If an Agency Sends You a Role You Aren’t Interested in It is Better to Reply and Explain the Reasons Why Not, So the Agency Can Get a Closer Match Next Time

This interview is with independent recruiter Nicola Franklin. Her firm, The Library Career Centre, provides recruitment services for employers as well as for-pay candidate services such as CV / resume writing and interview coaching. Ms. Franklin has been in the library recruitment field for 20 years.  Prior to striking out on her own, she worked with Manpower pls, Sue Hill Recruitment, and then the international firm, Fabric.  She is a fellow of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and member of the Special Libraries Association.

Questions about Recruitment:

Can you give us a brief run-down of how a recruitment firm works? 

When you send your CV or resume to register with a recruitment firm, they will generally invite you for an interview (phone/skype or in person depending on distance, etc) and your CV/resume will be added to a database.  Your file on the database will usually also have notes of your interview and some codes or classification tags added, covering basic categories such as locations, salary bands, qualifications, industry sectors and skills.

When a recruiter gets a new vacancy from a client, they will use the codes to search the database, to gather a ‘long list’ of potential candidates.  In most library firms, the consultant will then look through the resumes and interview notes for each of those candidates, matching more closely between the job requirements and each candidate’s’ skills and requirements.

This weeding process will create a slightly shorter long-list, and it is those people who will be contacted  (either by a mail-merge email or on the phone, depending on how many potentially suitable people make the list).  Some of those contacted will either not reply at all, or will decline to apply for the role, leaving a short-list.  It is important for candidates to realise that their response (or non response) will be recorded; if an agency sends you a role you aren’t interested in it is better to reply and explain the reasons why not, so the agency can get a closer match next time, rather than to ignore it.  On the one hand, the agency will be no wiser as to what would interest you, and on the other (after several tries at contacting you) the agency may assume you’re no longer looking and archive your file.

In some cases all of those on the short-list will be submitted to the client, in other cases the consultant will sift the list further to reduce the numbers – a consultant would generally want to send between 3 and 10 resumes to their client, depending on what’s been agreed.  In most cases, the consultant will either also submit a report on each candidate, explaining why they’re a good fit for the role, or call or visit the client to present each candidate verbally.  This is really where the value of having a recruiter work for you shows through, as you have someone rooting for you and trying to persuade the hirer to interview you!

What types of vacancies are you most frequently placing candidates in?  In what types of organizations?

I cover all part of the wider information industry, including traditional library roles in public or academic settings, information or knowledge management in government and the private sector, and records management across  all kinds of organisations.

Increasingly there has been a merger of these different disciplines, especially at more senior levels.  In the UK there has been a marked decrease in roles in the public sector over the past two or three years, while the private sector declined earlier than that and has since been recovering (albeit slowly).

The main problem caused by the recession has been a dearth of mid-level roles. There have been some entry-level roles still being recruited, and organisations have generally replaced senior or very specialist  roles, but they often seem to feel they can ‘make do’ with fewer Assistant Librarians or Information Officers.  This has made career development very difficult for many people, especially as this situation has persisted since 2008.

What should candidates do differently when applying to a recruitment firm?  Is there anything they should be sure to include with you that they wouldn’t tell a direct-hire job, etc.?

A resume or CV for a recruitment firm should be slightly longer and more detailed than when sending it direct to a hirer.  In the latter case you are tailoring it specifically for that role, while for an agency there may be several types of role you’d like to be considered for and so your resume needs to reflect a broader range of your skills and experiences.  Also remember that some agency databases can search CVs for keywords, so make sure the ‘jargon’ keywords or acronyms are included (something I’d be advising against for a CV to be sent directly to a hirer).

At the interview stage with an agency, be sure to tell your recruiter honestly about any gaps or any issues you have had (eg a personality clash with a colleague or manager).  They will be able to advise you on how to best present things at an employer interview.

Are there particular qualities or experiences that will give a candidate an edge in being considered for positions you are trying to fill?

The main quality to display is enthusiasm.  Librarianship isn’t a role most people get into for the monetary rewards, and hirers expect candidates to be passionate about what they’re doing.  Coming across as fed up, bored or even worse hostile, is a sure way to make a consultant think twice when deciding whether to put you forward to their client.  You need to make sure they will feel confident representing you.

Secondly, candidates who have a realistic appreciation of their skills and aptitudes, and clear career goals, are easier for both recruiters and hirers to assess and fit into their open vacancies.  Spending time doing an audit of your skills and reflecting on what you have to offer, and also where you want your career to go, will pay off dividends later.

Once an initial placement has been made, what should a candidate do to keep on good terms with your agency (in order to ensure future placements)?

It’s good to keep in touch with your recruitment agency, from an initial call or email to let them know how you’re settling into your new role to an update later on.  You never know when you might need their services again!  I attend many library and information sector specialist group’s networking events and seminars, and it’s always nice when candidates come up and say hi.  Recruiters are used to being discrete, so don’t be afraid one will say ‘are you looking again’ or anything embarrassing while your boss is nearby!

Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know about recruitment agencies or the Library Career Centre?

I set up The Library Career Centre so that I could offer services over and above the standard recruitment process described above.  During my 20 years in the library recruitment sector, I had noticed that candidates often needed guidance on improving their resume, or their interview technique could do with some tweaking, or they simply had difficulty articulating what skills they had to offer or what their career goals were.

During a recruitment agency registration interview there is only about half an hour to gather all the information the consultant needs on career history and future goals – which doesn’t leave much time to give advice.  The Library Career Centre therefore offers support and advice directly to candidates on all these areas, in a more relaxed atmosphere where we can take time to explore issues more carefully.  This support is offered via 1-1 coaching as well as workshops and seminars.   The 1-1 services are designed on a modular basis, so a job seeker can pick and chose to get help on just those areas they are struggling with, or can put together a programme of support to suit their own needs.

I also use social media a great deal to keep up to date with issues and in touch with people – @NicolaFranklin on Twitter or http://uk.linkedin.com/in/nicolafranklin on LinkedIn, and I make regular posts on my blog.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Relevant experience and skills for the role in question

Open minded and keen to continue learning

Enthusiasm and energy

Do you have any instant deal breakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Body language or answers which contradict claims made on the resume/application form, eg; ‘great interpersonal sills’ on the resume coupled with awkward/introverted body language, or ‘excellent ICT skills’ on the resume coupled with obvious inability to use tabs or other formatting tools in Word.  Quite apart from the skills that were claimed which may be lacking, the mere fact of making exaggerated or untrue claims show either (at best) poor self awareness or (at worst) dishonesty.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Profile statements which are clearly regurgitated cliches, and don’t show any correlation between the applicants touted attributes and those required for the job.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Achievements – most resumes recount experiences or duties, some add in skills or attributes, very few include achievements (ie, how did the organisation benefit from having hired the applicant).

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be engaged with the role and organisation; demonstrate that you’ve done (good quality) research about the organisation, understand the role requirements and have put some thought into how your skills match up to the tasks in the job.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Not having done enough preparation, even for obvious questions like ‘why would you be good for this role’ or ‘where do you want your career to be in 5 years’.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Over the past 20 years library recruitment has shifted emphasis away from a need to have used all the specific databases/cataloguing standards/etc of the hiring organisation, and towards more generic aptitude and ability to learn packages and systems.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Make sure you have plenty of questions to ask the interviewer too!  An interview should be a two way communication, as you need to know whether you’d like to work in this place, if you are fortunate to receive an offer.  Also, having no questions to ask when invited to do so is a sure way of saying ‘I’m not really interested in this job’ to the interviewer.

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Filed under Non-Anonymous, Original Survey, Other Organization or Library Type, Recruiters, Special

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