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Recruiters: A valuable career resource

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No one's job is guaranteed, and it is a good idea to start the search process now so that you will be prepared in case your situation changes.

Although job losses are mounting in many industries, the supply chain discipline has been somewhat insulated from layoffs. But that does not mean you can rest easy. The reality is that no one's job is guaranteed, and it is a good idea to start the search process now so that you will be prepared in case your situation changes.

A good initial step is to send your résumé to the major management recruiters who specialize in the supply chain profession. This is true whether you are already on the outside—someone currently looking for a position—or you are employed but are concerned that you might soon need to find a new job.

Recruiters, who help companies find the right people to fill specific positions, can be an important resource for helping you move up the career ladder. Utilizing recruiters' services gives you a definite advantage in the interviewing process. They will advise you of what the client feels is most important, the salary range of the position, why the position is open, the "personality" of the company, which manager the position reports to, that person's background, and other pertinent information.

In general, there are three types of recruitment services:

Retainer search firms: These firms do not normally specialize in a particular area, but they often handle supply chainrelated positions. The positions they work with generally pay salaries of US $100,000 or more. The employer pays them a portion of their fee up front and the remainder as the search continues. Once a retainer agreement has been signed, the search firm has exclusive rights to recruit for that position.

Contingency staffing firms: These companies are paid by employers when, and only when, they complete their assignment by finding a candidate who accepts the offer and begins the job.

Specialty search firms: These are organizations that specialize in a specific industry, such as retail, chemical, or health care, or in specific professions, such as engineering or supply chain management. They may work on retainer, contingency, or a combination of both, depending on their relationship with their clients and the salary level of the assignment.

Whether a recruiting service works on retainer or contingency should not be important to you. Nor do you have to feel a personal liking for the recruiter or organization you are working with—after all, you will not be working for them. The most important thing from your point of view is that the recruiter handle positions that are in your particular field and that it does so ethically.

Here are some suggestions—based on my years of experience recruiting qualified supply chain professionals—for successfully working with these employment experts.

Personalize your contacts
There is no need to limit the number of recruiters you work with—just be organized and keep the information about them and the jobs they are handling separate. To help you get started, CSCMP has a list of recruiters that specialize in supply chain positions on its web site. I strongly suggest visiting the recruiters' web sites before you contact them to find out as much as you can about them.

Rather than send identical résumés by email to all of the recruiters at the same time, send out just a few résumés each week and make sure to personalize them. If a recruiter is large enough to have someone on staff who specializes in your particular area of supply chain management, send your résumé directly to that person.

If a professional acquaintance or colleague recommends a recruiter to you, be sure to include this person's name, company, title, and your relationship with him or her in your cover letter. A cover letter should be brief, however. Sending a long letter recapping your experience or adding unnecessary information may lead the recruiter to pass over your material. If information is important, it should be in your résumé.

I can assure you that if you are a good candidate for a position a recruiter is working on, you will receive a call quickly. Otherwise, one day normally is enough time to wait before contacting the recruiter to follow up. After you send your résumé, communicate with the recruiter by telephone, unless otherwise requested.

Be at your professional best
It's important to remember that the recruiter's client is the employer, not you. Recruiters see job candidates as their assets. When they talk to you, their concern is not only that you will be successful in a position but also whether you fit the profile their clients want.

There are, however, things you can do to make yourself more attractive to recruiters. When you first speak to them, you should be at your best. First impressions are very important, and the impression you make in a few moments on the telephone or in person has a tendency to remain in a recruiter's mind. That's why it's important to prepare in advance for a recruiter's call. If you are not prepared, arrange a time that is convenient for both of you. Have the information you will need—including your résumé—at your fingertips.

There is some basic information that recruiters need to know, such as your complete compensation package and your location preferences. And if you have already sent your résumé directly to the hiring company or are presently interviewing for the position the recruiter is handling, you must say so. If that is the case, the recruiter normally cannot work with you on that position.

Recruiters also need to get a feel for you as a person. I believe that the more recruiters know about candidates, the better they are able to determine whether those candidates fit the positions they are working on. Moreover, recruiters may make an extra effort for those candidates they like and respect. Although they can only place you if they have a position for which you are truly qualified, they may tell you about an opening they know of but are not working on, or they may offer you some ideas that can help your search. Additionally, they may represent positions that you are not aware of but which might be suitable for you.

Remember that recruiters are looking for the best candidate they can find for their clients. You should act professionally, convey your energy and experience, and be able to speak about your achievements, what you have contributed, and why you made the decisions you did. Information should be shared on a need-to-know basis. Blaming others, complaining about the past, discussing your personal problems, and other unprofessional behavior will cause you to lose your edge in a recruiter's eyes. In other words, you need to treat recruiters the same way you would treat the hiring manager at a company that is interviewing you for a position.

After you go on an interview, report back to the recruiter as soon as possible. He or she can debrief you and clear up any questions or misconceptions you and the client may have.

Nurture the relationship
When is the best time to develop a relationship with a recruiter? The answer is simple: The first time a recruiter calls you, especially if that recruiter specializes in your field. It may prove very valuable for you to nurture an ongoing relationship. Some people think they don't have time to speak to a recruiter, but that is a mistake. There may come a time when you will need their help. Being positive and helpful may pay dividends for your career—whether you're currently looking for a new position or not.

Furthermore, there are other reasons for speaking to recruiters besides searching for a position. They can keep you abreast of changes in your field, tell you about typical salary ranges, and help you with questions regarding your career decisions or finding an employee for your own staff. Yes, their clients are the hiring companies, but recruiters also care about your career development. Remember: If you succeed, they succeed, too.

CSCMP member Roger J. Zetter, CPC will write the Career Ladder column throughout 2009. He is Chief Executive Officer of Optimum Supply Chain Recruiters, LLC, a recruiting firm that specializes in supply chain management positions. Before becoming a recruiter, he held positions in transportation and logistics for several companies. Zetter, who was featured in our Q3/2008 Dialogue interview, has been certified by the National Association of Personnel Consultants.

Roger Zetter is chief executive officer of Optimum Supply Chain Recruiters LLC.

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