Some job searches are easy. You quickly find promising opportunities on a job board like ZipRecruiter, submit your application, fly through the hiring process, and are soon starting your new job.
Other times, finding the right job can be a real challenge. The excitement of making a career change or starting a new job can be overshadowed by the frustration of not getting interviews or job offers.
Working with a recruiter can streamline the process of helping you identify and land a great job. They can assist you with finding job opportunities that match your experience and skills, help you polish your resume, and, perhaps most importantly, means you do not have to job search alone.
What Are Job Recruiters?
A recruiter’s job is to fill vacancies within a company. They can either work as an in-house recruiter for one company or for an agency, where they work with multiple businesses.
As a job seeker considering hiring a recruiter, you will want to look for an agency recruiter to work with. The hiring company typically pays these recruiters, and they represent the client’s interest.
How to Find a Recruiter
To find a recruiter, network with your contacts to find one who works with hiring managers in the industries that interest you. You’ll also want to look for an experienced communicator who isn’t afraid to give honest feedback about your resume or Zoom presence.
When possible, identify industry-specific recruiters. These professionals know the companies in your industry, hiring managers in them, and the best job matches for your skills.
If you have specialized skills or qualifications or work in a competitive industry, you may have recruiters reach out to you.
Related: How to Find a Recruiter to Help with Your Job Search
How Do Job Recruiters Get Paid?
If you are wondering if you should use a job recruiter to help you find a job, you’re probably also wondering about the cost. The good news is that working with a recruiter won’t cost you a thing (in most cases).
Understanding how a job recruiter is paid can also explain how they can help you land a great job:
- In-house recruiters work for a company’s Human Resources (HR) team. They earn a salary from the company and fill open jobs for this employer only. An in-house recruiter doesn’t look for average candidates. Their performance reviews often rely on how well they evaluate applicants, develop relationships with prospective candidates, and successfully recruit top candidates for the open roles.
- Third-party recruiters work for an outside agency or search firm. The firm charges a fee for service (SLA) and may be paid a commission whether or not they refer the successful candidate. A contingency firm is usually paid only when they introduce the final candidate.
- Headhunters and recruiters are terms that generally mean the same thing because they share some commonalities. However, headhunters are usually hired to fill one hard-to-fill executive position, where recruiters will fill multiple roles simultaneously. Most importantly, they don’t work for you, the candidate. The hiring manager pays them, and their work serves the paying client. The candidate is usually not required to pay the headhunter or recruiter for services.
In the past, it was relatively common for a jobseeker to pay the recruiter for their services. Today, many candidates are wary of recruiters who ask to be paid for their services. Because the organization almost always pays recruiters, you should probably pass on anyone who asks you to pay for their services.
Double-check the facts if the search firm or recruiter asks you to pay a fee. If the hiring company is also paying a fee for their services, they may be double-dipping. The practice might not be illegal in your state, but it suggests ethical concerns about the recruiting agent or their employer.
Pros Of Working With A Recruiter
There are many ways that partnering with a recruiter can benefit you. Here are a few examples:
1. Recruiters Know Who’s Hiring
You’ve probably heard that finding a job is all about who you know.
If your recruiter is part of a search firm, they can share your resume with other prospective employers that are hiring. If you’re a great, highly sought-after candidate, one recruiter can send your resume to many clients, which can really benefit your job search!
However, if your recruiter is retained (paid an up-front fee to recruit candidates) by a specific hiring authority, they shouldn’t forward your resume to other possible hiring companies.
2. Recruiters Help Candidates Access the Hidden Job Market
A recruiter may be helpful in your job search because not all job openings are advertised on job boards or job search sites. Using a recruiter can dramatically expand your network, providing more access to the non-advertised positions that are part of the hidden job market.
3. Recruiters Know More About the Companies That Are Hiring
Recruiters are experienced and possess deep insight into the companies they are recruiting for. They know more about the organization (or at least they should) and can use this knowledge to better prepare how you are presented. They know what works and what doesn’t and can offer tips to improve your chances of success.
4. Recruiters Give Feedback
Although recruiters don’t write or rewrite resumes, they can give you feedback on your resume and cover letter, which you can use to revise your job search materials.
When a candidate is in a senior role and well-known throughout their industry, the recruiter may not submit a resume. Instead, the recruiter can prepare a candidate summary, detailing the candidate’s experience.
5. Recruiters Provide Interview Guidance
Preparing for a job interview can be rather intimidating. The best way to prepare for an interview is to practice. When working with a recruiter, they can guide you through the job interview process.
Because they have likely helped others interview for similar roles within the company before, they will know what questions are asked during the interview. They will also know whether or not there are interview assignments or projects included in the hiring process so that you can be better prepared.
6. Recruiters Can Help to Create Future Opportunities
Say a recruiter takes time to present your experience to a hiring manager, but you aren’t offered the job. In this case, they may add your profile to the firm’s talent pool to provide you with better access to future opportunities.
That’s why it’s important to actively stay in touch with your recruiter.
7. Some Recruiters Have Access To Temporary Contracts or Trial Roles
Your recruiter may offer temporary options. If you’re open to this arrangement, it may be a great way for you to try out the company before committing to them.
Not all recruiters or hiring companies extend this option to prospective candidates, though, so ask your recruiter about it if these interest you.
8. Recruiters Offer Free Services
As already mentioned, you probably won’t be asked to pay a recruiter for their services. Because the hiring company will most likely pay a contingency or retainer search fee, their services are free to you.
Cons Of Working With A Recruiter
If you decide to hire a recruiter or an agency in your search for a new job, be aware of the following potential downsides and limitations:
1. A Company Pays the Recruiter
The most obvious downside of working with a recruiter is that a hiring client typically pays them. Therefore, their interests rest with the hiring company and not with you, the prospective candidate.
2. Your Recruiter Has a Quota
Most recruiters have a quota, so they are probably under pressure to meet the contract expectations. If the recruiter is paid on contingency (also called performance), this pressure might result in them sending you on interviews that aren’t really suitable for you.
In contrast, the opposite might occur if the recruiter feels that the client deserves only “perfect” candidates. If you’re missing any of the client’s preferred attributes, the recruiter might not ask the client to interview you at all.
3. You May Not Click with Your Recruiter
On that same note, your recruiter may want as many resumes as possible for the initial presentation of candidates. However, your profile, background, or personality might not resonate with the recruiter.
This can be a problem for you.
A recruiter may request your resume and fail to submit it to the hiring manager because they don’t think you meet the requirements.
4. You Are Not Their Only Client
You are not the only person the recruiter is working with, so you may not get the attention or clarity you hoped for. If you are interested in a competitive field or role, they may also be assisting your direct competition for open vacancies.
5. What Happens Next?
After sending the recruiter your resume, what happens next may be unclear. You won’t always know when the recruiter submitted your application or if they didn’t submit it at all.
If the recruiter doesn’t mention a timeline, it’s okay to follow up with them. Generally, you’ll want to connect once a week, but depending on how busy your recruiter is, they may not be available.
When possible, ask for a copy of the job description and the hiring company, but understand they may not be allowed to share the client’s identity.
6. They May Not Provide Feedback
Ask the recruiter for feedback but know that they’re not obligated to share anything with you. In some cases, the recruiter may not have received any feedback about your candidacy from the company, so they can’t offer you any further insight.
7. Salary Negotiations Can Be a Problem
Salary negotiations can also be problematic when a recruiter is involved. Your recruiter may be so eager to make the placement that they recommend lower than market compensation. You may be paid less than you deserve if you want the job.
8. Never Rely on the Recruiter to Find Your New Job
This is relatively obvious, but finding a new job is often hard work. It’s not your recruiter’s job to find you a job. Even if you’re working with more than one recruiter, don’t expect that they will.
That’s why you should diversify your job search strategy. To increase your odds of finding a great new job, don’t stop networking or applying on your own.
In short, realize the recruiter’s limitations and stay proactive during the job search process.
Job Recruiter FAQs
What can a job recruiter do that I can’t do on my own? A job recruiter likely has access to more potential employers than you do. Although you may have excellent networking skills, recruiters with many contacts in your industry may want to share your experience with them. On the other hand, you may be more effective than the recruiter if you’re reaching for a dream job. If you have less than ideal experience, you’re much better off to request informational interviews with prospective new employers than to ask for a recruiter’s help in achieving the goal.
Can’t I network through LinkedIn? Although you can ask an existing connection on LinkedIn to introduce you to a hiring manager and develop your own contacts, recruiters have existing personal networks that may help you find a job.
How are they different than ZipRecruiter? ZipRecruiter is a website that attracts various recruiters because it makes finding candidates faster and easier. Recruiters can post job vacancies onto the job board, use the database to connect with candidates, set up screening questions, and more, right within the site’s platform. For job seekers, this is another way to potentially connect with recruiters.
Can I work with multiple recruiters at the same time? In most cases, yes. Ask the recruiter if they have an exclusive relationship with the hiring manager or if others may be representing the job. If you choose to work with a retained search recruiter, understand that legal agreements may prevent them from showing your profile to other prospective employers in your industry. Always ask questions before sending your resume to a recruiter.
Are job recruiters free? The services of a recruiter are almost always free to you as the candidate because the hiring company pays them. In the rare instance your recruiter asks you to pay a fee for services, confirm that your new employer isn’t also paying a fee for their services.
Who benefits the most from working with a recruiter? Candidates who best fit the recruiter client’s job search requirements will benefit most. In addition, experienced or exceptional individuals in any industry may benefit from a recruiter’s services if they can open doors for their candidate.
Who wouldn’t benefit from working with a recruiter? Most recruiters aren’t interested in newly graduated or junior candidates. Depending on their client’s requirements, the recruiter often looks for an experienced hire.
Should I Work with a Recruiter?
Your decision to hire a recruiter might be yes (if you’ve found an experienced recruiter to drive the process) or no (if the recruiter’s performance with other candidates is unknown).
But it’s really up to you.
If job searching on your own hasn’t landed you a new position, adding a recruiter to your job search strategy can certainly help!
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.