Recruiters for many are the scavengers of the business Serengeti, like hyenas in suits. They roam about looking for those unhappy or greedy souls seeking a change or more money. They are live in a world of truthiness, where they pretend to sell you to a company while at the same time selling you an opportunity. Also, they bleed a green acidic liquid and when scared will pee themselves. They are survivors.
Kinds of Recruiters
The truth is that all of the above is at least partially true of recruiters in general, but not true of all. Some recruiters know as much about quantum physics as they do about their “clients”. Others will remember you years later and be willing to offer you free career advice even if it doesn’t benefit them directly, immediately or ever. It is not always easy to tell which you are working with, but a good starting point: understanding which type of recruiter you are working with. Like Smurfs, there are only three kinds.
1) Internal Recruiters work directly for a company, usually within the HR department. Remember that they are by definition their companies front-line for incoming resumes, a fee-less source of talent acquisition and the company’s cheerleaders to the outside world.
2) Contingency Recruiters, also known as agency recruiters work for third-party companies. Their company is retained to acquire talent on behalf of the hiring company. These are the type of recruiters most people are referring to when they mention “recruiters take 20% of your first year salary as payment.” Not true, contingency recruiters are paid not by you, but by the company hiring you. You don’t pay them a dime.
3) Executive Recruiters have the best gig—they work for a third party that another company pays even if a candidate is not found. Most Snarkfinance readers, I have the feeling, are not yet working with executive recruiters.
How to Spot a Good One
Spotting a good recruiter in some markets is as rare as spotting an articulate rapper. They are out there, however (I am looking at you, Common, Jay-Z and Taleb Kweli). When choosing to work with a recruiter it is important to have a clear understanding of what you hope to get out of the relationship, and conversely, what they are looking to get out of it as well. You should clearly define your goals prior to speaking with a recruiter. Once defined, feed them to the recruiter to see how the information comes out the other end. If your goals come back only in small chunks, or are misshapen they weren’t listening and likely care only about their commission, not a long term relationship. If they return to you exactly as you gave them, you may have found a good one. Other advice on how to spot a good recruiter (sans poop jokes):
- Ask them if you should be working with other recruiters. If they tell you “no”, or worse ask you for a “retainer” they are as shady as the mob, minus the murderous tendencies. A recruiter should always do what is best for you, and since each recruiter only works with a limited number of companies (there is overlap, but there is also limited and outright exclusivity) they know it is in your best interest to work with at least two recruiters, and to continue seeking employment on your own. Asking for exclusivity is a request not in your best interest. Dump them faster than a Meth habit, they aren’t good for you.
- Ask them about their philosophy on recruiting. You want to listen to make sure they understand key concepts like long term relationships, and how to build them; recruited to recruiter referrals (meaning their business is based on long term relationships, usually a hallmark of recruiters that place candidates into companies that are great fits, in jobs that are growth orientated.); that recruiting is more a business based upon psychology than sales, in that they need to understand the company culture they are recruiting for as well as the preferred culture of the candidate (not shoving a triangle in a square hole); that they think going the extra mile with interview prep, backgrounds on interviewers, hiring managers and anyone else that may get to have an opinion on your candidacy, and some insight into the direction of the company that is not simply a regurgitation of what the hiring manager told them to say.
- They have experience working in your industry or at a minimum your field of work. Many recruiters start off as recruiters and wouldn’t know a V-lookup from an exercise move. Thusly, they know absolutely nothing about your work history beyond you past job titles. How could someone who knows nothing about your professional experience know what is a good growth opportunity for you?
Recruiters can be tremendously beneficial to your career and general happiness. The ones that view you are a person seeking enhanced happiness which it is their job to aid are the best, although rare. Those that view you are cattle to be sold at market are far more common. I personally have worked with multiple recruiters in my career thus far, two phenomenal (first and third, who also worked with each other), the others less so. Not all three have placed me, and the third never did (I found a job on my own). Despite this, I am grateful to the two that were on their game. Via their depth of knowledge into resumes, interviewing, career planning and local companies and job markets I believe I am a far fitter corporate creature than I would otherwise be. I count them both as friends and career-confidants. The above advice should aid you in finding your career-confidants, not just good recruiters. So put the advice to use but don’t be too aggressive in screening recruiters: remember, they tend to pee themselves when scared.
 Three types of Smurfs: 1) White Hat, Red Hat, and Boobs.
 Culturally they may be able to stay in-tune, true. However you are in need of the whole package: cultural fit and career growth. Any recruiter who cannot offer you that complete package has no place in the business. This is not to say that they need to have been an VP or Senior Manager, just that they have at one point worked in the corporate world in the same general function they are recruiting for.