How to Work with a Clean Tech Recruiter

Say you gave notice, the economy be damned. Or you took the corporate buy-out offer and want to take your considerable skill set and apply it to world-changing (and potentially lucrative) work at a renewable energy startup. Or you just finished a workshop with Solar Energy International and are looking to implement phase-two of your job-change program (i.e., the find-a-job part).
And you’re trying to get a clean tech recruiter to take notice.
What do you need to know?

Start with the Facts

“Our business, we don’t have a magic bullet to create jobs,” says Dawn Dzurilla, President and Founder at Gaia Human Capital Consultants, a retainer-based executive search firm. “We work with those who we think we can earn a living working with, even in the green economy.”
That’s right – clean tech recruiters are businesspeople, too.
Fortunately, a number of firms offer services that go beyond retained or contingent search. (Retained search means a company is paying the search firm to fill its vacancies. Contingent search means the search firm is paid only when it places a candidate; contingent firms typically work with dozens of companies.)

Along with job placement, for example, search firms like Bright Green Talent and business networks like CleanTechies provide job-search services like career counseling, resume writing, and free content with blogs, webinars, and events, all designed for people looking for clean tech jobs.
“Call us, speak to one of the consultants, we’re always happy to give advice,” says Martin Killeen, a senior recruiter at Acre Resources, which has a U.S. office in Chicago and does both retained and contingent searches. “If we can’t help somebody, we really try to point them in the right direction.”

Do Your Research

Taking time to learn about the clean tech sector and figure out what type of industry you’re interested in can save time when you call a recruiter, says Nick Ellis, managing partner at Bright Green Talent. “Doing your research helps guide the conversation and ensure we can place you in the right role.”
“Too many folks haven’t done their research when they show up at our doorstep, and it means we spend a lot of time educating as opposed to collaborating,” adds Ellis.
You should also realize that knowing what you want is no guarantee there’s a job for you. “Recruiters can’t spend time with every candidate that might one day fit a role that they might have. There isn’t enough time in the day,” says Ian Thomson, CEO and co-founder of who was previously managing director at Clean Tech Human Capital, a recruitment firm.
Help Your Recruiter Help You
Start with the basics: Create a high-quality, up-to-date resume. You might also consider using a coach. “Good recruiters have strong relationships with coaches who can help them find stellar candidates,” says Thomson.
Think like a manager. “Sell yourself as you would your business,” says Dzurilla. “In other words, know who you are and what you can deliver. And know where and how you can add value to an organization.”
Take part in internships and volunteer activities in the field you want to enter. “You never know who you’re going to meet, it’s great networking, and it shows an employer that you’re not just hearing about green jobs, but that you’re passionate about doing one,” Killeen advises.
What About a Job?
Recruiters we talked to for this article were mostly pessimistic for the short term – though they expressed substantial long-term optimism. “There are going to be [clean tech] jobs for millions of people,” says Dzurilla. “The question is when.”
“Consulting jobs tend to be fairly straight forward, and when finance was thriving, we had a lot of fun putting people in carbon trading and project finance jobs,” says Ellis. “Alas, times have changed, and even these two industries have toughened up as far as their willingness to hire new people.”
On the other hand, Killeen tells us about Windpower 2009, which took place in Chicago earlier this month, and where the American Wind Energy Association released a poll showing bipartisan support for a national renewable electricity standard that required utilities to generate 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.
“That just highlighted the demand that there’s going to be in the renewable industry field,” says Killeen. “At the moment, it’s an ever-expanding industry. If you think about the way the world will be in 20 to 30 years time, and where our power will come from, it will be completely different.”

Frank Marquardt is the author of The Solar Job Guide, an occasional contributor to TriplePundit, and a content strategist at Native Instinct, an interactive agency.

Frank Marquardt is the author of The Solar Job Guide and Green Careers, and a contributor to How Green Is Your City? He has contributed to 100s of career guides over the past 10 years. Frank is also director of content strategy at Native Instinct, an interactive agency.

2 responses

  1. Qualified applicants should be wary that recruiters come with a big price tag. They charge 10-30% of the first year salary. In other words, for a $100,000 a year job, your would-be employer has to pay the recruiter $30,000 to hire you!

    That has at least two major implications for the applicant:

    (1) smaller or low margin firms will not consider applicants from recruiters. Strike cool start-ups off your job list.

    (2) you get a lower starting salary, because the company has to pay off the recruiter’s overhead. Remember, that $30,000 fee is coming from somewhere, and it is likely going to lead back to you.

    To avoid these two problems, just do what the recruiter would do for you. Review craigslist and the job boards once a day.

    – Brandon Conard, C.E.O., BlueMap, Inc. (Hiring for a Senior Energy Auditor)

  2. While it is true a recruiter collects a good-sized fee from the employer, it can certainly be worthwhile to get a great job in a timely and hassle-free manner by going through an agency. Trying to to market yourself to every potential opportunity is not possible (or desirable) and puts you in heavy competition with every Tom-Dick-Harry-Jane in a pile of resumes.

    It’s like trying to buy a home without a realtor. Sure, great bargains exist, but you have to be unusually savvy and lucky to find one.

    Deb Arnason, clean energy advocate, retired Employment counselor

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