Working With a Recruiter Tips

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What is a retained search firm?

The Retained Search Firm

A retained search firm is a professional recruiting agency that enters into a contract with a company seeking to fill mid- to high-level executive positions. These search firms require a fee, or retainer, for their services.

Where retained search firms differ from their industry counterparts, delimited search firms, is in the nature of the contract for their services. Delimited search firms operate within specified timeframes. Retained search firms operate under open-ended timetables.

The risk involved for companies working with recruiters in retained search firms is that they're given no guarantee of being provided with qualified personnel, and the fee is not refundable if the retained firm fails in its efforts. For this reason, companies base their decision to use retained search firms on the desire to find qualified individuals without regard to how long the process may take. Companies use retained search firms for their long-term aims, as opposed to their short-term needs.

What questions should I ask a recruiter?

Questions to Ask a Recruiter

Sometimes knowing what to ask a recruiter can make all the difference in deciding whether or not to work with them. The importance of selecting an experienced, dedicated individual versus someone who approaches the job with a salesman approach is immeasurable.

When talking to a recruiter for the first time, always ask for references. If the recruiter is able to talk the talk, they likewise should be able to walk the walk by providing names of previous companies they've worked with—and glowing references, if the talk is inordinately large.

Ask the recruiter how many jobs they fill per month. Between four and five positions a month is standard. At higher levels such as management, one or two per month indicates a high, yet believable, rate of placement. If their answer is unbelievably high, or modestly low, it should be taken as a sign of big talk or poor performance. In either case, find a different recruiter.

Where can I find a recruiter?

Candidate: Where Can I Find a Recruiter?

Job hunters seeking resources on how to find a job recruiter should keep in mind the fact that professional recruiters are employed by the company they represent, and ultimately have that company's best interests and bottom line in mind when it comes to placing only the most qualified people in positions of employment.

This isn't to say that a job recruiter makes it a practice to treat job candidates poorly—quite the contrary. A job candidate is a recruiter's most valuable asset. But it's a fact that does bear keeping in mind when attempting to find the right recruiter to work with.

Many recruiters take part in job fairs and recruiting events. These are typically held on college campuses or event centers and can be an excellent way for job seekers to make contact with several recruiting agencies at a time. The internet also contains a goldmine of resources for job seekers interested in contacting recruiters.

How do companies find recruiters to work with?

Client: Where Can I Find a Recruiter?

Job recruiters come in all walks of life and work out of various different outlets. Businesses interested in working with executive recruiters should first determine what they want the recruiter to accomplish on their behalf.

Everyone knows the bottom line—a job recruiter's objective is to match the most qualified and talented individuals with positions of equal esteem. But if a company's intent is to find an employee with a long list of required skills and experiences for employment in an exclusive industry, going with a niche recruiting firm is best.

Likewise, smaller companies whose requirements are more generalized and whose need to recruit new talent is open-ended and unfettered by time constraints may do better by working with smaller recruiting firms or independent recruiters.

Vast resources for recruiters and recruitment firms can be found online or in trade publications, but frequently the best method of connecting with an efficient recruiter is word of mouth.

What is a headhunter?


Headhunter is a colorful and frequently image-evoking term used to describe a professional job recruiter. A headhunter typically specializes in placing highly skilled job candidates, and can either be independently employed or work for a large recruiting firm. These firms employ a large staff of recruiters who concentrate on both generalized and specialized areas.

Unlike temporary employment services, which retain employer status over their pool of employees and assign them to certain companies on a short-term basis, job recruiters and job recruiting agencies specialize in finding talent for direct-hire permanent employment. Some recruiters also work to place job seekers in positions of short-term contracted employment.

Niche recruiters and recruiting firms cater to even more detailed needs, frequently focusing their efforts within certain geographical locations, such as smaller cities whose businesses may have a more difficult time appealing to big city-based professionals. In addition, niche recruiters specialize within certain fields, targeting desired individuals in certain career industries.

What is a delimited search firm?

The Delimited Search Firm

Delimited search firms differ from retained search firms in several aspects that make them more appealing to corporations interested in working with headhunters to locate and place talent quickly.

Similar to a retained search firm, a delimited search firm requires an up-front fee for its services—however that fee is fully refundable if the firm is unable to fulfill the terms of its contract within a specified period of time.

The nature of a company's employee search dictates whether it's in their best interests to employ the services of a delimited firm or a retained firm. While delimited firms offer a full refund if the search is not successfully completed by the stated timeframe, some companies may opt to use the services of a retained search firm if their need to fill a position is less time-sensitive, but more reliant on the need to find just the right person, no matter how long it takes.

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