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GUEST COMMENT: How to approach a recruiter if you’ve been out of work for a year

You’ve been out of the market for over a year.  How do you present yourself to a headhunter, or for that matter, a potential employer?

First, be honest about why you found yourself out of work in the first place.  Explain the background behind your departure from your last job, and if you have good references at your former employer, offer them up to the recruiter.  If you decided to take time off because of personal or family issues, be clear about these as well.

Second, be prepared to demonstrate that the time off has not been wasted.  For example, if you’ve been trying to get work ever since your last job, offer a brief summary of the strategy you developed for landing new work, and the steps you have already taken to implement that strategy.  The more you can show the recruiter that you know about the job market in specifics – who is hiring, who is laying off, and why – the more credible your strategy looks, and the more positive a recruiter will be about your candidacy.

On the other hand, you may have decided to take the opportunity to retool in some way.  You might have gone through outplacement consulting, and used the opportunity to redefine your career goals.  Or you might you have decided to do something outside of your career that you’ve always wanted to do – travel, write a book, work for a not-for-profit that you believe in, start a new business that didn’t quite work out. Don’t be afraid to come clean – recruiters should take this kind of response as a measure of maturity, or entrepreneurial spirit, or civic mindedness, that would make you a better hire than you would have been without these enriching experiences.

But the most important thing to do is to convey a sense of positive optimism and energy. If you’ve been frustrated for over a year in your job search, it is easy to slump into despondency.   Find ways to reorient your mental attitude, for example, recalling successes you had in your previous work, or achievements that make you proud.  If you don’t, the frustrations and negativity that you feel inside will usually become apparent to a recruiter, and that can be the biggest turn off of all.

David Schwartz is CEO at search firm DN Schwarz & Co. He is a former director of recruitment at Goldman Sachs. 

AUTHORDavid Schwartz Insider Comment
  • Lo
    1 November 2012

    Jaivrat, as good as truth is, in our society spin is better- not outright lies but bullsh*t. There is a difference. You can spin deficiencies around and make them positives. By the way, recruiters may say they want an exact fit. Women may say they all want tall, dark, handsome and wealthy men but not all women have that. Same deal with recruiters!

  • ja
    30 October 2012

    I think i do not agree with you. Most recruiters do not uderstand a candidate well because they thmeselves do not come with same skills, they do not understand candidates aspirations. They simply try candidates with exact fit (by experience) and ignore potentially better ones. I believe this article must be for recruiters and managers who must understand a jobseeker, because they can also land up in similar situation anytime given this environment. TRUTH has no substitute, candidate must be true, recruiter must be true and hiring company/manager must be true. If the last line does not hold, corporate world should not exist as it is, better try something on your own than goofing around recuiters or hiring managers.

  • Au
    30 October 2012

    Completely agree on what has been said, David. The most important thing is how you see yourself in this year off and if we manage not loose interest in what we do. It's hard to stay confident, however this what is the most important part when seeing recruiter.

  • Jo
    29 October 2012

    "But the most important thing to do is to convey a sense of positive optimism and energy." I completely agree with you, David!

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