By Michael Foy, President of Publishing Search Solutions
Who does like recruiters? Candidates? Hiring Managers? I’ve been on both sides of that equation and now I am a recruiter. With the benefit of over twenty years of experience I now know that the answer to the question depends on when and how one avails oneself of a recruiter’s advantages.
Let’s tackle a candidate/recruiter relationship first. As an example I’ll recall a time before I joined the recruiting profession, a time when I came to them for help. I think my experience was fairly universal, sometimes comical and perhaps instructive on what a recruiter can really do for a candidate.
When I graduated college I took the summer off but not before contacting a recruiter to at least generate some interview activity. Naively, I thought of him as somewhat of an agent. He actually reinforced that misperception by, among other things, convincing me to take no other action in pursuing my first professional employment gig. That’s something I never ask any of my candidates. Getting a job is a job and it is unfair to limit someone to just one source of job leads. But at that time I thought this is great. I can just leave my fate in the hands of this professional of the job securing arts. In blissfull ignorance I did what most early twenty-somethings do with time on their hands. I went to the beach, socialized, took long rides and generally lollygagged a couple of months away. At least I had the foresight to check with him periodically. His response was always about the same. “You’ve got a good resume for a new grad and I don’t see any difficulty in getting bites on it. It’s just that there’s nothing yet.” Okay, I thought, even though it made me feel a little like a game fish.
Through June and July, I was satisfied with that type of answer and went back on my merry way in wasting time. But by August the light started to dawn on Marblehead. The recruiter had mentioned lots of possibilities to me but without any interviews to show for my faith in him, I decided to abandon that relationship and do my own searching. Ultimately, I landed a position for September. That was about the time he’d called me back to ask if I’d like to interview at three different companies.
The moral here is that recruiters typically do have a great many more connections than candidates. But not all their connections are looking at the same time a candidate is. Also, a hiring manager’s requirements are usually so specific it’s rare that a recruiter has just the right opening for a person in waiting. As an old mentor used to tell me, recruiters are paid to fill the jobs of our clients first, finding jobs for candidates is a happy byproduct. That said, if a candidate receives a call from a recruiter (as opposed to the other way around), expectations of a match can be much much higher. So it’s always a good idea for a candidate to be on a recruiter’s radar.
Next, let’s talk about approaching a recruiter as a hiring manager. From a recruiter’s perspective this is a more straightforward relationship. They’re paid to do a talent search, that in many cases has already been proven to be challenging, and to find the best match. As a hiring manager I had occasion to work with search firms. There were some good retained firms that were periodically paid to be focused but they usually took longer than I liked. And there were some good contingent firms that typically worked more quickly than a retained firm since they weren’t getting paid until the placement was consummated. The trouble with some contingent firms is that they tended to forget about you. From their point of view they’re not being paid by the hour so for difficult searches they’ll put in an initial effort but then move on to the next client if the talent pool didn’t yield immediate results. That was doubly true if they didn’t have an exclusive with the hiring company.
The bottom line is that one needs the right tool for the right job. The type of opening will dictate whether a contingent or retained effort is appropriate. I have often counseled hiring managers about what’s best for their particular needs. Sometimes the answer isn’t obvious. It can even be counter-intuitive.
Have you had any interesting experiences with recruiters? I’d love to hear about them.