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How to Get a Recruiter’s Attention: Part 2


By Steve Hall, Vice President of Business Development and Senior Talent Consultant

& Jan Nickerson, Senior Outplacement Consultant and former Senior Search Consultant

In our previous post, we offered some reasons why candidates receive low recruiter response rates when applying for jobs. The robust economy and tight candidate pool along with a highly specialized marketplace all affect how recruiters manage their book of business.

In this post, we want to offer some tips on getting a recruiter’s attention and how best to interact with them once you do.

Understand that there’s no magic formula that unlocks the door, but there are gaffes that can keep the door closed. It’s a dance, and if you’re not careful, you can get rejected.

What can I do for you? vs. Here’s what I need.

We have found that job seekers, especially those who have been displaced, hate being needy.  So, turn the tables and seek to help others.  An offer to help a recruiter can open the door to a new position a bit more quickly. 

Try approaching the recruiter with a pleasant phone message. Call just to let them know that you’re a job seeker and while you’re searching, perhaps you can assist with the searches they’re working on. If you don’t hear back from leaving a voicemail within three days, follow up with an email, then come back in a week with another phone call. Alternate your method of communication between LinkedIn, phone and emails. But avoid daily communication which is not going to encourage a response.

For those who are more comfortable communicating via email, try this. Send an email telling a recruiter that you see they’re looking for an accountant (or whatever role is in the same function or industry as yours).  Offer that while you aren’t qualified or interested in that particular opening, you do have a couple of people in your network that may be a good fit, and you’d like to learn more to see if you can help with an introduction. Guaranteed we’ll be calling you. Once the conversation is finished, ask if you can forward your resume for consideration for other roles now, or in the future, that may be a fit. Our answer should be “yes.” Now, that would be a totally refreshing, never-been-done approach.

Additionally, whether you are a “passive” or “active” job seeker, you are most likely daily searching for opportunities. Perhaps the best way to partner with a recruiter is to bring a job opening that you fit to their attention. Ask them to market your capabilities to the company doing the hiring. This is another valuable way to be seen as a candidate “partner” and increase your odds of being seen as more than just an applicant.

Use your influence and centers of influence

Like everyone else, recruiters want to be the best at what they do, and they don’t mind when others notice it. When you’re in a job search, ask everyone you know who the top three recruiters are in your field. Once you have their responses, contact those recruiters. Tell them that you conducted a survey of top recruiters and they came out on top. Let them know you believe you can help one another and that you’d like to get together to discuss it.

You also should use your centers of influence when contacting a recruiter. Through LinkedIn, a professional organization, or some other source, identify someone that is influential with the recruiter you want to approach. Talk with that influential someone and secure their referral to your targeted recruiter.  Then you may put that person’s name in the subject line of your email, or at least the first line. Better yet, if possible, have your influencer call or email the recruiter on your behalf.

Well-crafted cover letters

An authentic, sincere and transparent cover letter can be effective in eliciting a response from a recruiter. Customize each cover letter, resisting the urge to simply duplicate the last cover letter you sent.

Like the phone call or email, if you’re not a perfect fit for the job, acknowledge that in your letter and offer to help the recruiter with other searches they have in process.

Here are some of the word tracks from actual cover letters we’ve received that we found to be appealing and engaging:

  • I look forward to discussing with you how I may be of help to one of your clients.
  • If I can ever be of help, please do not hesitate to reach out.
  • I want to thank you for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I’m honored to be a part of your network. I’m not trying to sell you anything, and I don’t have a scheme for you to consider. I simply noticed that you are involved with recruiting and placement. As such, I assume you’re always on the lookout for qualified leads. I just started a job search and wanted to involve you in the process. Hopefully, it will be a win-win for us both…. I value my network and don’t openly solicit; however, I do honestly believe that we may be able to help each other out and am reaching out in that same spirit. If you ever need me to return the favor, it’s yours for the asking.
  • I’m eager to learn what brings you to develop this role and to understand how I can best help.
  • Currently, I am entertaining contract work, and volunteering with professional and charitable organizations while I pursue new opportunities. If my services could be of use to help you develop strategy or execute initiatives to capture an unrealized opportunity at your firm, please connect with me on LinkedIn or send me an email to start a discussion.


As a summary, do all that you can to build relationships with recruiters so that whether they have a position that is the best fit for you at the time or not, you will always be top of mind when the right opportunity surfaces.

For more information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions portion of our website.