Working with recruiters can be one way to land your next job. However, it’s important to understand the reasons why companies invest in recruiters — and what recruiters’ roles actually are in the hiring process.

Companies usually have four main reasons for investing in recruiters:

  1. They’ve been unable to find the right candidates through ads or their networks.
  2. They want candidates with long tenures in specific professions — not career changers.
  3. They want to lure a talented candidate who is working for a competitor.
  4. They have high-turnover positions and want to build their pool of applicants.

Subsequently, companies will hire recruiters to fill specific positions for them. As such, recruiters work on behalf of client companies – NOT as job-seeking candidates’ agents. In other words, it’s NOT a recruiter’s role to find a candidate a job.

There are two types of recruiters:

  • Retained search firms are paid upfront to handle exclusive searches for $80K-$500K positions, usually for high-level academic posts or C-level positions in public or private companies. The client companies’ requirements for candidates are very explicit, such as a degree from specific school or past employment at a certain company.
  • Contingency recruiters get paid only upon presenting the candidate who is hired. Usually, contingency recruiters get an assignment from a client company; then they’ll search for a candidate who matches the qualifications by placing ads, calling competitors or looking through their résumé files for candidates. They function as a “middle man/woman” between the company and the candidates they present.

Whether or not you decide to work with recruiters depends on your situation. Either way, your job search plan should include a list of 50+ target companies where you’d like to work and the names of people you want to meet. With good networking skills, it’s valuable to meet hiring managers through your own efforts, without the help of recruiters.

Here’s why: If a contingency recruiter presents you to one of your targeted employers where you already have inside connections you’ve just added thousands of dollars to your potential employer’s hiring process. For example, you could cost $85K ($65K salary + $20K recruiter’s fee) to hire. If this employer really has an $85K budget to hire for a $65K position, why not get an extra $20K for yourself as an increased salary or a sign-on or performance bonus?

On the other hand, if there are companies you simply can’t reach on your own, recruiters can be helpful. In retained searches, they are the gatekeepers you must go through and are usually accommodating if the position is a fit for you.

One major downside of working with recruiters is feeling like you are no longer in control of your search. Recruiters seem to “call all the shots,” are very guarded about what goes on behind hiring managers’ closed doors, and usually won’t allow you to communicate directly with hiring managers in between interviews. You have to decide if giving up some of this control will be worthwhile in the long run.

There are pros and cons to working with recruiters. If your skills are rare and in demand, you have substantial experience in your field, or you want to work for a competitor, recruiters may be able to lead you to your next job. Otherwise, you are better off conducting your own job search through your own network and resources.

For additional information about how things work behind the scenes with recruiters, read this content-rich article: “Working with Recruiters”, masterfully written by Jim Pawlak, career columnist and workforce development expert.

© Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2014 All Rights Reserved