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What’s the difference between a recruiter and a career advisor? Sounds like there should be a punch line to a bad HR joke in there somewhere, but when it comes to a job search the jokes on you if you confuse the two.

I often get phone calls or emails of individuals on the job hunt asking me if I know any good recruiters I can connect them with.  This is not uncommon, but many job seekers seem to have the misconception that a recruiter will help them to find a job.

Now, that’s not to say that recruiters can’t help the process, and letting recruiters know you’re on the market and looking is not a bad thing.  But, recruiters don’t work for candidates.  They work for clients to find top talent to help fill their positions.  And, if you’re only mediocre talent, you’ve got some work to do on yourself before you’ll even be considered.

Many job seekers mistakenly assume that recruiters are out there searching for job openings for them when this is simply not the case.  A recruiter’s priority is to find clients who they can present candidates to for various job requisitions.  The chain in their work order is client → requisition → candidate, not job seeker → position → client.

If you don’t fit the role they’re looking for, they’re not likely to advocate for you.  When you connect with a recruiter it’s more like adding your name to a Rolodex (wow, talk about a now dated reference!) for them to contact should they run across an opening you’re a fit for.  So, it’s not a bad thing to network with recruiters, after all, you can’t win the lotto if you don’t buy a ticket.

Some recruiters and recruitment firms will provide minimal coaching to candidates they wish to present or general education as a goodwill gesture to their respective communities, but job seekers who look to recruiters for this type of attention are looking in the wrong place.  Recruiters are not there to market you to companies.

This is where career advisors come in. Career coaches, counselors, consultants, experts–whatever name they choose to go by–are individuals who work directly with job seekers to direct their search, mold job stories, and improve their skills to land the job they want.

You know the saying ‘You get what you pay for’?  While career advisors usually cost money, consider it an investment in yourself and your career if you go this route.  But, do get references and identify someone who has worked in helping place candidates similar to yourself.

You are paying the career coach to help you achieve results.  A recruiter is not concerned with your personal goals, they’re paid by their client, not you.

And, if you really don’t have the money to spare, there are often community and government resources available to job seekers where career coaches will donate their time or are paid by an organization to provide workshops or coaching sessions.  If you’re a university student, contact your career services department to see what resources they have available.

A career advisor will help you to put together a solid resume, work through your cover letter, and coach you through interview presentation.  They may also assist you with finding the right type of openings to apply for and techniques for networking, outreach, email and phone etiquette, among many other things,  that all may help you land a job.

But, here’s the rub: neither a recruiter or career advisor can actually get you a job–that part is still up to you.  There is no easy way out when it comes to the job search.  No matter who you know or connect with or who you pay to help you, you still have to do your part as a job seeker to prepare yourself for the interview in order to impress a hiring manager enough to make an offer.

Recruiters don’t make hiring decisions (usually) for their clients, they only present a slate of qualified candidates.  Career coaches are not typically working directly with employers, they can only help to empower you with the right skills and presentation to land an opportunity to interview for a position.

In discovering the differences between recruiters and career advisors and which will help you land a job, there’s actually an even larger overarching misconception: that working with either takes the pressure off of you, the job seeker in landing a job.

Yes, connect with recruiters because you never know when they might have an opening right up your alley.  Find a career coach to consult with to improve your odds for securing and acing an interview.  But, don’t just stop your search and wait by the phone after you’ve connected with these resources in the hopes of having a job handed to you.

Neither will directly land you the job–that’s why they are considered resources.  As a job seeker, the search is always in your hands, no matter what.  You control the outcome and you’ll get out of your search as much as you put in.

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