Smooth Operator

speedbumps to avoid when working with a recruiter

As a candidate working with a recruiter, it’s to your benefit to help them be as efficient as possible. There are aspects of this that you can’t control. The suitability of your experience and qualifications for the job I’m hiring for, for example. It’s either a good fit, or it’s not. There’s one thing you can control, though. That factor is: friction.

I have to manage my time carefully, being as efficient as possible in everything I do. In a recruiter’s line of work, this means spending as little time as possible screening applications (while still making good decisions about who to interview). It means gathering as much useful information as possible in every interview, while also keeping those interviews as brief as they can be. In short, it means spending more time with candidates who will ultimately be hired, and as little time as possible with those who won’t.

In this context, I’m defining friction as anything in the process that makes my job harder and more time consuming than I want it to be. As a candidate working with a recruiter, the less friction you introduce into their life, the better their perception of you will be. Here are three ways that candidates – whether they know it or not – create friction in my working life.


If I’ve posted a job with clear instructions for applying, people who don’t follow those instructions create friction. Send the application with all the information I’m asking for. Make it easy to figure out how to contact you if I need to. Don’t call me to talk about the job; if you’re interested and think you’re qualified, then apply. Despite what some job search coaches will tell you, being ‘proactive’ with a phone call will make you stand out … just not in the way you want.

Resumes and cover letters

It shouldn’t be difficult for me to find, open, read, and possibly file these documents. If it is, I experience friction. Send them in common file formats. Organize them in typical ways so it doesn’t take me longer than it should to find the information I need. Pro tip: include your surname in the file name. Do you know how frustrating it is to have to choose between typing out your name (and everyone else’s), or having 387 files on my computer called ‘resume.doc’?

Interviews and beyond

If you’ve sent me an application for a position, I assume you’re interested in that job. That should mean that you’re responsive, and willing and able to make yourself available for the various stages of the hiring process. If I email or call you, don’t leave me hanging. Get back to me as soon as possible so that I don’t question whether you’re still interested. If I give you times I’m available for a meeting, make every effort to be available for one of them. If if anything changes for you, please let me know as soon as possible. It’s beyond frustrating to get to what I think is the final stage of a hiring process, ready to present an offer, only to learn that the candidate has changed their mind. Do you think I rush to work with those people again?

When looking for jobs throughout your career, have you been a ‘smooth operator’, or have you unintentionally created friction in any of these ways?



Photo by Matt Walsh on Unsplash