How to Work With a Recruiter to Land Your First Job

Your first job is a coveted golden ticket: a salary, benefits, and a clearer career path. But, the search for your first job can be daunting. So to make it a bit easier it’s important to find allies. From career counselors, to your parents, an alumni network and recruiters, there are a lot of people out there who can help you snag a wonderful position.

Recruiters, in particular, are an untapped resource that often intimidate new graduates. While it can be nerve-wracking to connect with someone who can make or break your chance at a role, the more skilled you are at building these relationships, the more successful you’ll be.

Erin Doyon, now a Talent Acquisition Consultant at Philips, worked with students for 15 years to help them land jobs, first by facilitating co-op programs at Northeastern University and UMass Lowell, before transitioning to Campus Recruiting at Philips. In each capacity, Erin worked one-on-one with early-career professionals as a coach, partner, and advocate. Here’s her wisdom on how to leverage a relationship with a recruiter to land your first job:

Optimize Your Resume and Cover Letter

With the sheer volume of resumes recruiters receive for every job posting, you need to stand out in the digital pile. As Erin says, “A resume is your billboard. You need to catch my attention if you want me to watch your advertisement.” Recruiters like Erin use application tracking systems, which leverage keyword technology to narrow down “matches” between a job description and a candidate.

To get to the top of the pile, use a tool like Jobscan to identify keywords to use to optimize your resume and cover letter. Or, you could do it the old-fashioned way and pick out key skills, requirements, and responsibilities in a job description and add the exact phrasing to your own application materials, assuming they are a match to your personal experience and background.

Sometimes, recruiters look for geographical matches, so indicate that you’re willing to move to the specific city where the job is located in your application, too. Then, use these tips to make sure your resume hits all the right notes.

Communicate Your Interests and Goals

Once you’re past the initial resume scan, and you’ve moved to a brief screening call, be clear about what you’re looking for. It’s nearly impossible for a recruiter to help you land your dream job if you haven’t clarified your goals.

Spend time uncovering and articulating your interests and intentions for a career. “Think about where you want to be in five years and about what you want to do to get there,” says Erin. “If you want to be the CEO, you have to map out how to get there and have a long-term plan.”

Leverage your LinkedIn and start networking. Reach out to alumni in your desired field and ask them if they have a few minutes to hop on a call—or if you could buy them a cup of coffee. Remember to make it as easy as possible for them by adjusting to their schedule, calling them (rather than the other way around), and preparing specific questions.

Once you’ve done your research, a recruiter can be your matchmaker. “These professionals know all about the company, all about the divisions and all about the team,” says Erin. Even if you’re not the perfect fit for the job you applied for, you may be the right match for another position—and the recruiter can steer you in that direction.

Make It Easy for Recruiters to Advocate for You

There’s one big thing most professionals don’t realize about recruiters. It’s their job to sell the best candidates to the hiring manager—but you can help make that job easier. The more succinct, relevant information you give recruiters, the more likely they are to push for you at every stage of the process.

Erin calls this approach “humble assertiveness.” She says, “Be willing to do anything, especially because the stereotype of the millennial is that they’re too good for some entry level jobs. This dream job you want comes from dedication and enthusiasm.”

This starts with your thank you email after a screening call. Within a couple hours, follow up with a note of appreciation and three or four snippets about why you’re great for the role. That information makes it easy for a recruiter to advocate for you in conversations with the hiring manager.

Hello Erin,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I loved hearing about the culture at Philips and the details of this new role. In case I didn’t mention this on our call, I wanted to send over these quick notes about how my experience and passion line up with this position:

  • I worked as an assistant in an Artificial Intelligence lab on campus for the last two summers; I’m proficient in the kind of programming the hiring team uses every day.
  • My highest grades in college were in the courses that set the direct foundation for this job. (See attached transcript; I highlighted relevant coursework.)
  • I enjoy nothing more than collaborative work on robots, as shown by my participation and eventual leadership in the robotics club for four years running.
  • A year ago, I set up a Google news alert for articles on the topic, so I could immerse myself in industry’s trends. Here’s this week’s best read: [link to article].

Please let me know if I can send any other helpful information your way. I’m thrilled about this opportunity, and I’m excited at the possibility of embarking on a career at Philips.

Best,

Liz

Don’t be afraid to tell a recruiter that you really want a job. That’s a good thing. Think of it like dating: no one wants to date someone who isn’t truly interested in them either.

Remember: in every interaction, be kind, thoughtful and unassuming—they’re trying to help you. Personality goes a long way, and by being the most gracious version of yourself, you set a clear foundation for an awesome new opportunity.

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