How Do You Answer: How Long Have You Been Seeking Job Opportunities?

As a job seeker it’s important to understand the motivations and how a recruiter functions.  There are two different types of recruiters – retained or staff – their goals are still largely the same. Recruiters have one primary goal: fill the position as quickly as possible.  This goal is especially true for what is called a “retained” recruiter or headhunter.  A retained recruiter only gets paid when the position is filled so they are highly motivated to move fast.

When a recruiter asks about your job search, they are trying to gauge what the likelihood is that the competition will snatch you up before they have a chance to.  A recruiter is always in the delicate position of balancing the personality and needs of the hiring manager with a candidate.  Their reputation as a recruiter that they can find the best talent depends on not just finding you but screening you for all of the factors that will make you a good fit for that hiring manager.  Their job is to do all of the leg work for the hiring manager and when they send you to a hiring manager, it’s because they think there is a great chance you will work for what the manager wants.

If they put you in front of a hiring manager and think that the competition is circling over head, time is of the essence.  This means the recruiter needs to advice the hiring manager that they not only need to move quickly to get you interviewed but potentially to also make a decision about making an offer immediately.  Sometimes a headhunter will want a hiring decision to be made following each candidate interviewed rather than to interview a number of candidates and then make a decision.  That process is particularly true if your skills and experience are in high demand.  The thinking is that if you would make an offer to this person, there is no point of seeing other candidates.  If the headhunter has done their job right to find you and screen you, then the interview could almost be a formality.

Your best approach to this type of question is to be honest but not provide much detail.  It does work in your favor for speed of decision making if the recruiter is moving quickly on getting you through the process.  You also are developing a relationship with them that you may want to last longer than this particular opening so you don’t want to mislead them.  The recruiter has a reputation at stake. If they send a candidate to a hiring manager that has unrevealed surprises which could upset the hiring process, the recruiter will have a long memory that won’t favor you.  You may want the recruiter to help you with similar openings in the future so your honesty without going overboard on detail will build trust.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.

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