Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and job search 30 – recruiters and recruiting services

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on December 29, 2009

I sometimes hear people say as job seekers that they are working with recruiters in their search for new opportunities, as if the recruiters were in some way working for them. Recruiters can play an important role in connecting candidates to job opportunities, but there is a significant amount of confusion for many, as to what recruiters do and who they actually work for. This posting seeks to clear up some of that potential confusion and to offer some pointers on how to more effectively deal with recruiters and with job opportunities that they are candidate recruiting for.

I want to start with a brief taxonomy outlining the types of recruiters (see and also Not all recruiters work on the same business model or with the same types of client, or search for candidates for the same types and levels of positions. It is important to know what type of recruiter you are dealing with as this determines their approach and it affects the types of positions they handle.

Contingency recruiters search for candidates on a contingency basis, and only get paid for their efforts if and when a business actually hires one of their candidates. Actually, this get a bit more complicated, as they usually only get paid if that candidate works out for at least some minimum contractually specified period of time. The hiring company then pays the recruiter on either a flat fee basis or at a rate based on the first year salary going to the new hire. This can be as much as a full year’s salary depending on the position and availability of appropriate candidates for it. Contingency recruiters work in direct and sometimes fierce competition with each other for any given recruiting opportunity and search and placement is all a numbers game for them with many simultaneous searches for many different client companies going on all the time.
Retained recruiters are hired by specific client companies to find candidates for specified positions. They are obligated to find at least some minimum contractually specified number of candidates for any given position, who meet predetermined hiring company-specified requirements. These recruiters are paid for finding their candidates whether anyone is hired or not with compensation offered as a retainer fee. They generally receive additional compensation upon successful hire from their candidate list. As with contingency recruiters, “successful” in this sense means the candidate hired still has their new position and with a satisfactory evaluation after some specified period of time, and compensation is generally based on the first year salary offered for that position. Retained recruiters generally manage candidate searches for higher level and difficult to fill positions with, for example, very exacting and unusual candidate skills and experience requirements. They rate as a higher level service than do the contingency recruiters and their personal compensation levels are higher accordingly. They are much less likely to take a meat market approach to potential candidates where contingency recruiters can develop patterns of running large numbers of warm bodies through their systems in a very impersonal manner.
In-house recruiters versus outside recruiters: Some recruiters work exclusively with and as employees of a single hiring company and some recruiters work as outside contractors or consulting firms.
Technical and other specialty recruiters: Many recruiters develop specialties that they recruit within, in specific industries, functional job areas, career levels and so on. They develop a working knowledge in their specialty needed to help them with their screening and evaluation and as a focus for their networking.
Consignment recruiters, container recruiters and others: (see as an example of a firm that works in several of these recruiting niches.) A variety of other terms are used for recruiting approaches that specify specific business models and ways that recruiters contractually work with client businesses. Some of these approaches are more industry specific but most of them are variations on contingency and retainer models, sometimes involving features of both.
Outsourcing agencies and temp agencies are sometimes lumped in with recruiters but I will discuss them separately in this posting series (to be discussed in the next two postings).

That outlines something of who recruiters are. Now the really important stuff – how they relate to and work with you.

Recruiters work for the people who pay them – the hiring company. This is true for any legitimate recruiter and regardless of which variety they are according to the above list.

• Beware anyone who claims to be a recruiter who asks you as a job seeker to pay them a fee directly.
• Beware any recruiter who claims to be working for you.
• Beware any recruiter who tells you that they will find you a job with 100% certainly and especially if they also demand a fee from you and claim they are a recruiter but one who works for you the job seeker.

Recruiters make their money by connecting candidates to jobs and getting their candidates hired.

• Beware any recruiter who insists you have to tell them precisely who you have already interviewed with, or who you are going to interview with. This might simply mean they are trying to avoid sending you to places that already have your name and resume – a precondition that blocks them from getting paid for finding you. But some recruiters also fish for opportunities from job seekers they meet and immediately send more candidates to those potential job openings. So divulging too much information to a recruiter can simply be a matter of creating new competition for yourself.

Recruiters look for perfect fits who meet each and every detail on the job description and the ideal candidate description in front of them. They do not generally deviate from that to submit a candidate who meets some of these requirements and who brings unlisted skills or experience to the table. Contingency recruiters never, ever deviate from the job description and ideal candidate requirements document as given to them by the hiring company.

So how can recruiters benefit you if they are so rigidly restricted and are so hiring business-focused?

• If you are that perfect fit you are going to get submitted to the hiring company for an interview. Do your research on the jobs out there that you would target and prepare to present yourself as meeting all of their basic requirements 100% with some extra so you will stand out. (In this, the term “overqualified” does not actually mean that and I will delve into this issue in a future posting in this series.)
• If you can develop a genuine conversation with the recruiter, they know their target industries and businesses for their recruiting practice and you can learn a lot about the job market you seek to land a new position in from them. Ask questions and show interest in the recruiter and what they do, and sound appreciative for their sharing some of their expertise and experience with you. Sound curious and enthusiastic and that can sometimes help you better present yourself as that perfect fit.
• Meet with recruiters but do not depend on them as a primary approach for finding your next job. Simply add them to the mix of what you do as opportunities arise.

The next posting in this series is going to be on temp agencies and temp to perm strategies.

One Response

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  1. […] interviews: Phone interviews are often used by recruiters to pre-screen candidates before sending them on to the hiring managers and others at the hiring […]

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