Should you go through a Recruiter or not?

As a headhunter since I was 23, I’m the direct beneficiary of as well as the conductor behind a volume of candidate placements throughout my career that rewarded the top candidates in any given market with significant salary increases, career opportunities, and better work-life-balance according to their lifestyle, professional desires, and personal needs.

Our industry of recruitment has helped hundreds of millions of employees passively or actively find their next position. To be clear, in this case recruiter means AGENCY recruiters, NOT corporate/internal/HR recruiters. Read here on the difference.

There are cases where you should use a recruiter; certainly in other cases, you’d be better off representing yourself. Be knowledgeable about how recruiters work.

Here are a few pieces of advice to help you:

#1. Talk to a few headhunters in your market and career space first.

This is easy to do. Literally pick up the phone and call them through their office line or directly (their contact details are usually easy to find because recruiters WANT to be contacted by potential candidates). See what they say first! If you can just go through a recruiter and have them rep you, it saves you time, effort, and energy. Furthermore, you don’t have to do any grunt work! They’ll apply for you, set up interviews to your schedule, as well as coach you throughout the process. It’s awesome.

TIP: Find recruiters who recruit for your career by simply hopping on various job boards and seeing WHO is posting all the job ads. The recruitment agency sounding names are exactly those who cater to your industry. Use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters from that agency and see if you can get them on the phone.

#2. If you don’t hear back, increase your efforts.

This strategy of getting to know recruiters to leverage their capabilities would be that, if you’re not hearing back, perhaps you haven’t sent out enough inquiries. Use LinkedIn and the phone to chase down these recruiters for feedback.

I used to deal with this a lot. Sometimes, a candidate will submit a resume to multiple job postings I put up. However, due to the fact that I have hundreds of candidates applying on any given day, if someone’s profile is less desirable or completely off-base, unfortunately, that candidate will not get a phone call or automated email rejecting them. This is technological flaw of our recruiting systems. Thus, candidates feel shafted when really, it’s not personal, it’s just you didn’t qualify being represented by a recruiter.

Tip: Try to hammer a few select top recruiters in your space consistently and purposefully so at least you can get one on the line and ask them questions about your career. Pay them for coaching if you need to! The best headhunters know their market and their advice will do wonders for you if you can get over the bitterness of not being selected to interview and instead, take the initiative to find out answers of why.

#3. Understand the recruitment ecosystem.

As headhunters, we charge a HEFTY fee to the client that the company needs to pay us separate from a candidate’s salary. Contrary to popular belief, there is no zero sum game here. Oftentimes, because a candidate uses a top recruiter in their space, if done right, their salary and career opportunities increase, not decrease. The fee and the candidate salary are two different things.

However, what DOES impact the fee is that clients simply won’t pay fees for candidates who don’t qualify to be represented by a recruiter. If a client feels that their internal staff could find that exact same candidate or someone similar enough, they won’t feel that the recruiter’s fee is warranted. Thus, they’ll elect NOT to hire the candidate because they don’t find the risk of the employee failing to be worth the fee they have to pay.

In Conclusion

What does this mean for the candidate? Take a look at this DG Recruit infographic:

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In cases where the candidate needs too much training, support, or coaching on the junior end, a client may not be interested to pay the recruiter fee because their internal recruitment team finds better candidates on a daily basis. Similarly, on the other side of the inverted U curve, candidates who have too much experience also fail to be worth a recruiter fee due to the topic of career success and legitimacy.

The middle of the U-curve is where the top candidates lie: they have some experience, some track record, are in the right stage of life where career trajectory is rising, and they’re ripe for hard work, innovation, and adaptability. This candidate is WORTH the recruitment fee (usually 15-35% of candidate first year compensation). This fee is so costly that again, clients expect top candidate for their dollar. Thus, candidates who aren’t in a desirable state can either elect to try and earn a recruiter’s representation or just rep themselves.

WARNING: This advice is MARKET-specific. You need to understand the desirability of EACH market and customize the above graph. For instance, junior recruits for my market, #rec2rec, is VERY desirable. We have a lot of client demand for go-getter salespeople or those graduating out of college on the junior end. But that’s unique to our market of recruiting on potential versus track record.

Thus, junior candidates are just as desired and placeable as those with experience. That’s NOT the case in most STEM jobs unless they’re emerging industries where experienced candidates are 1. too few and 2. too expensive to hire.

For more advice on careers, tune into the Daily DANDAN Podcast and DG Recruit Podcast. Recruiters, I’m eager to chat with you – connect with me and let’s network!

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