A Message to Job Seekers — We’re Recruiters Not Agents

An important announcement for any job seeker considering working with a recruiter as part of the search:

We are recruiters. We are not your agents.

We aren’t sitting at our desks with a roster of favorite candidates, madly dialing up companies to find the perfect job for you. (That, my friend, is YOUR job.) I know that can be frustrating to hear. Especially when you’re in that “Oh s#*t, I’ve been canned!” manic panic mode. (This, by the way, usually hits just about three days after a layoff, shortly after you’ve cleared out your surplus of Johnny Walker Red and Ding Dongs.)

But it’s the truth, and you shall prevail if you understand how recruiters work before you waste even one minute calling every one you’ve ever talked to.

Generally speaking, recruiting firms get hired by corporations with open positions that they’re struggling to fill. Sometimes, this relationship is formed as a retained search; more often today, a contingency search.  What this means to you is this:

Recruiting agencies (and their recruiters) make money by finding the perfect candidates for the open positions that said corporations need filled. When the agency finds the match, the corporation pays the agency a percentage of that candidate’s base salary, often between 15-25%. If we don’t find the match? It’s donuts. And it’s often a race, because recruiting agencies are frequently pitted against other agencies to fill positions. Speed wins.

Given this, recruiters often just don’t have time nor incentive to shop your resume around town to a list of random companies with whom they may (or more likely, don’t) have relationships. Unless you are a great fit for one of an agency’s current openings? You aren’t going to be a high priority. We might like you a bunch, and hope like heck that we can find a good home for you, but you won’t be the Top Dog until/unless we have something available for you.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid recruiters, at all.

I, and most other good recruiters, certainly like to hear from you when you are considering a career move, trying to relocate geographically, etc. We’ll keep you in mind as things open up, absolutely.But the important bottom line is this – you can’t expect to find a job today by simply getting a couple of recruiters “on the case.”Proactivity and accountability are critical in today’s job race.

Blogging4Jobs guest blogger this week is Jennifer Foss.  Jenny runs Ladder Recruiting Group, LLC (www.ladderrecruiting.com), a boutique style independent recruiting firm with offices in Portland and Metro Detroit. She is known as @JobJenny or JobJenny.com and considers herself your job search BFF and tough love expert on finding your career passion.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Charlie Judy says

    as long as you don’t mind if candidate’s call you and Email again and again and again…ok, with some professionalism and respect at least…to remind you that they are out there, and a good candidate, and very much motivated to find a new gig. after all, 80% of this game is timing and being on the top of your pile (without annoying the hell out of you) is pretty important. thanks!

  2. Tim Yandel says

    I think that the relationship between candidate and recruiter is one that should be treated as long term. Sometimes candidates take contracts or jobs that don’t work out, if you have a recruiter that you trust make sure to keep that relationship rolling. Recruiters are busy, but the good ones always see the value in keeping in touch and networking from there.

    Not to be the “hippy” recruiter here, but I think there’s an a job for everyone and a recruiter’s “product” are the people they represent. Treating candidates as second in priority to a client creates a very reactive relationship as opposed to proactive. I agree with the over-arching point though, which is, just because you’re using a recruiter it doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. Be proactive.

  3. Robert says

    Do such people exist? I’ve always wished I could just hire an agent the way that sports players do and then just pay them whatever cut after they find me a job.


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