Recruiters…Friend or Foe?

Have you ever worked with a recruiter? Been contacted by one? Been dumped by one? Wondered if you should include recruiters in your job search strategy?

Let’s begin by looking at the different types of recruiters.

Internal recruiters

  • People who work for the company that are recruiting for, such as a Senior Recruiter at Comcast. In very large companies each one may specialize in a particular function or level of seniority in the organization.
  • In addition to being called “recruiter” they may have the words “recruitment specialist” or “talent acquisition” in their job title.

Third party recruiters

  • These are agencies, organizations, or individuals recruiting candidates for temporary, part-time, or full-time employment opportunities other than for their own organization’s needs. Examples of large firms in this category are Robert Half, Randstad, and Kelly Services. There are a multitude of medium and small firms.
  • Many specialize based on type of employment (temporary/interim, temp to perm, permanent), function (IT, accounting, marketing, administrative, development/fundraising, etc.), geography, industry (pharmaceutical, higher education, healthcare etc. ) and/or level (entry-level, senior executive).
  • Most third party recruiters are contingent recruiters; they are paid only if the company hires a candidate found through their efforts. The firm is often in competition with the internal HR department, direct applicants, other recruiting companies, etc. to get the hire.
  • These may be called a “staffing firm” or “employment agency”.

Contract recruiters

  • Organizations that contract with an employer to act as the employer’s agent in the recruiting and employment function.

Retained search

  • A retained search firm has an exclusive relationship with the employer. Search firms are typically hired for executive- level and senior-level searches and for a specific period of time to find a candidate to fill a job.
  • The search firm is paid a retainer fee, and is the only firm conducting the search.
  • These can be called “executive search firm” or “headhunter”.

The most important thing to know about recruiters is that you are not their client. They are not there to find you a job. They are there to find highly qualified candidates for openings.

This explains why a recruiter may be “in love” with you one day (We had a great conversation, and the recruiter was very interested in me…) and then silence (…but I never heard back, and she wouldn’t return my phone calls.). Most likely the recruiter found a more qualified candidate or the position was filled. Don’t take it personally.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • You should never pay for the services of a recruiter.
  • If you are looking to make a significant career shift, most likely a recruiter will not be interested in you. They want to bring a “proven” candidate to the hiring company.

Check out these tips for working with recruiters. And this article on how to reach out to a recruiter on LinkedIn.

If you are interested in discussing your own experience with recruiters and learning more about how to be “found” by a recruiter in your field, contact Debra Franke, Assistant Director of Alumni Career Programs at