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What Is a Recruiter (and How to Talk to One)?

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Recruiters are the connection between job seekers and a company. They help companies fill open roles by finding qualified candidates — people they think have the skills, experience, and ability to do the job well. If you’re looking for a job, you might come across a recruiter during your search. So, what exactly does a recruiter do, how can they be helpful to your search, and how should you talk to one? 

What Does a Recruiter Do?

A recruiter helps connect candidates to roles they’re qualified for and helps companies find the right talent for their open positions.

On a day-to-day basis, a recruiter might:

  • Search for candidates who fit the qualifications of an open role
  • Reach out to qualified candidates and ask them if they’re interested in applying for a role
  • Review resumes candidates have submitted
  • Have an introductory interview with a candidate to learn about their basic qualifications
  • Schedule interviews with candidates who pass the phone screening to connect them with the hiring manager
  • Check a candidate’s references
  • Provide information about company benefits, salary, and culture
  • Negotiate with a candidate on their offer details, like salary and benefits

Recruiter vs. Hiring Manager

It’s easy to confuse recruiters and hiring managers because they’re both trying to fill open roles. However, while a recruiter’s main job is to fill a position, filling a role is only part of a hiring manager’s job description. Hiring managers have another job title that describes what they do at the company, like VP of sales or content manager. They become a hiring manager when they’re looking to fill a role on their team.

>>MORE: Hiring Manager vs Recruiter: What’s the Difference?

Recruiter vs. Headhunter

Another common term you might hear in the hiring process is “headhunter.” Like recruiters, headhunters also try to fill roles for companies. Typically, headhunters don’t work for the company they’re trying to hire roles for; instead, a company will hire a headhunter from an agency to help them find someone for the role.

Headhunters are also more likely to fill high-level, executive roles like CEOs. 

Types of Recruiters

There are a few different types of recruiters you may encounter, depending on where they work and the types of roles they try to fill.

In-House vs. Agency

There are two main types of recruiters based on who they work for. Some work directly for companies, while others work for recruiting agencies.

Recruiters who work directly for companies usually sit within the company’s human resources or people and operations department. These recruiters are trying to fill roles only within that company. They also have a role in setting the company’s interview processes and keeping the company up to date with industry salary and hiring trends.

“We maintain the actual interviewing process and experience and change it with the times,” says Elisa Pineda, talent acquisition and workforce development specialist. “[We want] a straight, uniform, and unbiased approach for everyone involved. Also, we make sure the [interview] processes don’t get too long or complicated. There is a lot of maintenance and awareness for what’s evolving in the field.”

Because this type of recruiter works directly for the company, they’ll have intimate knowledge of its benefits, culture, beliefs, history, and more. Therefore, you can ask direct questions about these topics when speaking with them.

Other recruiters work for recruiting agencies, which means they’re not loyal to one company. Companies hire recruiting agencies to help outsource the recruiting work, so agency recruiters are often tasked with hiring for roles at various companies. 

While these recruiters help with initial candidate screenings, they won’t have personal experience working at that company. However, they’ll have general knowledge of its culture and benefits and a good idea of the salary range. It’s still okay — and necessary — to ask about these things, but they won’t necessarily be able to give firsthand insights.

What Is a Technical Recruiter?

A technical recruiter recruits only for technical roles, like software engineers and IT professionals. Conversations with technical recruiters will focus heavily on your technical skills to ensure you have the basic qualifications needed for the role. 

“Expect to be asked questions about projects you’ve worked on, what your role was within that project, outcomes of work you’ve done, and technical questions about skills required for a specific position,” Wendi Reuter, senior IT recruiter at Carex Consulting Group, says.

Technical recruiters often have a background in technology that helps them stay up to date with tools, programs, and applications people use. When talking to a technical recruiter, know they’ll have some background knowledge of the concepts and hard skills you’re talking about, so it’s okay to keep your conversations on the technical side.

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Why Should Job Seekers Care About Recruiters?

Recruiters can be an asset in the job search to help you learn more about a role, give you guidance in the job search process, and get you hired! 

  • Learn more about the role: It’s a recruiter’s job to know the ins and outs of a role, including the qualifications, what the company is looking for, and what the company can offer you in terms of salary and benefits. If the recruiter works at the company, they can also give you firsthand insights into the company culture.
  • Guidance in the job search process: Recruiters learn about the broader landscape of the job market and about specific candidates. Because of this dual knowledge, you can ask for feedback about how your skills line up with the roles you’re applying for, what salary range to expect, or other insights into the job search process.
  • Get you hired: Ultimately, it’s the recruiter’s job to hire the right person for the role, so they want to help you land the role (if you’re right for it!). Even if you don’t end up getting that specific role, they might reach out to you if something you might be a good fit for becomes available.

How to Find and Reach Out to a Recruiter

If recruiters can help you in your job search, how do you seek them out? One of the best ways to find recruiters is on LinkedIn. You can find recruiters in a few different ways:

  • Search for “recruiter”: The simplest way to find recruiters is to search for people with the title “recruiter” in their profile. You can get specific by narrowing down your search to a specific company or geographic area.
  • Search for recruitment terms: Not all recruiters will have the title “recruiter,” even if recruiting is a main part of their job. Searching similar terms like “talent acquisition,” “staffing,” or “sourcing” can help broaden your search.
  • Look at the “meet the hiring team”: If you’re interested in a specific role, LinkedIn also has a “meet the hiring team” feature in the job description, where companies can list who’s hiring for the role. 

If you see a recruiter looking to fill a role you’re interested in, you can reach out to them on LinkedIn. In your message, share your interest, experience, and the role you’d like to discuss with them. 

It’s best to be “short and sweet,” Matthew Warzel, certified professional resume writer and former Fortune 500 recruiter, says. “They are busy-bodies, usually juggling multiple openings at a time and speaking with tens, sometimes hundreds of candidates each day!”

Or, let the recruiters find you! The best way to make yourself more “discoverable” is to keep your LinkedIn profile updated with your skills and experience. For example, recruiters may search the platform for a specific skill to find candidates who have it. If you have that skill listed on your profile, they may reach out to you about a role.

How to Respond to a Recruiter

And, what happens if a recruiter reaches out to you? Even if you’re not interested in the role, it’s important to respond respectfully and politely — you never know when the connection could come in handy.

If You’re Interested in the Role

Congratulations! Respond to the recruiter and state your interest and availability for a future conversation. You can also re-emphasize your skills and experience (i.e., why they might have reached out to you for the role). For example:

Hello, Maurice,

Thank you so much for the email! I appreciate you reaching out and thinking of me. I’d love to learn more about the role. I think my experience working directly with clients and improving customer service processes can really be an asset to Company Y’s team.

I’m available this Monday-Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST. You can reach me at 123-456-7890 I look forward to speaking with you soon!


If You’re Not Interested in the Role

It’s best to be honest and upfront with the recruiter. If you’re not interested for a particular reason (location, team, sector, happy in your current role, etc.), you can briefly explain why you’re not interested. 

“Respond and build a relationship with the recruiter,” Greg Togni, managing partner at 180one, an executive search firm, says. “If you spend two minutes to respond, perhaps the recruiter will know when to contact you and keep you top of mind.”

For example:

Hello, Jane,

Thank you so much for reaching out and thinking of me for this role. At this time, I’m unfortunately uninterested in the junior software engineering position. I’m enjoying working in a hybrid role for my current company in California, and will have to pass on this remote position.

Please let me know if you see any hybrid opportunities in this field that might be a good fit. I’d love to discuss any of those open roles with you.


How to Talk to a Recruiter in an Interview

You’ve made it to the interview — congratulations! An interview with a recruiter is often called a “screening.” These are usually short phone calls where the recruiter tries to gauge if you have the minimum skills and experience to do the role. If they think you do, they’ll pass you on to the hiring team, who will schedule more in-depth interviews to learn about your experience and soft skills.

“Expect questions from the recruiter about the information listed on your resume — whether that be employment, volunteer work, training, and/or education,” Valerie Yrigolla, senior recruiter at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, says. 

To prepare for a phone interview with a recruiter, research the company and the role as you would before any other interview. Then, come prepared with your elevator pitch — which describes your top achievements and what you’re looking for — and a summary of why you think you’re right for this role.

“You’ll want to make sure that you’re adequately explaining your qualifications but not going off on tangents either,” Yrigolla says. “If the recruiter doesn’t share how long the interview will last, ask upfront to know how many details in your responses to offer.” 

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Questions to Ask a Recruiter

This is also a chance to ensure you align on basic salary expectations, benefits, and working preferences (e.g., remote vs. hybrid vs. in-person) right off the bat. Don’t be afraid to ask about non-negotiables that will help you understand if this role is right for you — as long as the information isn’t already on the company’s social media or website. For example:

  • What are some of the top qualities you’re looking for in this role?
  • Where does this role sit in the structure of the company? 
  • When and why did this role become available?
  • What’s the company culture like?
  • What’s your salary range for this role?
  • What work model does this company follow? Are all positions hybrid, remote, or in-person? Where are most team members located?
  • What are the next steps of the interview process?

“A job seeker’s questions about the recruiter’s organization and the role are quite revealing,” David Reed, global head of talent acquisition at Sedgwick, says. “Recruiters are evaluating the depth and insight of the job seeker’s questions. Did you do your homework? Did you invest enough time to demonstrate your true interest?”

>>MORE: 5 Top Questions to Ask During an Interview

How (and When) to Follow Up With a Recruiter

Following up with a recruiter follows similar rules to following up after an interview. Within 24 hours of your conversation, thank them for their time, restate your interest, and ask them if there’s anything else they need from you. If you connected via LinkedIn, you could follow up in a LinkedIn message. If they contacted you via email, email them. For example:

Hi, Louise,

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me yesterday about Company X’s UX designer position. I’m excited about the prospect of bringing my love for coding and my experience with graphic design together to work on the products Company X is building. I look forward to hearing any updates, and please let me know if you need anything else from me.


If you don’t hear back, that means you may not be the best fit for that specific role. But that doesn’t mean you need to lose connection with the recruiter. 

“If you aren’t a fit for that specific role you’re interviewing with the recruiter for, you may fit a future role,” Warzel says. “Be sure to ping that recruiter every 6-8 weeks.”

While you don’t need to do regimented follow-ups, checking in with the recruiter every few months can help keep you fresh in their mind.

Recruiters: The Bottom Line

Recruiters are the bridge between companies and job seekers. If you’re looking for a new role, a recruiter might be able to connect you with great opportunities you’re qualified for. You’ll need to effectively show them your skills and experience and honestly share what kind of role you’re looking for.

“Recruiters cannot help you if you are lacking direction,” Warzel advises. “Understand not only the achievements and accomplishments you can bring into the new role, but most importantly, what value do you offer? How can you be the Tylenol to the hiring team’s pains, and how can you make their lives easier? If you are equipped with this knowledge, a [recruiter] interview should be a piece of cake. Remember, they want you to be the right fit.”Want to stand out to recruiters? Adding your work on a Forage job simulation to your resume shows you have the skills, passion, and experience they’re looking for.

Image credit: Canva

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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