What every college student should know about working with a recruiter

There’s a secret a lot of people don’t know about job hunting: While many roles are listed, there are a ton of opportunities that you may not be able to find. That's where a recruiter — and their connections — can come in pretty handy.

Recruiters are people hired by companies to help find strong candidates for their open positions. They come in two types: in-house recruiters who focus on filling roles at a single company, and agency recruiters who work with multiple companies at once. They also provide many services that can help set candidates up for success when it comes to landing jobs. Plus, they are free to job seekers because they get paid by the client! (If you find a recruiter who is trying to charge you money, run! It’s a scam.)

Related: Avoid this scam — the fraudcruiter

Intrigued? Here’s what every college student should know about what a recruiter can do for you — and how to start connecting with some ASAP.

What a recruiter can do for you

Guide your job search

Recruiters are uniquely aware of the roles available at different companies and where your skillset may best fit in. If you’re uncertain where you want to take your career, this can be an invaluable resource. A good recruiter will talk to you about your goals and what you're looking for, review the skills and experience you bring to the table, and help identify different roles that could be a good fit.

Be your “in” for technical fields and major companies

The problem with working with a recruiter while in college or as a recent grad is that they often don't have many clients looking for entry-level positions. That’s because companies usually pay recruiters for roles they’re having trouble filling, and entry-level jobs usually aren’t as difficult.

That said, you shouldn’t completely write off recruiters if you’re new to the working world. For one, even if they’re not actively sourcing for lower-level roles, their relationship with their clients may give them insight into open roles you could be a fit for, or general intel about what that client is looking for.

Related: Your job interview just ended. Do these 4 things next.

They also can be incredibly valuable if you’re going into a highly-technical industry or aiming for a major company. These companies may rely more heavily on recruiters for all types of roles since they’re more specialized.

Support you through the interview process

Recruiters typically get paid when someone gets hired — so it’s in their best interest to help you succeed through the interview process if they think you’re a good fit.

That means they can help you with your application materials. Recruiters look at thousands of resumes and cover letters. They know what their clients are looking for and can help you structure your stuff to gain attention. They can also help prepare you for your interview. White they can’t do the interview for you or know all of the questions you may get asked, they should be able to give you a sense of what to expect so that you can be more prepared.

If you do get an offer, they can help guide you on benefits and salary (and some can even negotiate for you). And if the company decides to pass on you, they may be able to provide more detailed feedback on why, giving you intel to improve before the next interview.

While they can be a great advocate, they can’t force a client to hire you, and they won’t advise their client to hire you if they don’t think you’re the right fit. But they can highlight your positive attributes and help prepare you as best they can.

Contact you for other opportunities

When you work with a recruiter, your information will get placed into a database. If something comes up in the future that seems like a good fit, the recruiter will reach out. They may even stay in touch to be sure that they have your skills up-to-date, meaning this relationship could benefit you throughout your career growth.

How to connect with a recruiter

Go to career fairs

One of the best resources for connecting with recruiters is available right on campus! Often recruiters for companies will be the ones hanging out at career fair booths, or staffing agencies may even show up to help them fill roles for multiple clients at once. Bring your resume and your best networking chops to prepare to start building connections with them.

Ask for referrals

Your friends and mentors may have worked with a recruiter that helped them. Ask around in your network for referrals. Your career center may also be able to refer you to recruiters or staffing agencies they’ve worked with in the past.

Post your professional info online

Recruiters spend a lot of time actively searching the internet for people who would fit the roles they’re trying to fill, so keep your online professional info up to date! LinkedIn is an obvious option for reeling in recruiters, and sites like Indeed or Wellfound can also be great places to create a profile or upload your resume to help recruiters find you.

Find local staffing agencies

While you can connect with plenty of recruiters online, take a look at staffing agencies with physical locations in your area. Many recruiters will meet with candidates for both current and potential future opportunities. Get into their system by setting up a meeting.

Join a trade or industry group

Recruiters will often join industry groups to help them find candidates. By joining these, you are better able to connect with them — and start to build the relationship that may lead to your next job.

Related: How to build a LinkedIn profile when you’ve never had a job

Recruiters are great resources to help you in front of great opportunities, and help prepare you to land them. Use their expertise by following up, listening, and taking their advice.

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