Learn the secrets of the recruitment world to find job-search success.
Recruitment is a complicated and diverse landscape often misunderstood by employers and candidates alike. But understanding the world of recruitment, specifically how recruiters and recruitment agencies work, can improve your job search significantly.
In this guide, learn everything there is to know about working with recruiters, from the different types of recruiters and where to find them to how to work with them effectively.
What is a recruiter?
An employment recruiter finds candidates who are suitable for a job vacancy. It is their duty to source talent and work with the employer and prospective employees throughout the hiring process until an offer is made.
What do recruiters do?
In a nutshell, recruiters find and screen candidates before presenting them to the employer. Their role is purely transactional in the hiring process, as it is not their duty to hire someone; rather, they help facilitate that hire on behalf of a company or organisation.
Typically, a recruiter will source a suitable talent pool for a vacancy, review the CVs and conduct screening calls. Then, they will create a shortlist of the most suitable candidates for the job at hand and present them to the HR manager or person in charge of hiring for this role.
Recruiters also accept CVs from job hunters looking for their next role. Normally, recruiters widely advertise their contact details as they are always on the lookout for talent. If you are looking for assistance with connecting with a company or for a particular role, it's worth looking for recruiters on LinkedIn, as this is where they network and communicate the most.
Understanding the different types of recruiters
All recruiters find suitable candidates for vacancies, but there are nuances.
Some recruiters work in-house; they are often known as Corporate Recruiters. This means that they work for a company and their sole role is to scout and hire talent for that company only. These recruiters may be heavily involved in the hiring process, including sitting in on or running the interviews and having a say in the final decision.
Companies that have an in-house recruitment team often use a variety of job titles to describe staff in this division. This can be the more straightforward Hiring Manager and Hiring Specialist or the more creative, like Employee Success Manager or Talent Acquisition Officer.
Some recruiters work for recruitment agencies, which are also known as employment agencies and staffing agencies. Their job titles are usually Recruiter or Recruitment Consultant.
Companies that are struggling to find talent or perhaps don't have a dedicated HR manager will pay a recruitment agency to find candidates for them. Recruiters who work for recruitment agencies will work for multiple 'clients' and have a variety of roles to fill. That is where a recruiter's role is the most transactional, because they are effectively the middle man between the candidate and employer.
Different types of recruiters
To add another level of complexity, there are different types of 'external' recruiters. Whilst they come in all shapes and sizes, they are responsible for the same fundamentals: connecting companies with candidates for employment. Here are a few of the most common:
Head hunter: a person who works for an agency and seeks qualified applicants for vacancies
Contingency recruiter: a person who works for an agency and works with an employer to fill a one-off role
Retained recruiter: a person who works for an agency but has an exclusive relationship with an employer for a specific period of time. They often recruit for senior or particularly tricky roles.
Executive recruiter: a recruiter who specialises in assessing executive CVs and sourcing C-suite professionals for senior management and leadership roles
Outplacement agency: a recruitment agency dedicated to helping those facing redundancy
Many recruitment agencies specialise in different industries and verticals too. So you may also be approached by (or would like to approach) a finance recruiter, an IT recruiter, a legal recruiter, a sales recruiter and so on. Alternatively, you may want to connect with a more general recruiter who has connections to a whole host of jobs from every industry.
What you need to know about working with recruiters
You should now understand that recruiters are the matchmakers of the employment world, as they bring together companies and candidates. But there are a few additional details about the nature of their work you need to be aware of.
When companies use recruitment agencies
If a company has an internal recruiter, then using that member of staff to fulfil the business' hiring needs is the most cost-effective method. This is especially true if the vacancies in question are for entry- or mid-level roles where the hiring is not time-sensitive.
But if internal teams are struggling to find a candidate ‒ or perhaps don't have enough time to source talent ‒ they may outsource the process to a recruitment agency.
Businesses also lean on employment firms if they are recruiting for specialist or senior roles, such as a sales engineer in the quarrying and recycling industry.
Recruitment agency fees
Recruitment agencies are businesses, so they charge fees. But it is the employer or company that is responsible for paying the fees, not the candidate.
Generally, the agency only gets paid once the candidate accepts the job. (In case you're interested, the fees are usually between 15 and 20 per cent of the candidate's first annual salary.) The recruitment consultant that was in charge of the hire also receives a cut as commission.
The summary? Recruiters work for the employer, not the candidate, so they're unlikely to bend over backwards for you. Remember this whilst you're job hunting.
Competition between in-house recruiters and recruitment consultants
There is occasionally some financially-driven bias in the recruitment process. If there are two candidates that have made it to the final stage, and one was sourced by a recruitment agency and the other by an in-house recruiter, the employer may lean towards the candidate sourced by the in-house recruiter because they then avoid the agency fees.
How to find a recruiter
Working with a recruiter or a headhunter can give your job hunt the lift it needs. That said, it's only effective if you find a recruiter that aligns with your job-search goals. Here are a few ways to find the right recruiter for you.
Conduct a Google search
Googling 'recruitment agency', 'employment agency' or 'staffing firm' and combining it with keywords related to your role, industry or location is likely to generate a list of suitable recruiters. Examples include 'Bristol recruitment agency', 'sales jobs staffing firm' and 'PA jobs employment agency Manchester'.
Visit job boards
Many job boards such as CV-Library or reed have pages dedicated to recruitment agencies now hiring. You may like to look through the jobs available with those firms on the job board, or you could simply use the list as inspiration to propel your search towards an agency that suits your needs.
In addition, if you upload your CV to a job board, recruitment agencies that have a subscription to a job board's candidate database can view your CV. In short, if your CV is on a job board, you let recruiters find you. That's as long as your CV is keyword optimised for your industry and ideal role, of course.
Recruitment consultants dominate LinkedIn. Conduct a search for 'recruitment consultant' or 'recruitment agency' and you will generate an extensive list of professionals and firms that you can follow or connect with.
How to work with recruiters effectively
If you want to maximise your relationship with a recruiter, there are right and wrong ways to work with them. Here are a few ways to do so effectively.
Keep your job-search goals in mind
It is not a recruiters duty to find you a job ‒ they are looking for candidates who align with the roles they have. You will save each other a lot of time if you have your career goals front and centre at all times, so do consider what industry you want to work in, the type of role you are after and what company culture would suit you so that a recruiter will know what you fit with.
Be honest with recruiters
Honesty really is the best policy when working with recruiters. Many candidates feel they need to hide spells of unemployment or career gaps on a CV from a recruiter, but that can do more harm than good. If you explain why you have a gap or have jumped from job to job, they are better equipped to present you in the best light to employers.
In addition, if you no longer want to attend an interview, are working with another recruiter, or have applied for another job at the same company as the one the recruiter did, tell them. By keeping the recruiter in the loop, you keep the process streamlined, straightforward and productive.
Listen to their advice and feedback
Be open to receiving constructive feedback from recruiters. They are the experts in this game, so why wouldn't you listen to their tips and suggestions for your CV or interview techniques? If a recruiter doesn't offer feedback initially, don't be afraid to ask. It can only help strengthen your job hunt.
Track your submissions
Create a list of your job applications and track them through each stage. This is especially important if you're working with more than one recruiter. There will be nothing more frustrating than a recruiter phoning you about a role you have been pursuing, only for you to forget exactly which one it is or who it was for.
Don't be overzealous
Proactivity is a great quality to have when working with a recruiter, especially if you've identified the right type of recruiter to work with. But you don't need to call them every other day to see what they have available. Trust that you're on the books and that they will contact you if the right opportunity arises.
Questions to ask a recruitment agency
Every recruitment agency will work slightly differently, so its best to iron out key details regarding how they work and how you can best work together. Consider asking:
What companies do you represent? This is so you can be sure you're working with an agency that has relationships with the companies you want to work for.
What is the process if you find a role suitable for me? It's important to find out if the recruiter will send your CV as it is, or if they will tell you about it first ‒ which will give you a chance to tailor it to the vacancy.
What support do you provide at the interview stage? Recruitment agencies should go above and beyond simply arranging the interview. They should provide interview preparation support too. For example, many recruiters should know how the employer intends to conduct the interview and be able to offer you example interview questions, such as "What is your greatest strength?"
Are you the main point of contact or should I speak with the employer? The recruitment consultant is commonly the main point of contact throughout the entire process, but it's best to check.
What can go wrong when working with a recruiter
There are a few things you need to be aware of when working with recruiters.
Recruiters can be biased
Because recruitment consultants receive a commission for successful hires, they can sometimes adopt unfavourable tactics. If you feel a recruiter is pushing you into a particular role that isn't right for you, stop using them. All good recruitment firms will offer advice, support and guidance ‒ they should never pressure you.
You are not the client
As cutthroat, as it sounds, recruiters care about the employer more than you. Remember that the employer is their client, so it makes sense. With that, if you expect to be or act like a client, the relationship can go horribly wrong.
But use the relationship you have to its advantage. Ultimately, the recruiter wants to coach you to become a great candidate because it will help your (and their) chances of success – so be grateful for the free expert advice for every step of the job search.
Recruiters may tell white lies
Unfortunately, recruiters can't tell you everything. For instance, if you are told that a company isn't interested, it might not be because of you. Hiring is a complex process with many rules and regulations to follow, and ultimately, this can cause disruption. But of course, recruiters may not be able to divulge this information, which makes the job hunt trickier for you. It is always worth asking for feedback though, so you can work out if there are opportunities to improve your candidacy.
Using a recruitment agency or recruitment consultant can enhance your job hunt. The job search landscape is a competitive one, but by implementing these tips and best practices, you'll strengthen your chances of cultivating a fruitful relationship with a recruiter and landing your next job.
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