Working With Recruiters

What does a recruiter do?

A recruiter spends most of their time matching job openings with people who are looking for a new job. Think of them as matchmakers, matching job requirements with candidate capabilities.

Many recruiters work in the Human Resources department of their employer as “in-house recruiters.” That means that they recruit people exclusively for that company, and are paid by their employer. Other recruiters work for independent recruiting companies, so they recruit applicants for quite a number of companies at the same time. These people are called “agency recruiters” or even “executive search consultants.”

Most agency recruiters are “contingency” recruiters, which means that they are paid by an employer only if/when one of the applicants that they have presented takes a job at a client company. A few recruiters are “retained” meaning that a company pays a retainer to that recruiter regardless of the outcome of the search. This type of recruiting is primarily focused on sourcing candidates for the upper echelon of company roles. In no circumstance does the candidate pay for recruiting services. If a recruiter asks for compensation from a job hunter, something odd is happening, and one is best advised to RUN!

Many agency recruiters specialize in placing candidates in specific industries or job roles. This allows the recruiters to develop expertise in the subject matter and build close relationships with employers in that industry.

Why do I get so many recruiter calls?

Recruiting agencies depend on their database of potential applicants. That means that “sourcing” is a big part of their job. Sourcing is reaching out to potential applicants to understand their background and their interest level in exploring new employment opportunities. Sometimes the recruiter is trying to fill a specific job, and other times they are building their database to fulfill future recruiting needs.

There are companies that focus exclusively on sourcing. They collect resumes and interview notes and sell them to recruiters. Sourcers can be a bit of an irritation when they call because they don’t actually have a job on offer, although they might try to make you believe differently. One danger of sharing your resume with sourcers is that you lose control of where you will be presented as your data is sold to one or even dozens of recruiters.

Many of the job postings on Indeed and other job boards are placed by recruiters. They are trying to attract candidates to propose for one position or, many times, for any of the open positions that they are working. Not every agency job posting is actually based on a specific employer’s opening but rather is written to attract candidates in advance of a specific need. Contingency recruiters are only paid when they successfully place a candidate in a role, so having a database of qualified candidates readily at hand is critical to their success.

Often, recruiters are hesitant to disclose the company which has the job opening they are trying to source during their first conversation with a potential candidate. That has a simple explanation: the recruiter is only paid for filling a position if they were the FIRST to present the successful candidate. If a candidate learns of an open position that is attractive and submits their resume before the recruiter it means that no commission will be paid to the recruiter. The same applies if a competing agency recruiter submits first. The race is on!

How should I respond when a recruiter calls?

First of all, be nice! These are people who are just trying to earn a living. There are good recruiters and not-so-good recruiters, but being rude to them is rarely a good strategy. Who knows when you will need that particular recruiter to connect you with your perfect role? Be clear about your level of interest in their proposed position so that you don’t waste each other’s time.

Many times, recruiters are very keen to quickly establish your “bottom-line price” which is the lowest salary you will accept. Be very careful with this question, in that you are unlikely to see an offer above that amount via this recruiter. Something along the lines of, “while compensation is only one element that I consider when looking at a job change, you should know that my current compensation is in the $X range.” That $X range should include everything that you are receiving from your current employer, including benefits (company co-pay for insurance, vacation, sick leave, 401K match, etc.) and the value of the training and experience that you receive as part of your job. If you are currently unemployed, refer back to your previous position. If salary is a blocking factor during this initial conversation, it is unlikely that this mysterious position is right for you.

Once the initial pleasantries are out of the way, the recruiter should be able to give you a quick overview of the position they are trying to fill. Ask them to email the job description, upon receipt of which you would be pleased to reply with a resume. Insist on such a “tit for tat” exchange. If there isn’t a complete job description forthcoming, chances are you are interacting with a sourcer or a recruiter just filling their database. Better to not provide your precious resume in that circumstance.

In no case should you be pressured into providing your social security number “just for identification.” If they absolutely need a unique number for your file, suggest that they use your phone number. That is unique and does not expose you to potential identity theft. The first time you will be legitimately required to provide a SSN will be at the offer stage if the company requires a background check.

What is the best way to work with recruiters?

Feel free to interact with as many recruiters as you wish. There is no obligation to work with only one recruiter; the more recruiters who are working jobs in our specialty the better the chance of finding your perfect job. Some recruiters will ask you to name other recruiters or employers with whom you are interacting. You should politely decline to disclose this information. They are fishing for more job leads to pursue, which has no benefit to you and can add to the competitive landscape for jobs you’re after.

Be sure to stress to each recruiter during your first call that you do not wish to be presented to an employer without your prior permission. Once a recruiter presents you as a candidate, you now have a “price on your head” in that hiring you will entail a commission paid by the employer to the recruiter. If you are already networking your way into a company, the last thing you need is a recruiter increasing your perceived first-year cost. Certainly, the recruiter will protest that they know better than you and add a lot of value beyond their commission, but your insistence on approval before presentation keeps you in control of your resume and destiny.

As you progress through the interview-to-hire process, keep in close contact with the cognizant recruiter. They will be in the best position to let you know the inner workings of that employer’s process and give you insights into the company culture.

Will my recruiter help me 'seal the deal?'

Once you reach the offer stage, your recruiter may pressure you to accept a low-ball salary offer or settle for a verbal job offer. Both of these situations are not in your best interests. If the compensation offered is insufficient, say so immediately and invite them to consider how they can develop a package that will work for you.

Once the offer details are worked out, insist on a written offer, despite any protest from the recruiter. State that your start date can be “14 days following a written and accepted job offer.” Many people have been caught unemployed because they gave their current employee notice and then their new job offer evaporated. Don’t let that happen to you. Your recruiter is on your side here, in that they don’t get paid until you have worked at the new job for a contracted number of months.

Working with recruiters can expand your visibility in your job market. Just know the process and roles and remember that you are still your best advocate!

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