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Career Coach: How to Impress a Recruiter

The Career Coach explains what recruiters do for their company or client and how to help them land you a job.

A recruiter's job is to help a specific company find qualified people for open positions or future spots. Making contact with a recruiter is often the first step to getting hired. Here's how candidates can make a great impression with recruiters, whether freelance contract recruiters or in-house staff recruiters.


nvestigate the company before you apply. Know what they need and prepare your marketing materials (résumé, demo reel, reel breakdown and cover letter) to show how your skills can meet their needs. Smaller companies need generalists (people with a wide range of skills), while larger companies use specialists who do one thing extremely well. Familiarize yourself with the company's work and be prepared to tell how you can contribute in your cover letter and interview.


ake it easy for the recruiter to contact you. Label everything with your name, current phone number (and area code) and e-mail address. This information should match on every piece you send. Don't make the recruiter guess which phone number or e-mail address is correct. When any contact info changes, change the labels on the reel and info on your résumé.


olish your presentation. Prepare your marketing materials as if you were a company trying to get a client. A well-prepared presentation will receive a better reception than a reel haphazardly spliced together. Prepare for your interview by making a list of your strengths that will interest your potential employer. Be ready to tell a short story about one of your accomplishments or make specific suggestions or proposals in your interview.


espect the recruiter's time.

  • Respond promptly if you are contacted by a recruiter. If you are not available or not interested, let them know. Don't ignore the recruiter's contact.
  • Get to your point quickly and find out what you need to know: who's hiring, what are they looking for? Maintain a professional positive attitude.
  • Keep recruiters up to date on how to contact you, what you are working on and when you expect to become available.
  • Don't ask recruiters to do extra work. Don't expect them to look up your résumé on a Website but do include your web site address on your résumé E-mail your résumé in text format (not jpeg) in the body of the message. That way you can be sure they get it. Make sure the résumé is readable and not in html format or garbled with extra code before you send it. Don't send attachments as many companies don't accept e-mailed attachments.
  • If you are responding to an ad, don't delay your application by asking for more info and waiting for a reply from the recruiter -- send your résumé and indicate your availability and how you fulfill the requirements. You can ask for more info when you send in your résumé, but be specific about what further info you want. Make sure your reply includes a readable résumé with all your current contact info.
  • If the recruiter asks for a reel or samples send them promptly.


verybody gets paid -- even recruiters, but not by candidates. Some recruiters work in-house, on staff. Independent contract recruiters are also paid by companies to help find the people they need. The recruiter's services are free to job candidates. Since recruiters work for companies, you should not expect them to find you a job. They can be a valuable resource to you in helping you find work, but they don't work for you. When working with independent recruiters, it's okay to work with several at the same time, but let all of them know that you are working with other recruiters as well.


ubmit great work that matches the kind of work the company produces. If the company does photorealistic visual effects, don't send a cartoony reel. Send in only your best work. Recruiters would rather see 15 seconds of top notch, high quality work than a minute of mediocre imagery.


end a thank you to the recruiter if you are hired. If you are working with a contract recruiter, let him/her know what your start date and rate is. Keep in touch with the recruiter when the job is over and send a new résumé. If you accept another job let the recruiter know as soon as possible. Stay in touch with recruiters and send a new résumé every six months or any time you add to your skills, or when any contact info changes. Recruiters can be helpful in finding a job but only if you do your part of the work -- sending them what they need in a timely manner.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a independent contract/freelance recruiter/hiring strategist and career coach. Her most recent recruiting clients include Paramount's feature film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Toybox, a Canadian visual effects company. She speaks regularly at schools and industry meetings and is looking forward to her presentation on résumés and demo reels at this year's SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 11, 2004.