By Roy J. Blitzer
Author of Hire Me, Inc.
Between 10 to 20 percent of job seekers find a position via a recruiter or employment agency. These figures can fluctuate widely, depending on the economy. During the tech-industry boom years from 1998 to 2000, the job search firm business grew more than 20 percent per year. When the economy fell with the burst of the internet industry bubble, and investors finally felt all the hot air escaping from the bogus business plan balloon, more than 65 percent of recruiting agencies, mostly smaller, one- to four-person shops, closed their doors. But today the large national organizations are still in business, and many of the smaller shops are building back up with the improved economic outlook.
How much do recruiters help with job searches? Results are mixed. Job candidates often report that some recruiters don't acknowledge receiving their resumes or return phone calls. Other recruiters are seen as responsive and eager to build a relationship with the job seeker. Think of them as Hollywood talent scouts always angling to find a new star to sell to a studio -- you've got one good shot to impress before they move on to other candidates. The bottom line is that Recruiters Don't Work For You. They are paid by client companies to locate and screen candidates for positions. Most do a fine job, but so do many bounty hunters!
Basically, there are three types of recruiters you may encounter: contingency, retained, and contract. Each has a particular function and style. It will help you to know with whom you are dealing.
Contingency recruiters earn their fees only after a client company hires a candidate they've referred. They usually handle a broader base of candidates for mid- to lower-level positions. Some more discriminating recruiters will, however, place executives and senior staff. The salary levels they fill are mostly up to $75,000 per year, and they often fill multiple vacancies with similar talent and work for more than one organization at once to "find the right hire/fit." Companies use contingency recruiters when they want to stay more involved in the screening, interviewing, and negotiating processes. Because their fees (ranging from 30 to 35 percent of the job winner's first-year compensation) are paid only when the candidate is placed, many contingency recruiters are highly sales-focused. They can push hard to get your interest and have an aggressive work style. Some of the less scrupulous recruiters tarnish the role's reputation for others.
Retained recruiters (or search firms) are paid in advance by the organization to conduct a search. They also collect a fee from 30 to 35 percent of first-year compensation but often receive their pay up front or as a monthly retainer, even if the search doesn't produce a successful hire. Their market is the upper-middle to senior-level professional with a salary greater than $75,000. A great source listing these recruiters is the Directory of Executive Recruiters.
To fulfill your marketing strategy, it can help to mail your paperwork to as many retained search firms as possible, especially to those that specialize in your field. You may get a better response if you consult someone in your network who has had success with a particular recruiting organization or if you are familiar with the firm because in a former role you had a substantial budget and retained them to find top talent for your company.
Contract or Temporary Recruiter
Contract or temporary recruiters work for a corporation on a part-time, contract, or temp-to-permanent basis. In an effort to contain costs, many organizations use these professionals to augment their workforces and manage the peaks in their hiring requirements. Because major job hiring can ebb and flow with broad economic situations, these handy, low-commitment, on-demand recruiters are a growing segment of the personnel placement industry.
Remember, state employment agencies and college placement centers also provide free job listings, career development counseling, and company data.
There are a number of points to keep in mind when working with recruiters.
- You will interest a recruiter only if you meet the exact requirements of the position to be filled. Recruiters provide a service to client companies; contingency or retained, they are chartered to find the individual who best fits the often narrowly defined skill set.
- You must carefully select the firms you work with -- reputable directories and your network can help -- and there is no ideal number to have working for you. The quality of the relationship can help guide you in determining the number.
- You never need to give a contingency recruiter the "right" to work for you, but you do need to present yourself honestly (many people inflate their career qualifications and credentials) and treat the first meeting like a sales pitch, where you call attention to your special skills, talents, and accomplishments and provide a reason for him to represent you. Pay attention to how you are treated. Find out about the client base and how long the company has been in business, plus what special qualifications it has.
- For an initial contact, you may do best using a contact name for your introduction rather than relying on a less personal e-mail or letter overture. Always include a resume if your first approach is through a letter.
- Be careful when distributing your reference list to recruiters. It is best to make your names available only after the recruiter indicates you are a very strong candidate. These colleagues are important to your long-term success, and you should not call on them prematurely or too often. They are the job application ace up your sleeve, and the more frequently you use them, the less enthusiastic they might be to endorse you. Explain to the recruiter that you reserve your list of contacts for only the best job opportunities, just as the recruiter saves her candidates for the ideal openings.
- You can certainly ask for a job description before your interview and request that the recruiter secure annual reports, marketing brochures, or any other data that might help you.
- You should make an effort to keep the recruiter informed of your progress and call to summarize and critique your performance after each interview. There's no need to be hesitant in pressing for specific feedback, too, whether the assessment is praise or correction. And you should use these times of analysis to identify for your recruiter how he or she is progressing in assisting you.
- Once you have a job offer in hand, you should negotiate directly with the hiring manager. Some companies want your recruiter involved at this point, and some recruiters insist on participation because he often sets the hiring goals for you. It's always your option to take charge and deal one-on-one with the hiring manager, not the intermediary agent, if you are not satisfied with the direction of the job negotiation.
- You need to keep accurate records of the recruiters you meet or contact and full notes on your shared conduct of the job search. Include the information in your contact tracking sheet and remember to save copies of all your written correspondence with them.
Reprinted from Hire Me, Inc. by Roy J. Blitzer. Published by Entrepreneur Press. Copyright © 2006 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. August 2006; $19.95US; 159918023-5.
Roy J. Blitzer is an executive and management consultant with more than 28 years of experience as a human resources and business management professional.
For more information, please visit www.entrepreneurpress.com.