About Recruiters

Recruiters will focus on you ... if you are a purple squirrel

Recruiters have a name for people who are easily placed: Purple squirrels. They are valuable because an easy placement means easy income. But if you are not one, well you may not be too valuable to them, so don't count on much help.  

When I was an executive recruiter I learned a lot about how the recruiting industry works. I learned if you want to use them, it's important to understand what makes them tick and how to market yourself effectively.

There are differences between internal recruiters that are employees of a hiring company, and external recruiters, those who work for recruiting firms.

They have a couple of things in common:  
·         They behave differently because they are paid differently.
·         Neither will always be completely truthful with you. 

The internal recruiter: 
·         Is an employee of the hiring company.
·         Is not rewarded financially for filling jobs. Is paid a regular salary which may not be a lot.
·         May or may not understand your discipline very well.
·         Often views work as a 9 to 5 job.
·         Often has many other responsibilities in addition to recruiting. 

The external recruiter: 
·         Works for a recruiting firm
·         Typically works on a commission-only basis, is only paid if the candidate is hired.
·         Can earn very large income. Is paid a big percentage of the huge service fee the firm receives. 
·         But usually there are several months of delay before the recruiter receives payment for a placement, therefore he/she is under constant pressure to place new candidates and must make many calls each day to keep the 'pipeline' filled.
·         Therefore views you as a meal ticket, someone to focus on if you are a "purple squirrel", otherwise may have little interest in you.
·         While there is potential for high earnings, the reality is, the probability of making a lot of money is not high, which leads to making many prospecting calls vs. staying in touch with you. 

The takeaway is this: It's not wise to limit your search to using recruiters as your only search tactic. Use other tactics in your search as well. Recruiters who work for recruiting firms could be a valuable search tactic to use, but don't rely on them alone. Inside recruiters are usually overworked with other tasks as well. Don't rely on getting much attention from either type of recruiter. 


The anatomy of a recruiter. More detail you should know.

There are two kinds of recruiters: Internal recruiters who are paid employees of the hiring company and external recruiters who work for recruiting firms that serve hiring companies.

They have one thing in common: their mission is to identify candidates who have the potential to serve a hiring need. There are other similarities, but there are also big differences between them you should understand.

The internal recruiter:

Is a company employee who works in HR and is paid a steady salary. He or she has no “skin in the game”.

He/she is often pressed to find candidates for a variety of positions, may or may not understand the job he/she is hiring for and may not be able to understand how you fit the needs of the job.

He/she may or may not view their work as anything more than “just a job”.

He/she may have a myriad of other responsibilities in addition to recruiting.

He/she is driven to identify good candidates but is not incented financially for doing so other than having a base salary and employment.

The external recruiter:

The external recruiter usually works on a commission-only basis, therefore has considerable incentive to make placements. 

In terms of importance, you are a meal ticket first, a potential fit second, someone to focus on last (unless you are a "purple squirrel").

He/she is paid part of the commission the firm receives from the hiring company, typically 25 to 35 percent of the candidates’ first year salary.

Very often there is a considerable time delay, perhaps 3 months or more, before the recruiter receives payment for a placement. Therefore the pressure is constantly on to find new candidates and achieve ‘sendouts’ (face-face interviews) every day. 

Like the internal recruiter, the external recruiter may not understand the job he/she is recruiting for, but usually works in only one industry or discipline and has a higher incentive to understand the job, at least the jargon of the job, in order to make placements.

There tends to be considerable turnover in recruiting firms. Those who fail to get their candidates hired often leave the recruiting firm for lack of income, or they get fired.

Recruiting firm management presses hard for recruiters to make many calls each day. They know their business is a “numbers game”. Unless you are a “purple squirrel” you may not get much attention.

Sometimes it is not obvious from a job ad which type of recruiter you may be dealing with. When you get a call from a recruiter, make sure you understand which type is calling you.



Do you plan to use a recruiter in your job search? Here are some rules of engagement:

Rule #1 – Never pay a recruiter for help! Recruiters are paid handsomely by their client companies. And be careful. There are scam artists who may promise you employment within a short time period for a fee.

Rule #2 – Never assume a recruiter works for you! Again, recruiters are paid by their client companies. You are a meal ticket, not a client. And if you are not a “purple squirrel”, a clearly unique, superior candidate in the eyes of the recruiter, you may get lots of promises but little or no real help.

Rule #3 – Figure out if your recruiter is capable of helping you before you align yourself with him or her! This may be an obvious thing to do, but it is easier said than done. Ask probing questions. The industry has some great recruiters, lots of turnover, lots of rookies, its’ share of  “hard-sell salesmen”, some sharks and a few crooks.

Rule #4 – Make sure the recruiter does not change anything in your resume unless you review and approve it before it is submitted to their client! Find out why the recruiter wants to make changes. Make sure any changes represent you accurately, honestly, are grammatically correct and have no spelling errors. Many recruiters are not good resume writers.



Rule #5 - If the recruiter appears annoyed by your questions or unable to answer them thoroughly and confidently, do not walk away, run away!

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