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The recruiting world changed in 2008.

Which probably means, that the relationship you previously enjoyed with your recruiter has probably changed too. But fear not, there are many things you can do about it. In fact, you are probably more in control now than you have ever been.

First – a little clarification. Never has ‘your recruiter’ been ‘your recruiter’. It continues to be the most common misconception about the recruiting industry. Recruiters don’t work for you. They never have. They’re not your agent. Even though many recruiters like to perpetuate that myth, it simply isn’t true. And it never has been.

“Agents” do work for the talent they represent, because, quite frankly, they are paid by the talent to connect them with gigs. Where we see this most often is in the film industry, the music industry or the modeling industry.

But who pays the recruiter? Not you. The agency that hires them to ‘recruit’ the right people to fill a vacancy pays them. So in reality, the recruiter works for the agency.

I know that sometimes it seems as though the recruiter is working for you, but that’s just fortunate timing. Sometimes you call a recruiter and on that day, they have orders (searches) in their wheelhouse that line up perfectly with your experience. So it’s easy to understand where the confusion may stem from. It looks like an agent, it acts like an agent – must be an agent right? Believe me, it’s not an agent.

Some recruiters will send your work around to agencies in the absence of an active mandate or hire. But you know what that means? They’ve just attached a fee to hiring you. And in today’s market, that’s the last thing you want. I truly believe and I have been told many times (even two days ago) that agencies will go out of their way to avoid paying a recruiter’s fee. So will they choose you, who was introduced by a recruiter, or will they choose to hire the candidate who was an internal referral – which means no fee? Be careful about letting a recruiter make introductions on your behalf and incurring a fee in the process.

Ask if the agency they are about to introduce you to, has in fact, hired them to fill the vacancy. Ask what sort of relationship they have with the agency. Is it a contingency relationship? Or a retained relationship? The former (contingency) means the recruiter is only paid if the candidate they introduced is hired, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, most agencies are more interested in hiring a candidate that doesn’t have a fee associated with the hire, than one that does.

Agencies have brought much of their recruiting function in-house. It started to happen around 2007 and it really gained momentum after 2008, the year when 140,000 advertising people lost their jobs. Again, it’s a way to avoid paying an external recruiter’s fee for hire, preferring to pay a lower salary or annual fee to hire talent via their full time in-house recruiter.

The number of independent recruiters has decreased. With more work being done in-house by agency recruiting departments, the number of independent recruiters have decreased substantially. Or, the number of searches that are outsourced have decreased substantially. Add to that, the fees that were previously paid to recruiters went from a reasonable percentage of salary to a ridiculously low flat fee, and many recruiters pulled an Ellis Wyatt.

Linked in is the new recruiting playground. Trouble is, the best jobs aren’t posted on Linked in. The best jobs are still where they always were, hidden inside advertising agencies. So if they’re hidden how do you find out about them? Agencies who solely rely on Linked in to source candidates are missing out on the gigantic passive candidate market. In-house recruiting departments tend to accept submissions rather than going out and actively pursuing the ideal candidate for a position. It will come around. But not for a while.

Little wonder you’re feeling abandoned.

So where does that leave you?

Where you should have been all along: Leading and fully in charge of getting the job you want next. Not relying on recruiters to make your job hunt happen for you. Because as I’ve already stated, they never really did.

Here are 10 things you MUST be doing right now to get the job you want:

1. Research, research, research. Get on every possible website to learn about the industry and determine what the top five agencies you want to work for are, then apply for a job there. (Don’t just look at their portfolio, read the entire site.)

2. Build a brand that demonstrates that you know how to build a brand. One that is exciting and intriguing enough to get noticed amidst the sea of submissions great agencies receive daily. This does NOT mean doing what everyone else does. This means doing what no one else is doing. Smart marketing right?

3. Develop a multi-tiered, well-timed and consistent marketing campaign to accompany your spiffy new brand.

4. Don’t give up after you send one email to a company and it didn’t get a response. Send another one. Practice Direct Marketing. Analyze what works and what doesn’t work. Use different creative to test the effectiveness of one approach against another. Don’t forget voice mail. (You would think that when I recruited creatives that my voice mail would have been Comedy Central. Nope. EVERYONE left exactly the same message. ‘Hi this is Name. I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to look at my portfolio.’) Begin demonstrating your creativity and why you’re someone they HAVE to meet from the very first contact and never forget: NO ONE EVER BORED THEIR WAY INTO SOMEONE’S OFFICE.

5. Develop a mailing list of 1,000 people.

6. Stop telling potential employers what you want (to meet for a coffee) and start telling them what they need to hear to make them want what you want – to meet you. Think in terms of benefit, think of what makes you you, and tell them that. Harsh as it may sound, people always think in terms of ‘what’s in it for me’. Whether they’re willing to admit it, is another story.

7. Develop an opinion. That’s what you’re paid for. Just this past Friday over dinner, an Executive Creative Director told me that even after 30 years he is still shocked when he interviews a creative and gets a blank stare in response to this question, “So what’s your favorite piece of work that you’ve seen in the past year?”

8. Build a website for a human (you) not your title. Your work is only 25% of the reason that a company will hire you. The more senior you are, the more the company wants to know about you, what you stand for, what you’ve learned.

9. Include testimonials.

10. Write hand-written thank you cards. No one does it anymore. Do anything that you did to get your first job, that for whatever reason you stopped doing. Do anything that no one does any more.

Do those ten things and before long you’ll be saying, “Who needs a recruiter anyway?”

Just remember – the person reviewing your work is a person. A person that, like you, wants to be entertained, delighted, inspired, gob smacked and impressed. Or all of the above. They want to find that little treasure. In other words, you. Because finding a treasure will be highlight of their day.

Be the highlight of someone’s day, and make sure they realize it quickly. Because today one person is doing the job that was previously done by three, so 12 seconds may be all you have before their phone rings, they get a text message, or someone is standing at their door.

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Time’s up!

~ heidi