Is Your Recruiter Any Closer To The Job Than You?

Jun 2 2010 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Recruiters by Phil Rosenberg

You’re excited because you just got a call from a recruiter who sought you out. Should you really be excited? While some recruiters can help you, others may hurt your chances to land a specific opportunity – still others may just waste your time.

Not all recruiters are equal. How can you tell if a recruiter is any closer to the job opportunity than you are?

It usually boils down to the relationship that the recruiter has with the hiring manager – not just with the company, but the hiring manager. There are a number of different types of recruiter relationships, and it helps to determine which kind of relationship your recruiter has.

How can you tell which type of recruiter has contacted you? Which type is the most productive to work with? What should you do if you are working with the wrong type but on the right opportunity?

Remember, just because a recruiter has contacted you, doesn’t mean you have to work with them. If you choose to not work with a recruiter, but prefer to work with another recruiter closer to the hiring manager, emailing the recruiter that you don’t wish for them to represent you should do the trick. Make sure you put the recruiter on notice that you don’t want them forwarding your resume – if they have already forwarded your resume to one of your target companies, email the hiring manager and HR department to inform them that you are not working with this recruiter (this helps avoid the risk of conflicts for the hiring manager).

These are all questions that should be running through the job seekers’ mind while trying to determine what kind of recruiter you want to work with.

Here are some of the basic types of recruiters:

  1. Retained recruiter: Typically, a retained recruiter is a candidates’ best choice – a retained recruiter is typically the closest to the job, even closer than the company’s own internal HR staff. This is because the company has prepaid a fee to the recruiter, and often directs all candidates to the retained recruiter (after the company has paid to outsource the search, why use internal resources?).
  2. Be careful, there are many firms that do some retained search work and who call themselves retained recruiters. When retained work becomes slim, they will often take on contingent fee assignments. It’s important to understand how they are working on this search, rather than how they generally work. A recruiter who is working on a retained search will readily tell you – a contingent fee recruiter may not want to disclose.

    Retained recruiters should have more information about the position, management, and company fit. Retained recruiters should be able to provide the candidate with more insight into the firm. However, retained recruiters are paid whether the company finds the right candidate, or not – they may have less incentive to sell your talents to the hiring manager, instead letting hiring managers make up their own minds.

    Retained recruiters typically work with fewer companies on fewer positions. This means it’s less likely that you’ll be considered a fit for other positions the recruiter is working on. Companies who pay up-front fees to a retained recruiter typically demand an exact fit. If you’re a stretch for a position, or are missing criteria, retained recruiters probably won’t be much help.

  3. Contingent fee recruiter: There are a number of different flavors of contingent fee recruiters, some of whom are close to the job, others aren’t. Just because a recruiter has a “contract” or is an approved vendor doesn’t mean they are any closer to the opportunity than you – It just means they’ve gone through a procurement vendor approval process. Gaining an understanding of a contingent recruiters’ relationship with the hiring manager can be a critical component in deciding how much time and hope to commit to a specific recruiter. If the recruiter is too far from the opportunity, your best decision may be to decline to work with this recruiter, but find another recruiter working on the same opportunity.
  4. Many companies have a definite pecking order of recruiters – some recruiters will have calls returned quickly and gain candidate feedback while others may have little hiring manager communication. Some hiring managers play favorites with certain recruiting vendors, so determining if the recruiter calling you is a favorite or at the bottom of the pile can be helpful. Some companies will assign HR to working with most recruiters, while the hiring manager may choose one or two to work with more closely.

    Here’s a list of some of the major types of client relationships a contingent fee recruiter may have:

    • Primary: This is the recruiter you want to work with, who has the primary staffing relationship with the hiring manager. The recruiter speaks to the hiring manager directly (rather than to HR) and the recruiter has staffed a number of different positions for that specific hiring manager. The leading indicator of this type of relationship is a track record of successful hires for a specific hiring manager. Ask the recruiter how many positions they have staffed for this hiring manager in the past 12 months, if the primary relationship is with the hiring manager or with HR, how often they speak and meet directly to the hiring manager.
    • Approved: This is a recruiter who has been approved by the company’s contracting or procurement process. If the company uses approved vendors it may be difficult for a recruiter who has not yet been approved to place you. Just because the recruiter is approved does not mean they have a relationship with the hiring manager. Just because a recruiter has a “contract” doesn’t mean they are favored – most companies work with 3 or more recruiters per position (some work with over 10). If your target company uses approved vendors, look for a recruiter who is both already an approved vendor and who has a direct relationship with the hiring manager.
    • Vendor Management: Companies who employ vendor management for the hiring process use an outsourced firm (usually part of a large recruiting firm) to outsource managing recruiters, managing the HR database, managing pre-screening, and other parts of the hiring process. Typically the recruiting firm who controls the vendor management system has an inherent advantage in placing their own candidates. Ask the recruiter who contacts you if the company uses a vendor management system, and which system they use. Work directly with recruiters from the firm controlling the vendor management system to get closer to the hiring manager.
    • New: If this is a new client relationship with the hiring manager, the recruiter is at the bottom of the pile. While the recruiter may be willing to work harder to earn the placement, realistically they have less direct hiring manager contact than a recruiter who places people with this hiring manager consistently. If you choose to work with recruiters in new relationships, be prepared to be their learning curve.
  5. Far from the action: These recruiters may help with a little free coaching, since they work more closely with candidates. While you’re more likely to get some help from these recruiters than the standard retained or contingency recruiter, remember that they don’t work for you. Since you don’t pay them, you’re not likely to get much time or help.
  6. If you can’t find another way into the company, they might help. Chances are, you can find a closer contact yourself than through any of these types of recruiters.

  7. Splits recruiter or sourcer: A recruiter who works on splits finds candidates for another recruiter’s position. Splits recruiters may be a recruiter within a large firm, or may be an independent who concentrates on finding candidates instead of building relationships with hiring managers. Some splits recruiters may be more valuable than others:
    • Large firm: This may be the best type of splits recruiter to work with, as they generally have access to the direct recruiter. Some larger firms will split the recruiting function into sales (building hiring manager relationship) and sourcing (building candidate relationships).
    • Ongoing relationship: This may be almost as good as a large firm splits recruiter, if the sourcer has worked with the sales person numerous times before and has been a trusted source of candidates. If you discover that a recruiter is a sourcer or working splits, ask how many times they have sourced successful candidates for the firm that secured the job order to get an idea of how close the relationship is.
    • Splits board: This is the Careerbuilder of sourcers, who pick up job orders from a job board or an online group. These sourcers have a very thin relationship with the owner of the job order, who likely has many sourcers working to supply them with candidates.
    • Candidate shopping: Some sourcers will look for candidates with strong, generally in-demand skills, and shop them to all the firms they can find who work with splits. This can actually be more helpful than it appears, as your resume may get shopped to many firms … then again, it may not.

    Finally, there are the bottom dwellers of recruiting, who don’t have an active job order, don’t have a relationship with a company who is actively looking for your talents, and isn’t working under splits. This type of recruiter is looking for people who are willing to be shopped. This type of recruiter relationship generally yields the least results – you probably don’t want to invest much time with this type of recruiter.

  8. Recruiter with no relationship: This is the trolling recruiter, who looks for candidates with a general skill set that they think has a higher marketplace demand. The trolling recruiter shops the candidate into companies where they don’t yet have a relationship as bait. These are often newer recruiters or recruiters who are trying to build their book of business. While this practice can yield results, it’s your lowest likelihood of getting employer attention, since the recruiter doesn’t have any better relationship with the hiring manager than you do. The trolling recruiter may be just shopping your resume into HR – giving your resume about as much chance as if you applied online.

Examine the recruiters who call you – which group do they fall into?

Are you working with the right recruiters, or is it about time you recruited a new crop … of recruiters?


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