How to Talk to Recruiters (and Get One to Work for You)

A job prospect talks to a recruiter at a table

If you've never worked with creative recruiters before, you may have a lot of questions — and assumptions — about the way a recruiter/candidate relationship works. So we went straight to the source — The Creative Group's (TCG's) recruiting team — to get the answers to some frequently asked questions about the recruitment process. Hopefully, their advice on how to talk to recruiters will encourage you to reach out to a staffing agency to help with your next job search.

1. What types of questions should you ask when looking for a recruiter?

You may be wondering how to talk to recruiters. It's in the best interest of both of you if you're candid so that your professional needs, job requirements and career goals are addressed. There's no point in beating around the bush when it comes to your career. The following questions can help you assess whether a recruiter will represent you well:

  • "How often do you staff roles with the skill sets in my background?"
  • "What types of roles would allow me to start working right away, as soon as tomorrow?"
  • "What types of companies and industries have you placed people like me in?"
  • "What experience do you have in the creative industry that enables you to relate to both clients and candidates?" (TCG's recruiters have experience in the creative industry – in fact, many have worked in marketing, design or similar fields before – so they understand your skills and interests.)
  • "Do you proactively market your candidates?"
  • "Do your clients pay you before or after a candidate is found?"

2. How frequently should you check in with your recruiter?

Once you've identified the staffing agency you want to work with, ask how often you should check in and what type of communication your recruiter prefers. Identifying a position that matches your skill set doesn't always happen overnight.

While you may be anxious to receive day-to-day updates, TCG's recruiters recommend following up every week or two via email if you're not actively on assignment. If you are, reach out to your recruiter every few days, usually by phone. Although your recruiter may not have a job lead for you when you check in, follow up consistently because market demands can change at any moment.

3. How much should you reveal about yourself when you talk to recruiters?

Honesty is always the best policy when you talk to creative recruiters. You should be up front about what you're looking for — and what you're not — in terms of position and salary.

It's OK to work with a recruiter and still look for jobs on your own, but be candid about other assignments or job leads you have in the pipeline. Finally, be transparent about your expectations in terms of time limitations and personal or familial obligations that might impact your availability.

4. Is it OK to talk openly about money with a recruiter?

Once you learn how to talk to recruiters, you'll understand why the topic of money is not off-limits. There's no reason to withhold information about your salary expectations or what you've been paid by other clients or past employers. The recruiter's job is to suggest a rate that's fair for both parties.

If you're unsure about your salary expectations, first check with a resource like TCG's annual Salary Guide and Salary Calculator to figure out what you should be earning, based on your skills, experience and location. With that baseline in mind, you might feel more confident and at ease when discussing money.

Don't be surprised if your recruiter suggests positions that might not exactly match your desired location, hourly rate or type of job. Most recruiters are very sensitive to your expectations. But they also want to present you with as many viable options as they can find to get you employed sooner rather than later. Holding out for that perfect job may leave you waiting forever.

Once you've landed a freelance job, your recruiter will continue to guide you while you're on assignment. And by now you should be an expert at knowing how to talk to recruiters. So approach your recruiter first about any issues you might be experiencing with a client company. No matter where you are in the process, your relationship with your recruiter is best served with honesty, responsiveness and grace.