I know I usually say don’t worry too much about recruitment agencies when you are coming back after a career break. People you know, people they know and LinkedIn is where it’s at. That said I’ve got a confession to make, I got my job post-break through a recruiter.

It’s true: in the interests of leaving no stone unturned I did apply for a few online jobs BUT insisted on face-to-face once there was interest in my CV. It is a little bit like online dating; the introduction only happens virtually. You actually need to meet for anything meaningful to take place. The first lady I met found me my job: Marie from Oakleaf Partnership. I recently had lunch with her and we talked through what constitutes a fruitful, happy relationship with a recruitment agency.


You won’t be surprised to hear it is all about building up a relationship.


Treating them with respect and helping them understand the product they are selling i.e. Brand You, is crucial. Recruiters are hives of up-to-date market and negotiating advice. They may not help you the first time but they can keep you updated on roles if you bother to work with them, meet them, take their advice and be honest. They can help with whether or not your expectations are realistic. This really helps with negotiation.

You Must Meet Recruiters Face-to-Face


In a global survey of 2,300 Harvard Business Review subscribers, 95% said that face-to-face meetings are both key to successful long-term relationships and to building strong relationships. Furthermore, 89% agreed that face-to-face meetings are essential for ‘sealing the deal.'(Source)

Something that I think is really falling by the wayside in 2018 job searches is a good old-fashioned face to face. A recruiter can vouch for you more powerfully if you make the effort to meet them. They can visualise how you would interview with their network. Equally, they can introduce you to colleagues who “have their own set of clients (hiring managers) that they can think of you for”. I would know within 10 minutes of meeting someone who they would be good for in my client base. Their energy, handshake and presentation counted for so much. Frankly it made my job more gratifying; to meet with people.


Get Personal and Specific with Recruiters


Marie says: “Get recruiters’ names and mail addresses”. Recruiters can vouch: “I’ve met them” to hiring managers. Showcase you powerfully to their clients. Get you introductions to places you can’t get to on your own. Give you advice on realistic salary expectations in the market and whether or not the job actually exists.

When you make the initial call to recruiters, be as specific as you can. “I saw a few jobs that you advertised” does not sound as targeted and focused as “I am a resource manager with ten years experience in blue chip corporates. I’ve been on a break and would like to meet you and talk about how I can break back into the market” send some energy and a smile down the phone.

If you do an intro email, MENTION THEIR NAME. “Paul Adams suggested I contact you” with a few lines on who you are and your mini pitch is fine. Marie agreed a paragraph honing in your relevance for a type job at the top of your CV is better.


Be Honest With Recruiters


Set out what you want from the start. There’s nothing worse than hearing “I’ll take this but I want £8k more and a 9-day fortnight” at the final stage. Be transparent from the beginning. Goal post moving decimates trust with recruiters.


CVs and Cover Letter?


There are many schools of thought on CVs. Marie says “three or even four pages is fine as long as it is a good sales document, highlighting your strengths and experience”. Make sure it is updated and that you’ve spent “most time on more recent roles”. Don’t do a cover letter unless requested, to highlight your strengths for a specific role. It must be tailored to a specific application.


How to Mention a Gap on Your CV


If there is an extended gap, have a reason for it i.e. “planned career break” do not say “looking for work for 18 months”. CVs/personal profiles are a place for achievements and deliverables.

Prepare for a long game with a select few recruiters and nurture them in your network; then the relationship will pay multiple dividends. Keep in touch with them periodically once you find a role. Exchange information. Good recruiters will never be replaced by robots and job boards and can be an enormous support and encouragement in the comeback journey.

Oakleaf Partnership are HR Specialists in the UK and have a part-time/job-sharing arm.