Most job seekers are a little leery of recruiters because they don't know how to best work with them. Like all professionals there are really good recruiters that can help you in your job search, while others can just waste your time. The key is to know what type of recruiter you are working with and then figure out how to best use them in your job search. Essentially there are two types of recruiters—corporate and third party. Here is a run down of their differences.
A corporate recruiter is an internal employee of the company for which they are hiring candidates. Most medium to large companies will have internal corporate recruiters to fill most of their staffing needs. Companies would much prefer to use these people to fill their openings because they are already employees and they don't charge a company based on the number of hires they make. While corporate recruiters can work to help sell candidates to managers (and thus help you get a job), they also act as a gatekeeper of sorts. Their job is to make sure that a manager's time is most efficiently being used in the hiring process. If they route sub-par candidates continually to managers, then this will reflect poorly on them. However, if you are a candidate that is an 80% fit for a tough to fill position, then a corporate recruiter could be your best friend. They can make sure the manager focuses on your resume and credentials in the hiring process. On the negative side, corporate recruiters tend to be responsible for a tremendous number of openings, sometimes a hundred or more at a time. As a result their job is really to get as many quality candidates to the manager as quickly as possible, so it may be difficult to get the ear of a busy corporate recruiter.
A third party recruiter (some times called an external or agency recruiter) is someone who primarily gets paid per hire. Since they are commissioned based, these recruiters tend to be a lot more aggressive in finding a quality candidate for their clients. However, since they are so expensive, most companies tend to use them as a resource of last resort. If a company is going to pay 25% of a candidate's base salary as a placement fee, they expect that this candidate to be perfect match for their opening. As a result, they probably won't work with candidates that don't have all the skills needed or are “quick learners.” They are paid to find the best possible candidates for a position. If that isn't you, then working with a third party recruiter won't be the best use of your time. Since third party recruiters are heavily involved in sales and networking they tend to have a real feel for the markets they serve and therefore know about openings, sometimes before they are made public on job boards. In this circumstance, third party recruiters can be great allies in finding unique opportunities.
Who should you work with? The answer is both. You should have an extensive network of third party recruiters with whom you touch base with from time to time to check out the job market. In addition, you should work hard to follow up with corporate recruiters when you apply for a position. If you are trying to get your foot in the door at a particular company, however, your best bet is to work with a corporate recruiter first. You may want to couple your efforts with trying to reach the managers of particular departments directly.
Matt Lowney is a corporate recruiter, radio host, and career consultant specializing in the areas of healthcare and information technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information about his services.