Aaron Clark is a Senior Talent Acquisition Manager for Actalent, a worldwide talent services and solutions company that matches engineering and sciences professionals with interesting and important work in a variety of industries.
In this article, Aaron offers his insight on how recruiting has changed over the years, dispels the myths around recruiters (at least at Actalent), describes the advantages of working with Actalent recruiters, and dishes on the must do’s of finding the perfect job FOR YOU.
Unlike a lot of talent services or staffing companies, Actalent recruiters don’t just place candidates in positions and move on. Once a candidate is recruited by Actalent, they become an Actalent consultant, employed by Actalent, and the Actalent recruiter becomes their career advisor, coaching them through a rewarding career that’s personalized toward their skills, interests, and aspirations.
At Actalent, getting recruited is only the beginning of a consultant’s relationship with their recruiter. Once hired, recruiters aim to make Actalent consultants so happy and so engaged with their work that they want to stay with Actalent for, like, ever. Some Actalent consultants support the same client their entire career; others love the variety of working for different clients on different projects in several different industries.
Whatever the goals, interests, and work preferences of a candidate, Actalent recruiters aim to match them with an assignment that’s perfect a fit.
Q: The purpose of a recruiter varies from company to company. Before we dive into the purpose of recruiting at Actalent, can you talk a little bit about how recruiting has changed over the years?
A: When I started out as a recruiter at Actalent in 2009, recruiting was a very geographically restricted operation. Everything was local—our clients, our candidates, us. Today, technology hasn’t only erased those restrictions, it’s changed how and where a lot of work gets done.
Just a few years ago, it was all about phone conversations, job boards, and resume databases. That’s how we found people and that’s how we connected with them. But who picks up their phone anymore?
Today, our first interaction with engineering and sciences candidates, which Actalent specializes in, is usually through LinkedIn or other social media, email, even texting. Rarely does that first interaction happen face-to-face or by telephone anymore.
In addition to how we find and engage candidates, the kind of work that exists for them has changed too, particularly in the last couple of years. There’s been a significant increase in remote and hybrid opportunities, which has been a great success for candidates to desire more flexibility in their work arrangement.
Q: Typically, when people think of recruiters, they think of someone who is recruiting for a specific position at a specific company. When the match is made, the recruiter moves on. But that’s not exactly how it works at Actalent. Can you describe what a candidate can expect when they’re recruited by Actalent?
A: Actalent supports thousands of companies throughout the world solve important problems in engineering and sciences. When we recruit candidates, we recruit them to work for Actalent. Unlike other recruiting companies who place candidates directly with a company and move on, our recruiters partner with our consultants to build a career at Actalent.
It's a great arrangement for someone who’s willing to think a little differently about how work gets done. With Actalent, our consultants get similar benefits as a full-time-employee, but they also have the advantage of variety and flexibility in terms of when they work, how they work, and what they work on.
For example, we have some consultants who have worked with the same client their entire career at Actalent. Others prefer variety, so maybe they’ll work for a client on a landing system for moon missions, and then apply their skills to developing new automotive technology somewhere else. Some consultants want to work year-round, with typical time off for vacations, etc.; other consultants want to work ten months and then take two months off to travel or pursue a passion project. Our recruiters work with consultants to design a career that best suits the consultant’s goals, interests, needs, and circumstances at any point in time.
Not to mention, their recruiter is always in their corner to advocate for them, bounce ideas off, and explore new opportunities. Our recruiters have regular check points with their Actalent consultants to see how things are going, identify any needs or opportunities that have arisen, and ensure the career trajectory they’re on is the one they’re still happy with.
Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about recruiters that Actalent would like to change?
A: I'm going to address three critical misperceptions, two of which center on the relationship between a recruiter and a candidate; the other on what a career today should look like.
Understandably and throughout history, we’re taught to hold our cards close to the vest. For whatever reason—through experience or advice—we believe that people don’t have our best interests at heart, that they’ll get as much as they can from us at the cheapest price, that it’s not in our best interest be transparent about our needs or wants.
So, in the employment world, that might sound like, “If I tell you how much I want to make, you’ll lowball me,” or, “If I tell you what job I’m really interested in, you’ll still pitch the one that gets the highest return for you.”
And I get it. A lot of people have had bad experiences with recruiters. It’s a “trust no one” mentality, but we’re changing that.
"Jake (my recruiter) has been there for me through the entire recruiting, onboarding, and everyday experience at Actalent. Every step. I can't say enough about how much he’s done for me. Knowing I always have someone in my corner who's fighting for my best interest is a great feeling. Jake cares about me, and that's what makes a difference." — Jeremiah Holland
Here, we’re driven to give people great experiences. We exist for that purpose. We want our consultants to stay with us for as long as they’re willing and the only way to do that in this tight labor market, is to give them an incredible experience and show them how valued they are.
And that gets at the other misconception we’re trying to change, which is that the relationship between a recruiter and candidate, or consultant, is transactional: I do for you; you do for me. As we’ve said before, the second a candidate becomes a consultant, the recruiter becomes their career advisor. We’re in this relationship for the long haul and we want to help them build a career they love. We do that with open communication, advocacy, and looking out for them every step of the way. This isn’t a transactional arrangement for our recruiters and consultants, it’s a meaningful partnership.
But a partnership requires mutual trust. We can’t help them find their perfect job if they’re holding their cards close to their vest. And it’s okay if what they need or want changes—we expect it to. Which is why Actalent is a great place to work for a lot of people: if it’s variety and flexibility our consultants are looking for, we’ll find it. If it’s long-term, steady work, we’ll find that too. If there is a skill they’re looking to build or develop, we will encourage that an make it happen. We don’t want to lose our consultants. We want them to stay, and we know for them to stay, they need to feel engaged and valued. That’s what we’re working hard to achieve and that’s what makes Actalent different.
The third misconception we’re trying to change is that direct placement with a single company for the entirety of a career is the most desirable option. For some people, that might be true. But for those who are willing to stay open to the possibility that other options exist, Actalent is an incredible choice. Our consultants come first, always. We know that our people are our greatest asset. By taking care of our people, our consultants, we take care of our clients. If our consultants are happy, they’re engaged. If they’re engaged, they’re productive. So, our consultants come first, and our clients know that.
Our consultants always have
their recruiter-turned-career-advisor in their corner every step of the way, advocating in their best interest whether for a better position, higher pay, relocation, remote work, hybrid work, flexible scheduling, whatever it is.
And we’ve proven ourselves with this model. Top engineering and sciences companies across several industries love partnering with us because they know they’re getting exceptional talent who are productive, engaged, and happy. There are so many options for consultants who choose to work with us to do exciting, important work.
Q: There are a lot more options for candidates to consider these days, which can be exciting but also overwhelming. How does a recruiter help someone navigate these options?
A: It can feel very overwhelming for someone who’s looking for a job today. We keep hearing about the talent shortage, particularly in STEM. Yet, even with so much competition between employers for skilled talent, it’s still tough to get noticed, whether due to the many platforms through which a company advertises positions and receives resumes, the high-volume of candidates they must sort through, getting overlooked by an AI screening system, or even applying to a position that’s not a great fit.
The job of an Actalent recruiter is to remove these obstacles for a candidate and make the process of finding the perfect employment experience as seamless and efficient as possible. The first step toward that goal is to get a clear picture of the consultant’s priorities, the kind of work they’re interested in, the culture they’re looking for, the flexibility they desire, and their career goals and aspirations.
The next step is to pair that information with the knowledge and insights we’ve gained from our relationships with clients. We have an inside-look at how companies operate, the culture they promote, the opportunities they prioritize and can determine whether that client is a good fit for our consultant, based on what our consultant has told us they’re looking for. Working with Actalent means our consultants don’t have to accept a position and hope for the best. In most cases, we can give them critical insights up front and make sure the work is a match from the start.
Again, we’re in their corner at every step of their career journey. Whether to make things happen for them, brainstorm pros and cons of a new opportunity, or negotiate rate increases or a better compensation package—our consultants aren’t doing anything alone. At least, they don’t have to.
Q: Layoffs, particularly in the tech sector, are consistently in the headlines right now. What conversations are you having about these resource actions and how do you feel your team is prepared to help someone affected by them?
A: It’s never easy to go through a layoff. However, I am very confident that those experiencing a layoff right now won’t be unemployed for long. Not unless they want to be.
The conversations we’re having about how to help someone experiencing a layoff continue to center around personalization. There are a lot of emotions to process when someone’s impacted by a layoff, and everyone processes them differently. Some will approach it as an opportunity to find more interesting work, a better paying position, a better fit culture-wise. Others will take it personally and with a lot of anxiety, worrying about how to pay their bills, or fearing the unknown.
But the personalized approach doesn’t just apply to those going through a layoff, or a difficult time. It’s how we approach every consultant: what matters most to them and how we can help find it.
Thankfully, our recruiters are as skilled at coaching people through difficult times as they are at finding the perfect position. Look anywhere within our company and you’ll see and sense the value we place on our people. So, if we need to go slow, we’ll go slow. If we need to hit the ground running, we’ll do that too.
We’re an excellent option for anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly unemployed, or anyone who’s curious about the career options that exist in today’s market, regardless of where they are in their career journey. Our consultants are some of the brightest minds in engineering and sciences and they work on projects that are changing the world. Anyone looking to meaningful work with great people, should look at Actalent.
Q: Walk us through the first conversation between a candidate and a recruiter. Ideally, what are they asking of each other?
A: The first conversation is always about what is most important to the candidate and what they’re looking for. Our recruiters are incredible at what they do, so it’s okay if a candidate doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for up front. However, if they know how much they want to make, what an ideal day looks like, whether they want a long commute, or no commute, whether they’re interested in working on a team or independently, remotely, in-person, or hybrid, those are the type of parameters a recruiter will want to establish early. It helps ensure a match between goals, interests, and preferences and an opportunity with a client.
From a candidate’s perspective, they might want to learn more about the opportunities that Actalent offers, and what they can expect working for a company like Actalent. What can Actalent offer me that going permanent with a company won’t? Sometimes, what a candidate is looking for changes once they learn about the possibilities at Actalent.
That said, the first conversation is always about building trust. We’re setting expectations for the relationship and listening carefully to what the needs, concerns, and interests of a candidate are.
Now, sometimes that conversation might end with a job opportunity. If it does, that's awesome and it means that means we're dialed in to the right people for the right job, we’re connecting the dots. But that's not the goal of that first call. The goal is learning about one another, establishing how the relationship will work, how often you want, or expect to hear from the recruiter, and what matters most to you in a career. This is all about building a positive, productive partnership that is built on mutual trust and respect.
Q: Final question: How can an Actalent Recruiter help someone find the perfect job?
A: This is a great final question because it ties everything together that we’ve already discussed. The only way a recruiter can help a candidate find a perfect job (or a consultant if they’re already working for Actalent) is to constantly communicate about goals, interests, and work preferences.
But even with that, the recruiter/career advisor, is going to really help the candidate/consultant refine and play out every option to make sure the opportunity is truly a fit. “Before we commit to remote, let’s just think through what that means. Or the job requirements are a perfect match but that’s a pretty serious commute. Let’s think about what it would mean for your family because I know that’s important to you.” We are a built-in sounding board for consultants; skilled experts who have seen just about every career scenario that exists. We’ve been there, and we’ll use our knowledge and wisdom to make sure our consultants really do have a perfect fit according to what matters most to them.
We also have extensive knowledge about our clients and their culture. Our consultant might be a fit skill-wise, the problem they’re looking to solve might be an exciting one, but if the client values and the consultant values don’t match, well, that will catch up at some point. We don't want our consultant’s happy part of the way; we want them happy all the way.
We're working hard to make Actalent a career destination for our consultants, a place they see themselves staying for good. Not because they don’t value growth, development, and opportunity, but because they've grown to expect it from us.
Actalent Recruiter: Recruits candidates to work as a consultant for Actalent, at which point the recruiter becomes a career advisor helping to build the consultant’s career in alignment with the consultant's goals, skills, interests, and work preferences.
Candidate: A job seeker looking to contribute their skills and knowledge in engineering and sciences.
Actalent Consultant: Formerly a candidate; now employed by Actalent to complete important work for our clients in engineering and sciences and build a meaningful, rewarding career with Actalent.
Client: Organizations that partner with Actalent to complete important work in engineering and sciences.
Actalent's Relationship with the Consultant: Actalent takes great care of its consultants. It offers desirable assignments, continuous employment, and career growth and opportunities.
Actalent's Relationship with the Client: Actalent provides highly skilled engineering and sciences consultants to solve critical problems and complete important, in-demand work.
- The recruiter role has always been about networking and relationships; however, how recruiters find and engage candidates, and the kind of work that exists for them has changed.
- Actalent recruiters build long-term relationships and career partnerships with their consultants. They view their purpose as helping consultants succeed in a career.
- The recruiter-candidate relationship doesn’t end, it evolves. Once a candidate becomes a consultant, the recruiter becomes their career advisor, guiding consultants toward the best work opportunity for them. Actalent consultants never have to navigate their career alone.
- Searching for a new job can be overwhelming. but it doesn’t have to be. Actalent recruiters remove many of the obstacles job seekers face when trying to get noticed on their own. And they simplify the process by matching a candidate’s priorities and values with the right opportunity.