How to get past recruiters

How to get past recruiters

Searching for a job can be a tricky business. Most of the job ads you see are from recruitment agencies and most of the time those recruiters don’t want you to know who they’re recruiting for.

The reason they don’t want you to know who they’re recruiting for, is they also don’t want their competitors to know who’s hiring… but also so you don’t go direct to the employer and ruin their chances of scoring a fee.

This makes it difficult because it’s really hard to tell if it’s the right company, or job for you before you take the time to apply. If you do actually make that application, you still need to make it past the agency before you even get a chance to speak to the person who’s hiring for the job! Sound familiar?

The Rules of The Game

Before we look at solutions, it’s important to understand the rules of the game. The fact is, hiring managers don’t always have the time to recruit for themselves and even if they do, it can be a huge time drain to talk to everyone who wants to apply for the job. That’s why recruiters are called in to help. What that means for you is you need to figure out how to speak to, impress and influence the recruiter, not the hiring manager.

It’s tempting to think you’re the centre of the universe and are the only person who can do the job. Surely your experience will speak for itself, right? Erm, not really. The reality is, usually there are many people who can do the job (and do it very well for that matter!) and it’s the recruiter’s task to determine who’s best for the position.

Recruiters read hundreds of CVs every day, so you need to stand out. A big part of that is making the recruiter’s job easy. Ok, so how do we do that?

    1. Tailor Your Job Titles

      Titles can be really misleading. Each company has a different name for the same thing, so just because you recognise the role you’re going for is similar to the one you’ve come from, it doesn’t mean it’s as obvious to the recruiter. Make it easy for them by ensuring the job title(s) on your CV are the same (or similar) to the job you’re applying for.

      This isn’t always easy to do if you’re trying to change direction with your career or have many skills, and you certainly don’t want to lie… but if your title is, for example, “Account Manager” and you do lots of sales in your role, then you may be better off changing your title to Business Development Manager, if you’re applying for a business development role.

      Additionally, think about how you can use a few catch phrases under your title to draw out what you’re good at, so they understand instantly exactly why you should get the job. For instance, under “Business Development Manager” you could list, “Driving new client acquisition in the Retail Industry through new sales channels to successfully beat target by 125%”, etc.

    2. Shorten Your CV

      I once received a 20 page CV… I kid you not… points for being comprehensive, sure, but far too much effort to get to the bottom of and as such, it went straight to the bottom of the pile!

      You need to summarise your experience into three pages or less. Try to think of your CV as a marketing document – it’s designed to pique the recruiter’s interest and get you a call back, not to answer every single question the recruiter may have about you. If it’s too long, no one’s going to read it and you’re toast. Keep it succinct and punchy, getting across your key value as quickly and easily as possible.

    3. Tailor Your CV

      Don’t be lazy and send out the same CV for every application. Each job is different, so remove things that aren’t relevant and make sure the things that are relevant are super obvious. This also means moving the most relevant skills up your list, so it’s the first thing the agency reads.

    4. Use Facts and Figures

      Again, remember that as this is a marketing document, statistics and figures are a great sales tool. For example, “I reduced service outages by 37% within 3 months” is a lot more powerful than, “I improved the reliability of IT services”. These stats are what recruiters use to sell you into their client, so you’re making it super easy for them to pick you out of the crowd.


  1. Contact them through Linkedin

    Use this with caution but it can be a great way to stand out from the crowd by going direct to the recruiter on Linkedin, saying you “heard they were looking for someone” with your skills. I say use with caution because it can be annoying to have to step outside the normal process to deal with a candidate, so pick your targets and don’t harass the same recruiter about every job they advertise.

    Another great way of using LinkedIn is to help gain a better understanding of the people you will be meeting. You can use this to establish the experience they may have, or achievements made in their current role. Being able to reference that in a meeting is a nice touch and makes you more memorable.

  2. Don’t just rely on recruiters
    You shouldn’t be relying on recruitment agencies to get a job. Don’t get me wrong, they’re an important part of the process for you, but they’re only one channel.

    Before you apply for jobs, have a think about the companies you’d like to work for. Once you have your targets in mind, contact them directly, putting you in touch with the team responsible for recruitment, or you might go on to Linkedin and try to reach out to the manager responsible for hiring people like you.

    Try this simple and effective approach to show your interest in the company and demonstrate how you think you could add value: “I love the look of your company and I’d like to know how I can work there. I’ve also been doing some research on the industry and have discovered some potential opportunities for your company. I would love to discuss my thoughts with you if you have the time”.

    Everyone feels warm and fuzzy when they hear someone likes them and wants to help. Most employers are the same. This kind of approach can sometimes be more effective than applying for a live job, because you’ve got less competition and are more likely to get a response. Also, of course, if you do get an interview and they like you, they’ll probably offer you a job next time they’re hiring, before even bothering to post a job ad.

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