My job as Senior UX Designer at Lab1886, the Daimler Innovation Lab, is to create innovative digital products by combining user needs, business models, and branding. It’s my dream job.
When I tell people that, they ask me how I found the job—and of course how I got the job. Well, it was all thanks to a great recruiter.
Your experience with recruiters might be limited to random LinkedIn messages that sound auto-generated and sent to thousands of people who fit a certain keyword (and they probably were). The job of a recruiter is so valuable if it’s done right, but not every recruiter is good or has your best interest in mind. That’s exactly why I put together this post to help you deal with recruiters.
First, figure out what you want
Don’t kid yourself: Dealing with recruiters is time-consuming, and sometimes exhausting.
I wish somebody had told me this a long time ago: Being approached by a recruiter doesn’t mean anything—yet. It’s a way of telling you that your profile fits the position a company is looking for. You can be a little proud—getting contacted is better than not getting contacted, but just keep in mind that many, many steps come after this initial message.“Being approached by a recruiter doesn’t mean anything—yet.”
Do you even want to deal with recruiters? Answer these two questions:
1. Am I open for a new position?
When you aren’t looking for a new position, my advice is to answer every recruiter anyway. First of all, it’s polite—and secondly you never know if you’ll speak to them again if/when your situation changes.
Here’s an example of what I usually send out:
“Hi NAME, thank you for your message. I’m not currently looking. Good luck with your search.
When I know somebody who’s currently looking and the job description is interesting, I provide them with a recommendation.
If you are open to a new gig, think about how much time you want to invest in the search.
I didn’t know this at the beginning, but dealing with recruiters can take a lot of time. You have at least one long phone call, lots of emails, and interview preparation before you go to the first real interview. You also have to sharpen your portfolio and research the potential company.
If you want a new job, you should take this whole process very seriously. If you don’t, you probably won’t get the job. Every time I just sent my standard stuff over, it did not work out.
Remember that the recruiter hands your information over to a busy person, and they won’t understand why you didn’t have time to update your portfolio.
2. What am I looking for in my next position?
I loved my old job, but I slowly got the feeling that I needed a change. When recruiters approached me, I politely declined. In my case I wanted to be closer to product innovation, so only recruiters in that field got a positive answer from me. Remember you can’t go through the recruiting process with every recruiter.
Sharpen your social media profiles, portfolio, and CV
Once you decide you’re ready to deal with recruiters, you’ve got to polish your portfolio and social media presence.
The more the recruiter can find about you, the better the potential job will fit to your profile. LinkedIn gives you great opportunities to add information about yourself, so use them—fill out your profile completely (don’t forget a professional photo), make public updates, comment and like other people’s updates, and write a few articles on their publishing platform.
Adapt your portfolio to the company you’re applying to, and have it available as a downloadable PDF—even if you have a great website.
This takes time, as you need to figure out what you want to underline. In my case, as a UX designer, I made a new portfolio for every job opportunity that sounded interesting. Sometimes my projects weren’t up to date or I needed to underline specific aspects of my portfolio, like strategy, design thinking, workshops, mobile, responsive, user-tests, research, and leadership skills.“Every company has a different focus, and so should your portfolio.”
Many of recruiters ask for CVs. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t understand this at all. You have your detailed profile online, right? Why would they also need a CV?
But hiring managers are really busy with their daily business, and finding candidates is a small part of their job. They open the attachments from the recruiter or HR department, and if you’re lucky they have 10 minutes to decide whether they want to interview you.
A CV is another way of saving hiring managers time, and including one will improve your chances. You can add your CV to your portfolio to make it even easier for the company.
How to identify good recruiters
There are lots of recruiters out there, but not all of them are good at their job and you don’t want to waste your time.
A good recruiter:
- tries to get to know you
- makes you feel special and appreciated
- sends you relevant job offers
- gets you excited about the new role
- does not get on your nerves (I usually try to answer every message from a recruiter because it’s polite, but if I don’t, asking again won’t do the trick)
- prepares you for interviews
A bad recruiter:
- asks you standard questions without trying to connect
- asks you for your current salary/notice period right away
- tells others that you have been in touch (it actually happened to me once)
- asks you for a phone call without telling you what role this is about
Related: How to nail a design job interview
Examples of good and bad approaches
I collected an excerpt of recruiter approaches that help you differentiate whether the recruiter is interested in your profile or just tries to meet their quota.
Here are some good examples of a first approach:
- “Hello Laura, thanks for accepting my connection request! I hope you are well. The reason why I connected with you was in relation to a UX role I am currently working on for a key client of mine in Berlin. I appreciate you might not be active on the market right now; however, checking your profile out I felt you could have great potential for what my client would be interested in. When would you be free for a chat about this? I look forward to your feedback. Thanks.”
- Dear Laura, hope you are doing well! I have a brand-new UX designer opportunity for a well known _____ giant who is building its team in the heart of Berlin. Digital mobility projects include self-driven cars, augmented reality, car connectivity, etc. Let me know if you are open to discuss about this exciting opportunity. I look forward to hearing from you.
- Hi Laura, hope you are well. I wanted to get in touch with you as I am currently working on behalf of a very well known, reputable technology and SaaS business that’s looking to strengthen their product development team by bringing in a UX team leader. They are looking for the best and brightest minds in UX design to lead their team of highly skilled and creative engineers to deliver the best user experiences with outstanding levels of robustness and attention to detail. (…) Could you let me know whether this sounds like the type of position that could be of interest, and I will gladly get in touch to follow up. Kind regards.
And here is the best example ever:
“Hi Laura—I trust you’re very well and enjoying all the snow and wind! I’ve been having a bit of an explore across your Tumblr. This reblog you made, made me laugh: “Mobile First? Puh-leez. China Is Already Going Mobile Only” — it’s neat how a whole desktop revolution was skipped, an entire generation not knowing what dial-up noise sounds like. Looking at LinkedIn it looks like you’ve had a recent change in role, congrats! Just a kind message to open doors if not now, then for the future, to have a very relaxed and informal chat and see if there’s an opportunity at _______ that could pique your interest . At the moment we have the focus of building a community of mobile champions within _________ also one of our startups are looking for a senior/lead to join (I’ve attached the profile and shape of the role to give you a better insight—it’s also a pretty cool description). Simply, we’re positive you could have a solid impact within our UX team (…)”
Some bad examples:
“Hi Laura, I hope you’re well. Thanks for connecting. Would you like to have a chat 5 minutes? Name and phone number”
“Hi Laura- Hope you are well- Would you be interested in opportunity in Dusseldorf?”
And here is the worst example ever:
“Dear Laura, we are currently establishing a digital Unit for _______. Our topics are product launch campaigns, establishing different digital platforms and creating great digital services. Does that sound interesting? Please send me your CV, your current salary, and your notice period.”
Why would I tell my current salary and notice period to someone I don’t even know?
Try to discuss important topics only with the company
Some recruiters might try to discuss important topics like salary, working hours, or title with you before the interview. The hiring manager will receive an email with all this information—before you even have the chance to connect with them on a personal level.
The company has more freedom than you think. If they like you, they’ll try their best to meet your expectations. It’s easier to reject an email than a person you like. Tell the recruiter that you’d be glad to share all this information directly with the hiring manager.
In the end, you have to make sure that you don’t lose too much energy and time for something that isn’t worth it. Only work with recruiters who treat you well and not like a number.
The recruiter who got me my dream job was always willing to listen, and he was there for me throughout the entire hiring process and gave me the final push to take the job—and it turned out to be the right decision.
Header illustration by robokid.tv.