Part 1 of 3

Recruiters can play a valuable role in our job searches. Working with recruiters can also be frustrating and confusing. I get plenty of questions about recruiters from my Professional Center clients, so I thought it would be timely to address some of the most common ones.

In today’s Part 1 of a three-part series I’ll take an in-depth look at recruiters, beginning with understanding some terminology.

The term ‘recruiter’ is assigned to those who typically serve as the initial step in the hiring process. They post the position online, screen the applicants, and conduct initial interviews. From there, the surviving candidates are typically referred to a hiring manager for further interviewing.

Some recruiters are in-house, meaning they only recruit to fill openings within their own organization. Depending on the company’s number of employees and subsequent turnover, there may be several in-house or “internal” recruiters.

External recruiters are employed by staffing agencies and/or executive search firms. Think of these recruiters as you would an independent insurance agent, meaning they are working to fill openings at any number of different companies.

Small employers still need to recruit people to fill openings, but they typically don’t have enough openings to justify hiring a person to perform that function full time. Those smaller companies employ a human resource ‘generalist.’ They recruit just as the in-house recruiter would, except that the generalist also performs all other human-resource functions for the company.

Recruiters at staffing agencies typically work on openings from management level on down. True, staffing agencies have morphed over the years to work at all levels within an organization, but typically they’ll work on hourly positions.

Executive search recruiters typically fill roles from director level and up. In other words, they recruit salaried professionals.

Perhaps you’ve heard the terms ‘contingency’ and ‘retained’ searches. In neither case do you have to pay anything. These terms refer to how a search firm is compensated.

For example, an employer could allow multiple firms to work on an opening. In that case, for a search firm to make money, their candidate must be the one the employer ends up hiring. In other words, the recruiting firm’s ability to earn a commission is contingent on the employer hiring that search firm’s candidate.

In a retained search, the employer contracts with just one search firm and typically pays the firm a percentage of the anticipated commission up front. More commission is paid at the point of hire. And more is paid out once the worker has been on the job for an agreed-upon period of time. Think of this arrangement as you might when it comes to retaining the services of legal counsel. Pay part up front, then make some payments during the process, then settle up at the end.

When you’re an hourly candidate, the staffing agency invoices its client company based on your hours worked. You’re actually an employee of the staffing company.

Next time I’ll explore reasons why you may not readily hear back from recruiters.

As always, if you’re an area professional in the midst of a job search, our center’s services are free. Contact me at the address below. Good luck!

Randy Wooden is a long-time Triad career consultant and Director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC’s Professional Center. You may reach him at or at 336-464-0516.

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