3 Things You Must Do to Work Well with Recruiters, with AJ Eckstein

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Working with a recruiter can be a great way to find your next position, but finding a recruiter or getting noticed by one isn’t easy. The trick, says Find Your Dream Job guest AJ Eckstein, is to network before you need a job. AJ says you need to focus on building organic relationships, especially with those in the field and geographical area you want to work. And don’t focus on work alone; get involved in your community through organizations and volunteer work. Build a portfolio of life experiences so that you have a story to share when you reach out to a recruiter.

About Our Guest:

AJ Eckstein is the founder of the Career Coaching Company which helps recent college graduates land dream jobs at leading companies. He also hosts The Final Round, an interview podcast with company recruiters. 

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 307:

3 Things You Must Do to Work Well with Recruiters, with AJ Eckstein

Airdate: August 4, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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Recruiters can be mysterious figures for job seekers.

But our guest today says you can build a relationship with any recruiter through networking, online engagement, and using LinkedIn strategically.

AJ Eckstein is here to talk about the three things you must do to work well with recruiters.

He’s the founder of the Career Coaching Company.

AJ also hosts The Final Round; it’s an interview podcast with company recruiters.

He joins us from Los Angeles, California.

Well, let’s jump right into it, AJ. First, I just want to get our definitions in order; when you say, “recruiters,” are we talking about executive recruiters who are hired to fill one position? Is it someone who handles all the hiring for one company, or does it not matter?

AJ Eckstein:

I don’t think it really matters. I’ve had the privilege to speak to technical recruiters, general recruiters, sourcers, and people from recruiting agencies. At the end of the day, they’re trying to bring in talent to a company. And what I’ve realized is no matter what the company name is, or the logo is, or the industry; they’re all looking for the same thing, and how to interact with them is really a secret recipe that I’m excited to share today on the Find Your Dream Job podcast.

Mac Prichard:

What kind of expectations should job seekers have working with recruiters? I’m sure you’ve met job seekers, and I actually have this notion, too, that if I could just find the right recruiter, all my problems would be solved. But how does that really work, AJ?

AJ Eckstein:

The first expectation you need to have is that, for the most part, recruiters are very busy, and they receive a lot of outreach. So knowing that they receive a lot of outreach, you must be differentiated in how you outreach to recruiters.

So I think the first thing with networking, and ironically, one of my favorite quotes from, actually our first guest, one who was a recruiter on the Final Round podcast, was a recruiter from Boston Consulting Group. He says, “You should network when you don’t need anything.” And that quote really stuck with me because I think so many people only network when they need a job, or they need to get an interview, or maybe they’re a junior or senior in college, and they know that they’re about to start recruiting. But networking is not just a “for a unit” class that you can take once, and then you complete it and get your job, and that’s it. But networking is something where you actually do even beyond the company that you recruit for. I mean, I’m currently at a consulting company, and I do more networking now within the company than I did to even get the job.

So I think that you need to understand that networking is really about building organic relationships and not just about trying to get something transactionally.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about networking in a moment. I’m thinking about recruiters. Many people struggle with finding recruiters in the first place. So before you begin networking with recruiters, what’s your best advice, AJ, for finding these folks?

AJ Eckstein:

Well, I think we’re so lucky today than people were five, ten years ago that we have access to LinkedIn. And LinkedIn is not just a place where you can find opportunities, but it’s also a place where it acts as a database to find recruiters.

So you can use a job description, and if a recruiter’s listed on there, great. But if not, and you see that it’s, maybe it’s a marketing analyst role at a certain company, you can do advanced filtering for free on LinkedIn. You do not need to pay for LinkedIn premium. And do some advanced filtering and almost make educated guesses at who the recruiter is. Sometimes, it’s going to be very obvious, and they’ll literally be posting about the opportunity that you’re looking for, and you can reach out asking questions. Or it’s going to be someone who’s maybe not as active on LinkedIn, and they’re not posting about these opportunities, but at the same time, you see that it says, “Recruiter actively looking for marketing analyst or marketing talent.”

So I think that people do a blanket one size fits all approach, and I did this early on as well, where you just reach out to any person that says, “Recruiter,” at Google, for instance. But you can only imagine how many recruiters there are at these very large companies. So spend some time actually filtering and getting, instead of a thousand people, get it down to maybe five or ten people, and then start outreaching. Because it’s going to be much more targeted to what you want to do, and there’s a higher response rate.   

Mac Prichard:

What’s your best advice for building that shortlist? Because, as you say, the choices can be overwhelming. So how do you get from a thousand to five?

AJ Eckstein:

So I would first start, obviously, with the company. Then, try filtering it based on “Recruiter”; some companies call it Talent Acquisition Specialist, Talent Acquisition Managers, Sourcer. If you’re going for a technical role, it should be a Technical Recruiter, not just a General Recruiter. So once you understand almost the nomenclature or the jargon of how people classify their employees in the recruiting field, then you start to see, “Okay, well, what office am I going for? Am I going for a west coast office? Am I going for an east coast office?” Because I might be going for the Google offices in San Francisco, and I find a perfect recruiter who is in the marketing side of the company, but he or she might only be recruiting for opportunities in New York, and that still could be helpful, but it’s not as helpful as someone in the office.

So I would say that the next thing should be location. Then once you get it down to location, and then also the field- for instance, if it’s marketing, if it’s business development, if it’s sales- these large companies will really divide based on their business segments. Then you try to see, “Well, what similarities can I draw with these people?” And we’ll talk more about similarities in a second when you’re actually outreaching to them, but if you see that there’s a recruiter who works at Google, who is in the San Francisco office, who went maybe to the same school as you, that’s a similarity. Or maybe you’re coming from a company in the tech field, and this person also worked at the same company or a similar company; that’s a similarity.

So you want to try to build that warm connection when you reach out and have some similarities. Because if you think about your friends, your friends are often very similar to you. I think the old saying is that “If you want to know more about Mac,” let’s say, “you look at his five best friends, and it’s an average of the five.” So people want to talk to people who have similarities. So try to draw and touch on those similarities, versus reaching out and just saying, “Hi, recruiter. My name is AJ, and I’m interested in a Google opportunity.” Because a similarity would go a long way.

Mac Prichard:

So know the company that you want to work at or that interests you, know the location of the city or the state, and you also have to know the kind of job that interests you, too, don’t you, AJ?

AJ Eckstein:

Absolutely, and I would say if you’re having trouble finding the exact recruiter, if you talk to people in the, let’s say, marketing team at Google, you can ask them to point you towards the recruiter. People inside the company will have much more understanding of how it works internally than you’ll find externally. So maybe you’re having a great coffee chat with a marketing manager on a product at Google, and ask them questions, and say you want to learn more about the opportunities, they will direct you to the recruiter. You just have to ask. So don’t always just rely on research, but just ask questions because I think that is such an important part that people don’t understand with reaching out and networking.   

Mac Prichard:

So you know the company where you want to work, you know the location and the position you want, and you’ve identified the recruiter who’s responsible for those jobs. What’s the next step, AJ? How do you approach this person?

AJ Eckstein:

So you must add a tailored note or a tailored message, specifically on LinkedIn. If you can find their email (maybe their email is in the job description), you can go ahead and cold email them, but I actually think that people prefer that random or cold outreach on LinkedIn. And you must add a note, but I think that there’s a lot of advice that I’ve heard from, maybe other career coaches or people in the industry, that they say, “Add a note on LinkedIn when you go to connect with someone,” but they leave it at that. So people have this generic template, and again, I’d fall in that trap as well, when I was recruiting, of having that generic template of briefly talking about who you are, what you’re doing, and what you want. But I think the issue with that is that it’s not tailored to Mac; it’s not tailored to who you’re reaching out to.

So it’s important to do some research, not only on getting the recruiter’s name but go through their profiles. People have so much information today about where they went to school, what organizations they were in on-campus. Maybe they were in a certain employee resource group at their company, and you fall into that diversity side of the company. Those are all so important, and reach out and make it tailored, because again, it’s the same thing- you want to meet people who are somewhat similar to you and have those similarities.

So reaching out, again, make a tailored message, and know that it’s not about you, but it’s about the person you’re reaching out to. So a lot of people, I’ve received outreach messages as well, and people say, “Oh, I’m doing this, and I’m doing that.” And I say, “That’s all great. But where do I fit in?” So remember, tailor it to the person, and then throw in your specific story and how that fits into what they’re doing.    

Mac Prichard:

And what are you asking for in that first message, AJ?

AJ Eckstein:

So it really depends on what you’re looking for. I think a lot of people will reach out and just say, “Hi,” and I think that is the biggest mistake because it takes time for me to say, “Hi,” back. And then, you say, “How are you?” and then I say, “Good, how are you?” It’s just, people are busy. So I think with that initial outreach message, it needs to be clear, it needs to be concise, and your CTA- your call to action- needs to be very clearly stated.

And oftentimes, I think the best thing to ask for to a recruiter is either to learn more about an opportunity that maybe they’re recruiting for- let’s say that they just posted something on LinkedIn about a specific role at, we’ll go with the example of Google- and you have that marketing experience, and you went to the same school, and you want to learn more about it. But ideally, you can actually schedule a coffee chat with them, maybe virtually. And schedule a few minutes, maybe fifteen minutes, it could be thirty minutes. And not everyone will say yes, but it’s also a numbers game. You don’t just outreach to one recruiter and wait a year until they respond.

You outreach to a ton of people very strategically and make sure that you have a clear and tailored outreach message. You’re asking for a coffee chat to learn more about the position. And if it’s a good mutual fit, the recruiter will often either refer you for the position, or they’ll pass you on to an analyst or someone else on the team that is actually hiring for that role. That’s a great way to get your foot in the door, other than just applying into a black hole on a company’s website and never seeing the light of day at the end of the tunnel.

Mac Prichard:

This is great. I want to take a quick break, AJ, and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with AJ Eckstein about the three things you must do to work well with recruiters.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio, and I’m talking with AJ Eckstein.

He’s the founder of the Career Coaching company. AJ also hosts the Final Round. It’s an interview podcast with company recruiters.

And AJ joins us from Los Angeles, California.

AJ, before the break, we were talking about networking with recruiters, and I’m wondering about maintaining those relationships. You reach out, and you have that virtual or post-pandemic in-person coffee meeting. How do you maintain that relationship?

AJ Eckstein:

Well, I’m so happy that you brought this up, Mac because I think that I’ve given my time on the weekends. I’ve reached out to a ton of people, and they’ve given me time, and it’s obviously something that you pay forward as you go through your career journey. But very few people do a good job of actually continuing that relationship and continuing to nurture those relationships.

And I think the best way to do it is to actually have a spreadsheet. For instance, on Excel, and you track all of your connections at whatever company they’re at. You put their name. You put their contact information, their email, phone number, where they’re at, also their LinkedIn profile.

But the biggest thing is, you take down notes of what you discussed. Because if I’m talking to Mac, and Mac is a recruiter at this consulting company, and we had a great conversation, and he said to reach out to these three people. And he also said…and I said, “What are you doing for the Fourth of July weekend?” And he says, “Oh, I’m going to Europe to visit family.”

When you follow up, and you should follow up, I would say, after a few weeks, or a few months, it shouldn’t be a cold follow-up, as in, “Hey Mac, how are you?” It should be, “Hey Mac, thanks so much for connecting me to those three people at the consulting company that we discussed. I reached out to them, and it went great. We talked about X, Y, and Z. Also, how was your Europe trip over the Fourth of July weekend? I remember talking about that.”

And that is how you continue to talk about what you discussed previously, versus starting from zero, and Mac saying, “Wait, AJ, who are you? Because people reach out to me a ton. So who are you, and what did we discuss?”

So I think having that spreadsheet, remembering to follow up every few weeks or few months, and just a simple check-in. It can be a simple note on LinkedIn or a message saying, “Hey Mac, how are you?” Or maybe you saw a news article about the company that one of you are working at; say, “Hey Mac, saw this news article, was thinking of you, hope all is well.” And just staying in each other’s head. Because you never know when you can help each other grow into something else or another opportunity.     

Mac Prichard:

And that’s a long game. It’s a smart one. What do you say to somebody who needs a job now? How can they move the relationship along faster?

AJ Eckstein:

So I think if you’re reaching out to someone about a specific opportunity, the person on the other end of the table, whether it’s a recruiter or a hiring manager or someone who works at the company, knows why you’re reaching out.

I think it’s totally fine to be transparent. I hate people who try to walk or dance around the fact that they’re trying to get something out of this relationship. But that’s fine, as long as you’re transparent about it. You’re respectful, and you’re asking good questions, and maybe you can see how you can help me.

I think a great way to think about it is you’re not taking up someone else’s time, but you’re actually benefiting the other person by allowing them to give back. Because I don’t care who, whatever person at whatever company at whatever position, if it’s a CEO, or if it’s an analyst, or if it’s an intern, to get to that position, people have reached out before you and have networked. Everyone networks to get to a certain place, maybe some more versus others. And it’s a way to give back and take a second to say,  “Okay, I feel good about myself helping this person,” and make sure that you follow up with them and you keep them posted. If I refer you for an opportunity, that shouldn’t be the last time I hear from you. You should let me know if you got the opportunity or if you got an interview with a hiring manager, or even if you didn’t get it, that’s totally fine, but thank me for the time that we spent, and then maybe ask me for some more advice or ask me what direction you should go.

Because I think if someone’s going to refer you or take time out of their day or weekend to talk to you, make sure that you thank that person and keep them up to date on what’s going on.

Mac Prichard:

Well, could you talk more, AJ, about how you could move the process along faster? If you don’t have the time for building long-term relationships and you’re working with a recruiter, are there steps you can take to help you get a job sooner?

AJ Eckstein:

Yeah, so I think that’s another great question. So I would say you need to get noticed by the recruiter. Because again, the recruiter has so much outreach; think of them as a mailroom, and they just get an influx of mail every day. And it’s trying to sift through thousands of packages and letters and messages and emails and phone calls and things they have to do with the company.

Another really good way, other than again, making that really nice tailored message of exactly what you’re looking for and how you can help each other is to engage with their content on LinkedIn. And not every recruiter is going to be actively posting on LinkedIn, but for the most part, I would say nine out of ten recruiters have posted on LinkedIn. And there are some who are trying to be LinkedIn influencers, who actively post about what they’re doing and all their opportunities. But what I mean by “engage with their content” is not just like their posts. It doesn’t mean just comment, “Agreed,” for what Mac posted, but the biggest thing is commenting and adding some insight.

So there was a recruiter we had on the show from Tesla; her name’s Anastasia, and she would post about the biggest mistakes that she sees candidates make, or she was reviewing resumes that day, and she saw, these are three resumes that stood out and why. Don’t just say, “I agree.” But talk about “Hey Anastasia” in the comments. “Hey Anastasia, I’m so happy that you brought up these three things because of “this reason.” And I appreciate your time, and it was so great to read this post.” Something that shows some insight. Maybe it asks a question where it says, “Is this also a mistake?” And let them respond, and again, you’re talking offline. It’s not a virtual coffee chat, but it’s a great way to get your name remembered.

And that’s actually how I was able to get one of the recruiters we got on the show from Airbnb. It was a funny story. I actually reached out to her. Her name is Marissa, and she said, “Oh, I know your name.” And I said, “How do you know my name?” And she says, “Oh, well, we’ve never met, but I’ve seen your name float around LinkedIn. You’ve engaged with my posts.”

So not many people are actively engaging with recruiters on LinkedIn. They’re going after hiring managers, or they’re going after company profiles, whatever it is. But spend some time, when you see those posts, to add insightful questions or comments. And the biggest piece of advice I can give everyone is to tag the person who wrote that piece of content because they will get notified, versus if you just add something. It might just get lost in translation. So if you tag the person, I will guarantee you they will respond, or at least like what you said, and that’s a great way to get noticed on LinkedIn and have your name be a warm connection when you reach out.

Mac Prichard:

How much time do you recommend listeners spend posting these kinds of LinkedIn comments and doing this kind of engagement in a typical week?   

AJ Eckstein:

So I don’t think that there’s necessarily a number that I can say, that if you spend five minutes a day engaging with recruiters’ content, that’ll land you a job. Obviously, if you’re actively searching for a job, then I would say spend more time doing this. But ideally, you’re a little bit younger, and you’re maybe new to LinkedIn, or you’re not actively looking for something and again, going back to that first point of networking when you don’t need anything because you never know when you could reach out to that person in need of an opportunity. But if you are actively looking for that role, and you find those ideal recruiters who have those similarities, try to see if you can engage with their content and at least have them respond to you before you reach out.

Because again, I’m going to answer or give someone time, in my free time, to someone I know or at least their name somewhat looks familiar, versus a random person reaching out that I’ve never met or never heard of.

Mac Prichard:

How can building your brand on LinkedIn help you develop a relationship with recruiters?

AJ Eckstein:

So building your digital or personal brand is so important because recruiters will go to LinkedIn, as well as your resume, to see who you are and what you’re about.

And one of the coolest facts that I saw when I was interviewing a LinkedIn recruiter is, out of the 741+ million users on LinkedIn, only one percent of users share content on a weekly basis. So you can only imagine the room for growth and opportunity there, in the fact that there aren’t many people posting on LinkedIn.

And I think that you first have to check off and make sure that your LinkedIn is optimized and up to date, which means adding a profile picture, adding a background image, making sure it’s all relevant to your experiences. Quantify what you’re doing, add some volunteer experience, add interests, and that should all be set in stone before you start posting on LinkedIn.

But once you feel that almost your digital resume or your landing page is good to go on LinkedIn, then it’s time to start posting on LinkedIn. And I think a lot of people, including myself, thought, “Well, I’m not a subject matter expert. I don’t have anything to say. I haven’t been in, let’s say, consulting for forty years. Why would people want to hear from me?”

But it’s not necessarily just thought leadership where you have to be an expert in something, but I think some of the coolest things that I’ve seen is that you talk about your story. Maybe it’s a rejection story that you got rejected from Ivy League, and you talk about ways in which you’re changing that. Maybe your story is that you worked a few minimum-wage jobs, and now you’re at a certain opportunity to get to your dream goal of another company.

I think people love seeing other people talk about their personal stories, as well as experiences, any advice that you’ve received. Maybe you just finished freshman year and share with other people who are going to be graduating from high school, going to be a freshman, who want to talk about their experiences. Maybe there are some lessons learned through your internship. You’re still going for full-time jobs; what are the lessons learned from working virtually?

And the last one would be about announcements. Maybe you’re announcing a past opportunity. I’m going to be announcing that I was on the Find Your Dream Job podcast.

So all of those things are ideas on what to post. But again, it’s how to be known on LinkedIn, how to build your brand, post on LinkedIn. Again, it’s just like sharing a story, it’s like a personal blog, and I promise you, it will pay dividends in the long term.

Mac Prichard:

How do you decide how much personal content to share? Because it is a professional platform, it is about careers and jobs. What’s your best advice, AJ, about what kinds of personal stories to share, and which ones you just might want to keep to yourself?

AJ Eckstein:

I think the first part of that question on how often you should post- again, I don’t think there’s a magic number. I personally post because I enjoy posting. I have a repository, I have a folder in my computer of all the ideas that come to my head, and I’ll have some that make it on LinkedIn and others that are kind of in the graveyard folder that never make it on LinkedIn.

But I think the best way to know if you should post it or not on LinkedIn is, A, is someone going to benefit from it? And then B, is it a good reflection of your story or what you’re doing or what you want to do? And I think those two items should be the guiding principles for all of your content. Even if no one engages with your content, I guarantee you that one person scrolled through it saw it, found some sort of use, and maybe never liked it.

I remember early on, I think my first post, I had zero people comment or like the post, and you know, of course, I could have been dejected at that point. But now, fast forward a few months, I’m almost at ten thousand followers, I have a ton of engagement on my posts, and I have people reach out to me constantly, thanking me for content that I share because it’s helpful to them.

So the first thing I would say is, do whatever feels right for you. If it’s once a week, once a month, a few times a week, do what’s right for you.

And the second thing, of what to post- again, just be honest on LinkedIn. It doesn’t have to be only when you’re talking about the congratulatory post of announcing you got a job over at Google, but it could be an honest story or honest advice or a favorite class that you’ve taken. Again, the opportunities are endless, but I would say definitely have that professional flair because recruiters, hiring managers, they’re looking at this type of content.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a great conversation. Now, tell us, AJ, what’s next for you?

AJ Eckstein:

So we’re actually wrapping up season one of the Final Round podcast in the next few weeks, and again, we interview recruiters. And we thought, what better type of guest to interview for season two than hiring managers? So the podcast actually goes through the typical flow of a recruitment and interview process, starting with that recruiter and then going into hiring managers.

So we’ll be wrapping up season one in the next few weeks and starting season two, and then we are also launching a YouTube channel that has all of the recordings of the podcast.

And then lastly, I’m actually in the process of writing a book where I’m sharing the experience of what it’s like to interview all of these amazing people. Again, with the goal to share insight and help people advance past the Final Round interview and land their dream job.

Mac Prichard:

I know people can learn more about all your projects and your services by visiting your website; that’s careercoachingcompany.com/podcast.

Now AJ, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about the three things you must do to work well with recruiters?

AJ Eckstein:

The biggest thing I can tell people is to get involved and build your story early because all of the outreach will be so much easier if you’re a unique person who has something to share.

There are so many people who I met throughout school, both at community college, high school, actual four-year university, and they just went through the flow of taking classes and then recruiting when you’re supposed to recruit for jobs. But I think the people who have the easiest time recruiting and actually landing opportunities are those who go out of their way to make a difference in their community, to pursue what they’re passionate about, to start an organization or get involved in an organization, and it makes it so much easier to reach out to people when you have that story.

So try to find your why, and use that why to guide you to what company you want to pursue, how to outreach to recruiters, and remember these three parts in terms of successfully reaching out to recruiters and landing those interviews.

Mac Prichard:

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