No BS Job Search Advice: Working with Contingency Recruiters and Agencies

Working with Contingency Recruiters and Agencies

Good recruiters are worth the money they’re paid by institutions to find people. You should work with recruiters if you can, but it’s important to work with a recruiter who is experienced, not a beginner. Find someone who understands what you’re looking for, what your skills are about, who’ll give you straight information about how you fit into the job market, even if you don’t like it.

What a recruiter offers you is access. He or she has access to organizations in the job market and can give you entrée to firms far more easily than you can do on your own.

When I worked as a recruiter, what I tried to do was match my institutional client’s wants, needs, desires, and background with the suitable candidates. I performed a form of filtering for my clients to save them time, which translates into money. This also saved job hunters time, because there’s no point in going to interview for a job for which you’re not qualified, right?

Good recruiters are tapped into people and things. They know people who know people. They have a network. Having worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years, I was able to call people and get them on the phone, or get them to respond to an email, a lot more easily than your typical job hunter can.

The reason why good recruiters, agencies, and search firms have such rich networks is that they’re paid by the employer to find someone to fill a job. They work for the employer first, and then for you. That’s because the employer pays them. They have an ongoing relationship. Hopefully, the recruiters you work with have a high level of experience and a certain degree of understanding and mastery within your field.

What I was required to do is balance the individual job hunter’s needs with the needs of the institutional customer who pays me. Unless I delivered the best outcomes to both, unless I matched them successfully, it’s like a bad date or marriage—you know it’s going to end quickly in a divorce.

I encourage people to find a good recruiter by asking people they know who was the recruiter or agent who helped them find the job they’re in? What was their experience with them like? How competent did they seem? Did they just seem like a bad salesman, pushing them into a job that coincidentally happened to work for them, or did they find someone who listened to them and their needs, wants, and desires? Ideally, your recruiter should be asking you what your needs are. It should be apparent from their behavior they have integrity.

I ask people a lot of questions because I know that if I put someone into a role in which they’re likely to fail, it’s bad for everyone. I want people to succeed in the firms they join. If they do, my clients came back and hired more. Usually, if an individual stays in an organization for a long time, they refer people. If they are promoted, they hire people from me. It’s good business for everyone if I set out to make a solid fit.

You can also contact the people who serve your organization as recruiters. You don’t have to fear that they’re going to go back to your management because they have an ethical responsibility not to do that.

Another very simple way to find a recruiter is to take a look at some of the online advertisements and newspaper ads to see who is prominent in your sector and spend a little time talking with them to evaluate whether the two of you can work with one another. You can also list do a Google search to find recruiters in your geographic area.

Part of this comes from the process of listening to how the conversation goes with them. Did they ask you good questions? Did they seem to be knowledgeable? Hopefully, in your job search, you will be enlisting the support of a headhunter or recruiter of some kind but not relying upon them exclusively.

Remember, I’m not saying that you leave everything up to your recruiter. On the contrary, I’m suggesting that you do certain things on your own to market yourself while working with a recruiter, agency or search firm to position yourself in the market in ways that you couldn’t if you go solo.

Recruiters fill about 22% of all the positions in the United States. That’s a pretty good number, but it leaves the other 78% to other methods.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020 



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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