Applying Directly To The Company vs. Going Through An Outside Recruiter

Jan 17 2012 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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There’s a big misunderstanding in the job search world about applying directly to a company vs. going through a recruiter.

Many job seekers think that it’s always better to apply for a job through an outside recruiter. After all, the company has contracted with the recruiter to find, prescreen, and recommend candidates.

Other candidates think it’s better to apply through the company, on the company’s website or through HR. After all, that’s what most candidates hear if they call to inquire about a job.

Today’s article will clear up these common misconceptions …

In reality there are pros and cons to each method.

Applying directly through the company:

Applying directly through the company has some advantages, but it also has some big disadvantages, depending on your specific circumstances.

Advantages of applying directly through the company:

  • If you know the hiring manager: If you know the hiring manager it’s almost always best to apply directly to the hiring manager … not to HR. If the hiring manager is willing to go around HR, it’s a sign that you’ve got a good chance at the job, since the hiring manager is willing to break company policies to help you.
  • Company database: If you apply through a company website or HR, your resume will get into the company database, so you can be searchable for future jobs.
  • If you apply through others you know at the company (non-hiring manager): Your resume will probably be sent to HR, not the hiring manager, due to Employee Referral Bonus programs set up at most companies, helping the company stay compliant with federal fair hiring laws (see

Disadvantages of applying directly through the company:

  • If you don’t know the hiring manager, you end up in the same database as the thousand other applicants, hoping the words on your resume happen to match enough of the criteria being searched for. The odds are bad.
  • If you apply to more than one job, HR reps can see all the jobs you’ve applied for at that company, in your candidate record – so you look desperate.

Applying through recruiters:

Likewise, applying through recruiters has both some advantages and some disadvantages, depending on your situation:

Advantages of applying through recruiters

  • Some small companies without an HR department outsource the pre-screening function to an outside recruiter. This quickly gets expensive, so most companies only outsource the full pre-screening function for only a very small number of hard-to-find positions. The largest companies will still run recruiter selected candidates through HR, as part of their candidate control and tracking.
  • If you don’t have a good connection at the company, a recruiter might. Being represented by a recruiter with a strong reputation within your target company, who has a long track record of success in finding candidates for this company, can help your cause, especially if you don’t know the right people who can help you directly (hint: they aren’t in HR, unless you seek an HR position).

Disadvantages of applying through recruiters

  • Recruiters aren’t free to employers: Hiring you through a recruiter will cost the hiring company an additional 20-33% of your annual salary, as a recruiting (or finder’s) fee. When budgets are tight, This additional cost can make the difference in whether you get the job, or are even selected for interview.
  • The recruiter doesn’t work for you – you don’t pay their salary. Recruiters work for the employer … The recruiter’s job isn’t to find you a job, their job is to find candidates who meet minimum criteria, quickly, and to provide varying levels of pre-screening. You are inventory to a recruiter – To learn why, see .
  • All recruiters are not created equal: Some recruiters are very good about staying in touch with candidates, who can provide something in return (information). Other recruiters are very transactional in nature. Don’t expect them to work for you, unless you provide them information that’s valuable (contacts, employers, job openings – they’ve got plenty of candidates today). – See .
  • The recruiter might not have a close relationship with the hiring manager. Even if the recruiter has been working with the company for a long time, if they don’t have a close relationship with the hiring manager, they won’t have much influence. Which recruiter represents you makes a difference, since companies often work with many outside recruiters. A hiring manager is much more likely to take candidate recommendations from an outside recruiter that has built trust with that hiring manager over time. Often, recruiters who are new to a hiring manager are limited to only one or two interview slots max, until they prove themselves. See for more details.
  • .

Your best approach:

Your best chances of getting an interview (and the job) are to build relationships with hiring managers at target companies, before a specific job is advertised. In this way, you stand the best chance to be top of mind with a hiring manager when they are writing the job description for their next position, and having that job’s criteria based on you.

By approaching your job search proactively, through the “hidden job market”, you avoid the downside of recruiters, you have a better chance of avoiding the “black hole” of HR, because you are considered first on the hiring manager’s short list. You’ll learn more about attacking the hidden job market here: .

Job seekers – How are you applying for jobs? Directly to the company or through outside recruiters?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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