Understanding Recruiters

24 09 2010

I get calls all of the time from candidates asking me how much I charge to help find them a job. There is a misconception out there that if you link up with a recruiter that your life will be good and you’ll know about prefect opportunities all of the time.  The fact is that I don’t know of a recruiter out there has ever received money from a candidate to find them a job.  One thing all candidates must understand that recruiters work solely for the company that they are assisting in finding candidates for.  

I’d like to start out by explaining how recruiting works.  Anyone can be a recruiter.  All you have to do is contact a company that has a job and ask them if they need help filling the job.  If they say yes, you then negotiate an agreement for payment.  There are three general types of recruiting that occur.  Retained Searches, Contract Searches, and Contingency Searches.

  • Retained Searches are usually for extremely senior level positions.  A company will pay a recruiting firm to dedicate full-time attention to one position.  This usually includes and advertising campaign along with contacting senior executives by any means possible.  In retained searches there is only one recruiting firm working on the position and it’s not offered to any other recruiters.  The client company is paying them a fee so that their own staff can focus on other responsibilities.
  • Contract Searches are conducted for several purposes.  Companies can use these services as a temp to hire where they can evaluate candidates on the job prior to offering full-time employment and costly benefits.  Long term contracting is usually used because a company wants to save money on payroll cost like taxes, workers compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance.  These contracts can last several years.  Lastly, there is seasonal contracting.  These jobs are to add extra workers during transition or peak seasons.
  • Contingency Searches are ones where a company is in need of great candidates to fill a job.  In order to save money and to keep their internal recruiting staff small they seek out multiple search firms to assist with sourcing candidates.  In this type of search recruiting firms are competing to find the best candidates for the same jobs.  The recruiters work aggressively to submit candidates before the other recruiters find them or they apply directly to the company.  The reason for the competition is because the firms only get paid if the company hires the candidate that they have found.

Now that you understand the types of recruiting and how a recruiter gets paid.  It’s obvious to see who they are working for.  Like everyone else, our client is the one that writes the check.  Because of the misconception that recruiters work for job seekers recruiters often get labeled as the bad guy because we won’t submit your for every job that you feel your are qualified, but the reality is your should be thanking them.

Why should you be thanking a recruiter for not submitting you?  Well it should start to make sense for you soon. Since you know how a recruiter makes money you should see that it would make sense for them to focus their time on the candidates with the best chance.  If a recruiter tells you that you aren’t the ideal candidate there is a reason.  It’s not because the recruiter does not understand your experiences, it’s more about them understanding your weaknesses and how you stack in comparison to other candidates and the client’s actual needs.

Most job descriptions are general in nature.  How many of you applied for a job and once you were there for a few months looked at the job description again and laughed because your actual job is significantly different from the job you applied for?  I know I have.  Well, given that a recruiter will only get paid for candidates that are perfect and that will get the job, aside from the retained searches for top level executive searches, The recruiter must be very confident that your resume is NOT what the client is looking for.  Now assuming this is true and that you are not the PERFECT Candidate it is a fact that you will have a better chance at the position by applying directly for the position. 

So why should you ever go through a recruiter?  If you are the ideal candidate a recruiter can guarantee that your resume will be viewed by someone responsible for a significant part of the hiring process.  A recruiter will also be able to, in most cases, get feedback greater than the typical, “Thank you but we have decided to select a more qualified candidate.. blah blah blah…” that you usually receive when you are not considered for a job.  A recruiter can also have a direct conversation with the company to explain your gaps in employment and other questions that a company’s HR person simply does not have time to ask each candidate.  A good recruiter can also tell you about the company, reasons the job is open, hiring timeline, and other crucial information that will help you decide if you are even interested in the job.

With all of this understanding about the function of a recruiter you may have also put it together that if you are not the ideal candidate going through a recruiter could hurt your chances of getting the job.  In a situation where the company is concerned about the fee that is going to be charged by a recruiting firm if they hire, they will not hire you unless you are the perfect candidate.  I do not have one client that will hire a less than ideal candidate that I send them.  This is going to be the case with any employer.  So only go with a recruiter when you feel that you are truly qualified. 

With all this said it’s now obvious who recruiters work for.  It’s your responsibility to understand the advantages and disadvantages or working with recruiters.   Understanding what they do, who they work for, and why they are calling you will help you understand rejection as well understanding the advice they will give.

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