Should you hire a recruiter?

If you’re looking to launch, advance or significantly alter your professional career, you’ve probably considered getting in touch with a recruiter as part of your strategy. After all, they specialize in matching good candidates with good jobs. 

A recruiter can give you some tools and tips to make your own job search more successful. And if your experience mirrors the success stories you might have heard about, a top-notch recruiter can do all the legwork you find uncomfortable.

Before contacting a professional recruiter, it’s helpful to get a feel for how the recruiting business works. With some knowledge about the industry, you can move forward with realistic expectations and guide your own professional growth in an informed way.

Like realtors, recruiters are in the business of matching buyers and sellers: the person in the middle of the equation is compensated by one party and not the other. Recruiters are paid by employers. There are two broad kinds of recruiters: those who are paid on a contingency basis and those who are paid a retainer.

A contingency recruiter puts a client (employer) in touch with qualified pre-screened candidates for a particular position. A retained recruiter works under a contract to fill a specific position, usually at a higher management level than positions filled by contingency recruiters. 

Should you contact a recruiter? That depends on an honest evaluation of where you are career-wise, and where you want to go.
If you’re just launching your career, or you’re looking to switch to a field that’s new for you, recruiters probably won’t be your best option—not because of your qualifications but because of the way the recruiting industry is structured. A better alternative is to rely on your own professional network, selected social media, educational opportunities and career-counseling contacts. These resources can help you sharpen your communication skills and develop winning strategies that can place you in front of potential hiring managers. 

If you have an established career, with a verifiable track record that supports your desire for greater responsibilities and challenges, a retained recruiter might be helpful for taking your career to a higher level.

If you’re already a senior-level manager, someone with the network, knowledge and support system needed to be an ideal candidate for a top-level position, you might want to schedule a meeting with a retained recruiter. Even if only to get on the person’s radar in case a need for someone with your accomplishments comes up.

Use this knowledge of the recruiting industry to manage your expectations and direct your time and effort into areas where it will serve you best.