Job hunting can be a tiring and complicated process. This is especially true if you’re a recent graduate who’s new to the workforce, if you work in a specialized field or if the job market is especially volatile.
Some job-seekers choose to work with recruiters, which can come with upsides and downsides. Should you work with one to land your next gig? We’ll dive into the pros and cons so you can decide what’s best for you.
What Is a Recruiter, and What Do They Do?
Recruiters are people who find qualified candidates to fill job openings for employers. Depending on their work arrangement, they either work in-house filling roles at a particular workplace or through an agency that works with multiple companies.
Recruiters typically manage multiple aspects of the hiring process, including the following:
- Gathering relevant information about the open position and the type of employee the company is looking for
- Sharing the job posting on relevant websites and job boards
- Reviewing applications and vetting candidates
- Presenting top candidates to employers and organizing interviews
- Facilitating the job offer and negotiation process
It’s important to note that the recruiter isn’t the one who makes hiring decisions — that’s up to the hiring manager.
Types of Recruiters
There are many different types of people and systems used to help companies find the right employees. If you’re job hunting, here are a few different types of recruiters you may encounter:
- In-House Recruiters. These people work to fill roles for one particular company. They typically have a great understanding of their specific company’s industry and culture.
- Agency Recruiters. These recruiters work for multiple companies. Agencies can either specialize in hiring for a particular industry or hire across multiple industries, but they usually specialize in a specific sector of the job economy.
- Contingency Recruiters. These recruiters are only paid if the company hires their candidate. They usually work fast and present more job-seekers to increase their odds of earning a commission.
- Retained Recruiters. These people usually focus on one hiring assignment until it’s complete. Rather than being paid upon the candidate’s hiring, retained recruiters get paid throughout the hiring process. Employers typically hire retained recruiters to fill senior positions due to the higher cost.
- Headhunter. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with recruiter, but some people see this as a different type of recruiter altogether. Rather than focusing only on people who are actively seeking work, headhunters include already-employed people in their searches.
Recruiters are motivated to find people to fill their open positions. Because of this, they may offer to help you polish your resume and cover letter so that you stand out to employers.
In addition to having more exposure to open opportunities, recruiters are usually well-connected. If their open positions aren’t a good match for your skills, they may share your information with other recruiters who are looking for people like you.
One big misconception about recruiters is that they work for job-seekers. The truth, however, is that they’re hired by the employer, which means they’ll put the employer’s needs first. This also means that their time is limited, and they can’t act as your personal career coach.
Since many recruiters are paid based on their ability to fill each role, they may push you towards positions that aren’t the best fit. If you feel this is happening to you, remember you have power in the hiring process. Speak up if you feel a particular position isn’t right for you or if you feel like the salary offers you’ve been presented with aren’t high enough.
Recruiters have to keep some details about the hiring process under the rug. For example, you may look like an ideal candidate on paper, but the hiring company may go in a different direction because they’re looking to increase diversity within the organization. You can always ask recruiters for feedback through the application and interview process, but they may not disclose the exact reason a company didn’t hire you.
You may also go for a long period of time without hearing from a recruiter for a variety of reasons. Maybe the positions they’re working on aren’t a good match, or maybe they had to pivot to fill more pressing roles. Whatever the reason for the silence, don’t take it personally — keep applying for roles on your own and building your network.
Should I Work With a Recruiter?
Still unsure if a recruiter is right for you? There’s good news: in most cases, talking with a recruiter won’t hurt your efforts.
Recruiters typically have a harder time helping entry-level workers and those who are transitioning into a different field of work. While there are some recruiters who specialize in filling entry-level positions, most companies would rather handle the hiring for fresh, new talent directly.
These kinds of people typically benefit most from working with recruiters:
- Experienced executives and managers
- Those who work for companies that have top-notch reputations, like Google, Facebook or Tesla
- People with a unique and rare skill set
- Those who work in a field with a talent shortage
- Contractors and consultants who work with recruiters who specialize in filling short-term roles
Our Advice: Don’t Rely On Recruiters as Your Only Source
Recruiters should be seen as a single tool in your toolbox: they can help sometimes, but they shouldn’t be the only thing you rely upon in your job search.
Successful recruiter experiences happen when someone connects with them at just the right moment. Sometimes, a recruiter may not have a role that you qualify for when you first reach out to them, and your resume may get shuffled towards the bottom of their pile of resumes by the time they have a role that fits your skill set better.
Additionally, you know your talents the best; sometimes recruiters may misunderstand your skills and refrain from putting your name in the candidate pool for a specific opportunity. Remember that you can always submit applications on your own without the help of a recruiter.
If you’re on the hunt for a new job, we recommend only using a fraction of your time for recruiter conversations. Spend the rest of your job-searching energy perusing job boards, networking with your peers and searching for openings at your dream workplaces directly. By utilizing multiple strategies and working consistently, you’ll increase the chances of finding your next role sooner rather than later.
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