How To Work With Recruiters

Three who place quality professionals discuss today's job market

by Joe Conklin

As quality professionals assume more personal responsibility for developing their careers, asking how recruiters can help is a natural question. Bill, Dave and Paul, three recruiters who place quality professionals, shared their thoughts with me recently.

Q: What do you think makes candidates attractive to recruiters?

Bill: Two words--competitive experience. That plus up-to-date training and one or two ASQ certifications gets my attention.

Dave: I like to see a stable work history, a solid list of accomplishments and some flexibility in opportunities and locales considered.

Paul: I like to work with candidates who let me help them define exactly what they are looking for.

Q: How should a quality professional locate a recruiter?

Bill: The best recruiters call you first. Consider sharing your resume and goals. Keep their contact information--you never know when you'll need it.

Dave: The Internet is really changing aspects of our business. Many recruiters have Web sites. If a site has a contact policy, be sure to follow it.

Paul: There are lots of lists out there in printed and electronic form. Once people find a list, they should look for folks who work on contingency, with the hiring company paying the search expenses. With retainer based recruiters, the candidate pays.

Q: Besides setting up interviews, what other services can you provide?

Bill: I can fill people in on the latest trends affecting their industries. If I have a relationship with somebody, I don't mind giving advice on how to be more marketable--even if the person isn't looking right now.

Dave: We offer confidentiality. The companies don't know your name until you're ready to talk. We can shave time off the job search. Besides setting up the interview, we can help the candidate and the company sort out their perceptions of each other after the interview is over.

Paul: Even before any interviews, I spend at least an hour with a candidate. I really get to know his or her dreams and strengths. I also like to help people sort out how a career move might affect their families.

Q: What skills of quality professionals are in the most demand these days?

Bill: Two more words--process improvement. Whether it's called Six Sigma, lean manufacturing or whatever, companies want people who can take quality concepts and add dollars to the bottom line.

Dave: Companies who rate themselves a little low on the quality curve sometimes ask me for candidates from industries they think are further along. In such a case, the ability to produce results in a variety of environments is a plus.

Paul: The demand for quality professionals tends to follow the economy. Persistence--during the search and after landing the job--is key.

Q: How do quality professionals maintain a positive relationship with a recruiter?

Bill: Give the recruiter enough information to do the job right. The recruiter should also be open with the candidate. Steer clear of recruiters who try to force you into their latest opening.

Dave: Keep in touch if your life changes. Be selective in the recruiters you work with. If I know a person is working with one or two other recruiters as opposed to one or two dozen, I have more incentive to try to place him or her.

Paul: Stay in touch. The more you share, the more a recruiter can help you. If something like a poor housing market or special family situation limits your ability to move, let the recruiter know that up front.

Q: Should quality professionals contact recruiters between job searches?

Bill: Yes. Tell us about updates to your resume or accomplishments. For instance, if you've passed the certified quality engineer exam recently, let us know.

Dave: Yes. Keep your name fresh in our minds. Your next great opportunity may be on our desks.

Paul: Yes. Besides new responsibilities and accomplishments, don't forget to let us know when your address or phone number changes. It's a shame to find a good opportunity and not be able to reach you.

Q: A parting question: What future trends do you see affecting the quality profession?

Bill: I think the trends toward contract manufacturing, the movement of quality concepts into R&D or service functions and the adoption of quality practices overseas will continue. Of the markets I specialize in, healthcare, biotech and commercial construction have the strongest near term demand.

Dave: The food processing market is taking quality beyond just food safety. Areas like statistical process control, Six Sigma and process improvement are becoming popular.

Paul: I've seen the same things happen in other markets. This tells me quality professionals are more likely than ever to find future work outside their present industry.

JOSEPH D. CONKLIN is a statistician with the U.S. Census Bureau, designing sampling plans for assessing the quality of Census 2000 operations. He coordinated development of the information system to track the quality of printed census forms. Conklin earned a master's degree in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and holds the following ASQ certifications: quality engineer, reliability engineer, quality auditor, quality manager and software quality engineer.

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