Helping Partnerships: How to Work with Career Centers, Staffing Firms, Recruiters and Career Coaches in Your Job Search

12/22/2019 by Amy Soricelli

We’ve all been told at one point or another, that “getting a job is the toughest job you’ll ever have”. While this is true, it doesn’t have to be.   Stepping from one adventure into another does not have to be filled with problems at every turn and roadblocks at the beginning of each new venture.  Often, the ‘hardest’ part about the job search is the difficulties we create for ourselves through poor planning, lack of flexibility or simply too many inconsistent ‘words of advice’ confusing our mission and weakening our focus. 

How many voices should you listen to?  Who has your best interests at heart?

Let’s start with where you go to school.  Does your college have a dedicated career center whose purpose is to supply you with resources and relevant industry information?  Can you visit this career center and schedule an individual counseling session with a professional versed in either staffing/recruiting or job placement?  Let’s say your college has this wonderful tool – how do you go about working effectively in a partnership?   

First, drop in to make an appointment.  Do not expect to be “seen immediately” but do expect to be asked questions about your overall interest, class placement, availability (how amazing would it be if you were able to drop off a resume equipped with your LinkedIn URL?).  Set up a time to meet with a counselor when you know you won’t be rushed and can speak freely about your past experiences and goals for the future.  The roadmap to your success begins here and quality time needs to be devoted to the process.

Your appointment with your ‘school career counselor’ should consist of a brief overview of your current position/status, your resume should be reviewed for format and content (2 pages maximum, LinkedIn URL, positioning statement and not objective, correct tenses, etc.) your LinkedIn profile should be reviewed with suggestions made (if advised) regarding professionalism and clarity of content.  Depending on how your center operates, you may be asked to check in with your counselor with updates about your activity, job leads, job fairs and on-site recruitment events, for encouragement and support.  You should be (somewhat) prepared to discuss why you chose your particular major, what you hope to do with it, and what you see as a potential ‘career path’.    It is also important that you agree upon a method of communication that works for both of you; how often should you reach out to your ‘career counselor’ and what are the expectations from both of you?   You’ve invested a great deal in your education, allow them to help you take the next important step.

Staffing firms and recruiters can also be helpful in your job search.  Some are better than others and it might take some “hits and misses” before you happen upon one that works best with you.  The best recruiters are honest about how often they will contact you (or if they prefer that you do the reach-outs) and they do follow-up when they say they will.  The most successful recruiters are ‘matchmakers’ who work diligently to connect an employer and candidate based on skills, experience, education, and ‘fit’.   When a ‘match is made’ the client pays the recruiter a fee (usually a percentage of your salary) which must be paid to the recruiting firm usually within 60 or 90 days (sort of like YOUR probationary period at the hiring company).  *You never pay a fee for job placement to a staffing firm–it is the responsibility of the hiring client to pay a fee to the staffing firm.  If you are ever asked to pay a fee in order to get a job – grab your resumes and hit the road!   

You will be asked to complete some documents at most staffing firms so you will need to bring at least 2 forms of identification with you.  This will enable the staffing firm to “get you on their books” should be lucky enough to qualify for an immediate assignment

The recruiter should be checking in with you often and providing new leads and opportunities.   A good recruiter is supportive and available.  A good recruiter continues to work with you even when you ‘didn’t get the job’ he/she referred you to –a good recruiter won’t punish you but rather lift your spirits and encourage you to ‘get back on that horse’.   You will be able to spot a ‘bad recruiter’ quickly: voicemails and emails go unanswered (or days go by and there must be repeated attempts).  A bad recruiter will not ask for feedback on the interview and cares only about the client feedback. *Your feedback is just as important – this is your job, your life, and your thoughts should enable a ‘good recruiter’ to assist you in a more productive manner.        A bad recruiter will spot mistakes on your resume but not bother to discuss with you if he/she feels you are not a good fit for their openings.  

Additionally ,it makes sense to “register” with more than one firm as each staffing firm has different clients and the ‘unpublished openings’ often go directly to a person who understands the culture of that company.   Do not be afraid to try a contract or temporary position.  In this “try before you buy” employment market, a contract position is often the best way to show a client how incredible you are and the chances of being offered permanent employment increases with each successful day on that job.

When you are offered a position, the recruiter/staffing firm will help you go through the process to make your first days and onboarding experience a positive one.  Questions, concerns, overall logistics is generally handled by the recruiter and this aspect of the ‘helping partnership’ makes life smoother for the new employee.  So don’t be afraid to try a staffing firm.  We can never have too many positive hands holding us up.

Finding a reputable staffing firm should be easy.  Begin with personal recommendations, industry professionals whose message you appreciate on social media, firms that post jobs that you have an interest in, as well as visiting sites such as Yelp for opinions from the public.  Reaching out to the ‘bigger staffing firms’ (with national offices and various disciplines) is a good way to start and can offer you opportunities across many industries and locations.

Career Coaches are different as each one has his/her own style and practices the “helping partnership” in a unique way.  Diligent research is necessary for you to engage a career coach that works best with your mission, personality, availability, financial position.   Coaches generally charge an hourly fee and will ‘suggest’ how many hours they see your project/search requiring.  It is important to map out a plan with a coach – do you need help with soft skills?  Interviewing?  Will you be working on elevator pitches? Is this coach working on applications, cover and pain letters –will he/she actually write a resume for you- what happens with revisions when other interested parties suggest a tweak?  What is included in this coaching process and how does this undertaking fit in with your personal mission and job search?

There are many ways you can garner strength and resources during this important period in your life. Embarking on a career is exciting and frightening so let others champion your cause and offer a hand – you’d be surprised how many are available to you.