Marketers talk frequently about "customer experience" -- the concept that a good relationship with clients goes beyond service during the sale, and extends from the minute the customer has contact with the organization to the second they decide they'll never need those services again (maybe even after). Companies who strive for an exceptional customer experience recognize that every touch point with that customer must be positive and memorable. Done right, this can give companies a competitive advantage over their less-customer-experience-focused competitors.
When it comes to hiring, great recruiters also buy into this idea to ensure the entire "candidate experience" is positive for all who apply. They consistently reach out with opportunities, answer questions and help at every stage of the hiring process. Similar to the customer experience, the better the candidate experience, the better the relationship will be between the recruiter and candidate.
A strong relationship with recruiters is a valuable asset for any independent contractor who is always looking for the next gig. Given the benefits of customer and candidate experience, could independent contractors apply the same principles to create a positive "recruiter experience"? At first glance, the idea seems backwards -- after all, recruiters should be the ones bending over backwards for IT contractors -- but at the same time, what a unique way to stand out from your competition (other skilled job applicants)!
How can you go above and beyond to create a positive recruiter experience? Think of everything you would expect from a company when getting a positive customer experience. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Keep communication open. Return phone calls and emails, update them on your status, and be honest in what you're seeking.
Always be polite. When a recruiter calls you at an inconvenient time, misunderstands your experience or doesn't solve your problem the first time, your immediate instinct could be to get angry. Try to take the high road in these circumstances.
Work hard to resolve problems quickly, accepting responsibility when necessary. Situations beyond anybody's control happen during a job search and a contract. Bad things also happen that were within somebody's control -- maybe the recruiter's, maybe yours. Regardless, work with the recruiter to fix things and accept your share of the blame if that's the case.
Be proactive to help them get what they need sooner. Recruiting is a fast-paced business. If you get your resume or return phone calls before any other candidate, a recruiter will remember you in a positive light.
Make it easier for them to do their job. There's no need to go into their office and recruit for them, but simply being accessible, providing enough details to questions, or giving referrals will show that you care about the recruiter experience.
Give something free every once in a while. Don't worry, we're not suggesting you offer to work for free. However, you can turn the tables and buy your recruiter a coffee next time you're together.
A valuable relationship is built when both parties recognize that it is a two-way street, with recruiters arguably having to contribute more to the experience than contractors. That said, all IT contractors have been in the unfortunate situation when the best work is on the other side of a terrible recruiter who doesn't understand the definition of service, let alone experience. In these cases, it's up to you to provide the experience, become memorable, and increase your chances of winning this job, as well as many future ones to come. In summary, the recruiter experience and candidate experience go hand-in-hand, and we all need to do our part.