule more in-depth interviews to learn about your experience and soft skills.

“Expect questions from the recruiter about the information listed on your resume — whether that be employment, volunteer work, training, and/or education,” Valerie Yrigolla, senior recruiter at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, says. 

To prepare for a phone interview with a recruiter, research the company and the role as you would before any other interview. Then, come prepared with your elevator pitch — which describes your top achievements and what you’re looking for — and a summary of why you think you’re right for this role.

“You’ll want to make sure that you’re adequately explaining your qualifications but not going off on tangents either,” Yrigolla says. “If the recruiter doesn’t share how long the interview will last, ask upfront to know how many details in your responses to offer.” 

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Questions to Ask a Recruiter

This is also a chance to ensure you align on basic salary expectations, benefits, and working preferences (e.g., remote vs. hybrid vs. in-person) right off the bat. Don’t be afraid to ask about non-negotiables that will help you understand if this role is right for you — as long as the information isn’t already on the company’s social media or website. For example:

  • What are some of the top qualities you’re looking for in this role?
  • Where does this role sit in the structure of the company? 
  • When and why did this role become available?
  • What’s the company culture like?
  • What’s your salary range for this role?
  • What work model does this company follow? Are all positions hybrid, remote, or in-person? Where are most team members located?
  • What are the next steps of the interview process?

“A job seeker’s questions about the recruiter’s organization and the role are quite revealing,” David Reed, global head of talent acquisition at Sedgwick, says. “Recruiters are evaluating the depth and insight of the job seeker’s questions. Did you do your homework? Did you invest enough time to demonstrate your true interest?”

>>MORE: 5 Top Questions to Ask During an Interview

How (and When) to Follow Up With a Recruiter

Following up with a recruiter follows similar rules to following up after an interview. Within 24 hours of your conversation, thank them for their time, restate your interest, and ask them if there’s anything else they need from you. If you connected via LinkedIn, you could follow up in a LinkedIn message. If they contacted you via email, email them. For example:

If you don’t hear back, that means you may not be the best fit for that specific role. But that doesn’t mean you need to lose connection with the recruiter. 

“If you aren’t a fit for that specific role you’re interviewing with the recruiter for, you may fit a future role,” Warzel says. “Be sure to ping that recruiter every 6-8 weeks.”

While you don’t need to do regimented follow-ups, checking in with the recruiter every few months can help keep you fresh in their mind.

Recruiters: The Bottom Line

Recruiters are the bridge between companies and job seekers. If you’re looking for a new role, a recruiter might be able to connect you with great opportunities you’re qualified for. You’ll need to effectively show them your skills and experience and honestly share what kind of role you’re looking for.

“Recruiters cannot help you if you are lacking direction,” Warzel advises. “Understand not only the achievements and accomplishments you can bring into the new role, but most importantly, what value do you offer? How can you be the Tylenol to the hiring team’s pains, and how can you make their lives easier? If you are equipped with this knowledge, a [recruiter] interview should be a piece of cake. Remember, they want you to be the right fit.”

>>MORE: Build your job search confidence with Forage’s personal development virtual experience programs.

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