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5 Tips for Making Recruiters Your Best Friend and Career Miracle Worker

IStock-544735132Recruiters can be your best ally in developing your career.

It’s that time again. We struggle as to whether it’s time to change jobs, hang in there or be thankful we’re in the best firm in the world. Well, maybe the best. OK, the best so far.

Working with a good recruiter can help make your career. Here’s the inside scoop: Recruiters, and I am talking about the staffing agency kind, hold the keys to literally hundreds of contacts they have built up over the years. They have the ears of the hiring authorities of the very firms you want to get into. Those who don’t understand the power and value of a good recruiter or who dismiss them, mistreat them or otherwise abuse them are in for a huge surprise. Are you one?

Here are the reasons recruiters are extremely valuable to your career whether or not you are seeking a new position. Recruiters can have backgrounds as former administrators, paralegal managers, senior paralegals, attorneys, legal secretaries or litigation support managers. They know this field inside and out.

Top recruiters are connected to hundreds of top hiring authorities. They have long-term, personal relationships they have carefully cultivated. They have the ears of hiring authorities and confide in them which candidate is a good hire and which ones are not. They hold the keys to opening doors for you.

They can get you into a firm utilizing their contacts when simply sending a resume through a job board won’t work. They personalize the message to the hiring authority and give their opinion. They have interviewed and screened you first. They stake their reputation on whether you are good.

You don’t know when you are going to seek a position. Having a recruiter in your back pocket is the best career tool you can have.They can tell you which firms might be best suited for you. They can help gear your resume towards the position rather you trying to shoot in the dark. They give you the facts on the firm rather than having you guess. They know why the position is open, turnover rates, percentage of raises, whether bonuses are actually given, how much, level of sophistication of assignments and in short, a reality burst.

You can call them at raise time and find out the going market rate. They know what the firms are giving. You don’t even have to be looking. You have a contact that will be honest with you.

Here are 5 of the biggest mistakes you can make in alienating recruiters, how to get them on your side and how to upgrade your career – all through making a new best friend:

Mistake Number One: You’re contacted by a recruiter –You ignore an email inquiry or phone call.

Don’t be arrogant! So you’re not looking for a job right now. Are you so secure that you know what’s going on in the Executive Committee? You know without a doubt that you’re not going to be downsized, merged or otherwise purged? First of all, recruiters may have advance warning about your firm. They know if the firm is merging before you do. They know if a number of people are bailing. You don’t.

Secondly, how do you know that they don’t have a better opportunity for you? Have you thought about your future? I can’t tell you how many people don’t make the connection and in a short period of time are unexpectedly searching for a position. Just try calling that recruiter back after the royal snub. Trust me. They keep meticulous records. They know when they’ve been brushed off, treated rudely and they keep loooong records. You come off as a) self-important b) uncooperative and c) insulting. Hardly makes for a cohesive relationship. Bear in mind, top recruiters are very selective in who they deal with. Frankly, if they selected you, you might be flattered........

Mistake Number Two: You think the recruiter works for you.

Recruiters work for employers, not job hunters.  They are not paid by candidates. The fee is paid by employers. They are usually paid from 10 – 25% of the annual base salary from the employer. They also offer a guarantee, so they are only seeking excellent candidates who will do well on the job and stay for a good amount of time.

Their job is to find the best talent with precisely the right requirements for the job. They aren't paid to help people transition to new fields. To be sure, they help individuals whom they are able to place, but their primary responsibility is not to be a career counselor or coach job seekers. On occasion, a stellar candidate can be “skill marketed”, i.e., shopped to a firm who is not necessarily seeking a candidate but may be interested in your skills. This, however, is only done for exceptional candidates with extraordinary skills. This is why you may not be hearing from recruiters and instead hear, “Nothing has come in”. I know how frustrating that is and I know how you want them to want you.

Mistake Number Three: You stand the recruiter up. BIG mistake.

Why some candidates just stand up a recruiter is beyond me. It is the same as if you stand up an employer. These candidates simply think that it’s “just the recruiter” and is not that important. Believe me. It’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Recruiters set aside at least a half an hour of valuable time for you. This is their sales time. It also shows what kind of candidate you are along with what kind of professionalism you have. I don’t care what the excuse is. A simple one line email to cancel the appointment can help save your future career. Recruiters are not likely to reschedule you. Why? You’ll do the same to their clients, you’ve wasted their time, and you’re not as “hot” as you think you are. Believe me. You think there are other recruiters and it doesn’t matter? This recruiter may have already talked to a firm about you or have an exclusive job search for the very firm with the exact job you want. Unfortunately, now you’re probably dead at that firm. You don’t know.

Remember, you’ll meet them elsewhere and you're starting to get a not-so-good reputation as a, yes....flake. They’ll remember how you treated them. Don’t alienate a recruiter. They have the ears of hundreds of hiring authorities. Simply moving on to another recruiter is not that easy if you’ve alienated one or more and truthfully, while there are lots of recruiters out there, there are few top recruiters. You really want a well-known recruiter. This is your career you're playing with.

Here's a great example: I have a colleague who was a recruiter at a top New York recruiting firm. He was there for years. Great guy. He went on to be an HR administrator at a top ten law firm and part of his job is recruiting litigation support and technical professionals nationwide. Every time he receives a resume from someone who was rude to him, stood him up, was a problem to work with at the recruiting firm, guess what? Do you think they get in at his firm now? Bingo!!! 10 points for you! Right answer. Uh, no. If you answered, yes they do, please go back to square one.

I have had candidates email me with outrageous excuses why they stood me up. Two great excuses were, “My nanny didn’t show up, so I had my kids all day." "I thought today was Thursday, not Friday, so I missed my interview.” Great. Someone I can really rely on to tell what day it is. Another said, “I had to study for a test.” So, you couldn't send an email to cancel? And of course, there's the "I forgot about it."  OK. Don’t schedule the interview. You’ve just wasted my time. I am not sympathetic. I don’t reschedule. I have to move on to more professional candidates who treat me with respect and most importantly, whose behavior I can count on.

Mistake Number Four: You don’t give the recruiter the true story.

Candidates who are not straight-forward with recruiters are asking for trouble. If you don’t give the right story as to why you are seeking a position, the correct salary or salary target information, the real reasons you left your positions and more, you are killing your chances because you will be found out. The recruiter has to guarantee the placement for a certain length of time or refund the money if you don't work out. They also check your background. That means they have to know the truth. It's better they found out from you first.

The recruiter will help you in your answers to the firm.  In some states, the firm can legally check salary history, (in other states, they cannot), reasons for leaving and whether you are eligible for rehire. When a candidate tells me not to contact former employers, I am highly suspicious. When they leave dates off the resume, I can't take them on. This is a candidate hiding something. Not exactly someone an employer really wants at the helm. "Hello, Mr./Ms. Employer? I am presenting this great candidate. He doesn't want you to contact former employers or know when he worked but gosh, he does summarize a great deposition." Hmmm......That sure makes me look good.

Mistake Number Five: You try to go around the recruiter and negotiate your salary.

Top recruiters are good negotiators. They know what the firm’s bottom-line is and what your bottom-line is. They generally know what the firm’s top paralegal is earning and how to negotiate with the firm. Let them negotiate for you. Don’t try to do it on your own. The firm expects to negotiate with the recruiter, not you. It is always best to have a third-party negotiate as there are no hard feelings when you walk through the door on the first day. Also, you’re most likely to get more money and the more you get, the more the recruiter is paid. Be sure your recruiter is experienced and an expert in negotiations.

I recall a candidate who was the testiest candidate I ever worked with. He flew to an out-of-state location for a high-paying position and unbeknownst to me, walked into the interview with a demand for approximately $20,000 in relocation fees during the first interview! The firm was so taken back, they immediately disqualified him. Well, let me be honest, his personality turned out not so great, either……. He was angry with me because I sent him to Las Vegas for an interview in the summer. He said it was too hot. Sorry, the firm is not going to wait until the weather suits you. Word to the wise - let your recruiter handle salary negotiations.

Bonus Mistake: You are an employer who keeps dismissing recruiter calls and mistreating recruiters by never getting back to them; ignoring them once they have submitted resumes and recruited heavily for you; not responding to their emails; not keeping them informed or you are just plain rude. They are on your team and trying very hard, spending big bucks with and lots of valuable time recruiting specifically for you with no guarantee of return. 

Here’s the deal, folks. You just don’t know when you are going to need a new job plus if it's that difficult to work with you, recruiters prioritize other firms. Enough said.

Recruiters are crucial to your career success. Make friends with them. Keep them in your back pocket. While they are not there to give you career coaching, they are valuable resources. Be sure to send them great referrals and introduce them to the hiring authorities in your firm. They are in it for the long-term relationship. I have candidates and employers whom I have had the most fantastic give and take relationships with for twenty years (or more). I am grateful for them and help them at a moment’s notice. It’s the gift that keeps on coming.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; President and Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals, a non-profit online training company for eDiscovery and CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute, an online training organization. She has written 10 books on legal careers and has been interviewed by Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Daily Journal, Above the Law and others. She is a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner, a New York City Paralegal Association Excellence Award Winner, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce/Century City Women of Achievement Award Recipient and finalist of the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Her blog, The Estrin Report has been around since 2005. She is a former Paralegal Administrator at two major law firms and executive in a $5 billion corporation. She has free time on Sundays between 3:00am and 6:00am. Reach out at

5 Networking Tips for Folks Who Hate to Network

NetworkingChange your attitude!
Don't give up! It's worth the extra effort. Really.

It's who you know.
Networking. No matter how you tweet ‘em up, link ‘em out or face ‘em down, if you are not professionally networking on a regular basis, you are clearly committing career suicide. And, let’s not leave out the importance of the old-fashioned, rarely done, one-on-one, face-to-face, in-person meeting, the one where you busted your budget by purchasing the latest designer jeans with built-in dirt and precise structured torn knees for the discounted price of $469.00 so that you can send the message that yes, you can and do fit in with the oh—so-influential-wanna-be-Melrose crowd.

There's no such thing as accidental networking. Networking is a mission. When you're headed to a function to meet and greet people who can further your career, you have a strong sense of Purpose. Even a chance meeting can provide a networking opportunity.

Once you discover that new acquaintances have professional power, you instantaneously decide to make the meeting worthwhile. There's no real secret to it. Most people, myself included, hate to admit we network because then we reveal we're actually using the world's greatest career-building trick. Maybe we think it smacks of cheating. You know you do it; I know you do it; others know you do it; and you read that you're supposed to do it, but somehow you deny you're doing it. I mean, only the etiquette-challenged would introduce themselves by saying, "Hi, I'm Jane. I'm here to network." Yikes.

How you network can make all the difference in your career success. If you want to get ahead, your networking skills have to be sharp, savvy and yes, leveraged in such a way to propel you forward. Smart networking allows you to gain promotions, be considered as a great candidate for a new job or considered spots in the public eye such as speaking and writing engagements or holding association positions.
When given a choice, people will always do business with people they know or with a person highly recommended by a valued and trusted member of their network.

The benefits to networking are endless but you have to be good at it. Really, really good. Great networking improves your ROI on:
• Friendship benefits: You’ll make new professional friends that can last for a lifetime.
• Receiving and giving advice: You can get viewed as an expert.
• Opportunities: Whether you garner upward career mobility or are making a move, employers want people who are highly recommended from others in like or supervisory positions. Your network can give you that.
• Assistance on the job: You have somewhere to go for assistance, suggestions, referrals and even have someone covering your back or giving you a heads-up when you goof.
• Positive influence: You become who you associate with.

Here are five strong tips for successful networking:

1. Create a great profile on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is your biggest advantage for entry into good, solid networking. It has become the winning social media tool for career networking. Whether you are trying to grow your reach, find content or explore opportunities, this virtual meeting vehicle is the first and last stop for many professionals. The latest trend is for employers to seek out your LinkedIn profile at the same time they are reviewing your resume. Potential contacts who can give you career help will also check you out first on LinkedIn.

One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that LinkedIn is only worthwhile if you are pursuing a new job. Not so. It gives legitimacy to your current position. You may network with someone who will look up your LinkedIn profile to find out more about the professional you. However, you will generate no interest without a stimulating summary. LinkedIn is not a playback of your resume.

To attract contacts, you’ll need to demonstrate your personality, take on the legal business world and show your worldliness. If you want to be taken seriously, you cannot go without a full and professionally written LinkedIn profile. An attention-grabbing profile will help you attract networking contacts. These are contacts that can help leverage your career. It’s not the volume of contacts, either. It’s the quality.

Here’s an example: Personally, I have almost 20,000 contacts. I don't know if this is a lot or not. It's what I have. I reach into my network frequently for all kinds of reasons. Here are people who help refer me to others for questions, articles, resources, candidates, employers, referrals. I receive requests for speaking engagements, make friends, do business, and more. Shoot. Someone called me in Los Angeles at 7:00 pm from Washington DC in a panic the other day. They needed a temporary litigation support paralegal in Denver. Could I help? Sure! I was able to reach into my network and find someone within 15 minutes of receiving the call. I hope I made a business acquaintance. It wasn’t about making money.

2. Go to association meetings, seminars and get-togethers.

I’ve met the greatest people and made life-long friends. It’s one thing to join your association. It’s another to understand the networking advantages it brings. Face-to-face encounters render far longer benefits than an occasional email to someone you have never met. People tend to remember you. What will you learn from association networking? What’s happening in your community, new techniques, where the jobs are, the latest software, what firm is doing what (maybe even yours), information you can take back to management, salaries, and important trends. It’s a great way to stay current, uncover “hot buttons” in your practice specialty and who knows? You might even have a little fun.

3. Don’t alienate every recruiter who calls or sends an email looking to recruit you away from your present job.
Networking needs to include recruiters. Connect with them. They are invaluable. They hold the key to hundreds of contacts: HR, managing partners, CEO’s, COOs, VP’s, supervisors, in-house legal counsel, legal service providers, colleagues, managers and more. They know salaries, firms, trends, and in particular, where the field is headed. In fact, they often know if your firm is in trouble before you do. Why? They know who is bailing and most importantly, why.

Don’t be so smug if a recruiter contacts you about a new position. I can’t tell you how many times people ignore the call or treat the recruiter abysmally only to wake up a few weeks later to find their firm is merging or otherwise purging. Then what? Do you know where to go? You think back. “Oh! I’ll call that recruiter who called me about that job.” Right. Try calling them back after you have snubbed them. Most likely, they won’t even take the call.

4. Network with colleagues in your firm.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to neglect to network within their own firm.
If you're able to build rapport with hiring authorities at your firm, you can be the first to find out about forthcoming internal promotions and strategically position yourself for growth. You can be first in line for a promotion, new position, head-up a department by hearing about it first. You can capture someone’s ear. For example, what if you like to write? Suddenly you’re the person in charge of the firm’s newsletter because you were networked with the appropriate personnel.

Similarly, you may discover the firm is opening a new satellite office in your dream destination, and if you're connected with the right person, you could get a head start on applying for the transfer.
Who do you know? Some of the most important people to connect with are the conduits to the power in your firm. That is, someone who can speak for your job category. Be sure to always network with colleagues, partners, associates, managers. You’ll get noticed. Hanging out alone in your office or cubicle will not move you up the ladder. One of the most difficult positions to find its way to a promotion is the paralegal. You have to create your own opportunity. Networking is the most vital tool you can have.

5. Don’t ignore the benefits of networking.
You can benefit as your contacts develop. Continuing to build new relationships and nurture existing contacts can be hugely beneficial to you as members of your network grow into the next phases of their career. As they grow, they will continue to help you out – and vice versa. The higher they grow, the more beneficial they are to you. Sound callas? Not really. Everyone helps everyone out. You'll help others, they'll help you.

The key is to keep your networking process going without needing to ask for anything in return. Show genuine interest in other people and their hopes, wants, dreams and desires. Ask questions they'd be excited to answer. Listen carefully and you'll have surrounded yourself with a circle of people who would not only be willing but excited to help take your career to the next level. That’s what networking is all about.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; President & Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals and CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. Reach out to her at ©Chere B. Estrin2018