Dear Mentor:

Should I use recruiting firms?

I am interested in learning about recruiting firms to see if they can be of help in finding a great job. Do you think working with these agencies is a worthwhile effort, or should I be spending my time searching for my next job through other means?

Free Agent, PA, USA

Dear Free Agent:

As you know, recruiting firms, often referred to as headhunters, make money matching the prospective employees with employers. As a result, they tend to be interested only in those prospective employees who can be placed efficiently, given the current needs of their clients. Employers pay the recruiting firms, not the prospective employees. Thus, the employer is their true client.

Generally speaking, there are two types of recruiting firms - contingency-based and retainer-based. In either case, the employer pays the recruiting firm. Contingency firms get a fixed amount or percent of first year's compensation for every employee they place with an employer. In contrast, retainer firms get a fixed amount for the service for recruiting an employee (or employees), whether or not they actually are successful. The rationale is that retainer firms are thus able to focus on getting the best quality employee, as opposed to one that is acceptable. Obviously, if retainer firms do not produce the desired output most of the times, they would be out of business. Employers tend to use retainer firms for senior level executive search.

Within the contingency and retainer categories, there are firms that specialize in specific industries as well.

Most reputable firms tend to follow the philosophy of "don't call us, we will call you." You don't have to be in the job market, seeking a job, to get a call from these firms for potential employment. Your own, personally initiated, communications are likely to go unanswered, and you would be lucky if they maintain your resume on record. We recognize that times are different -- the current job market is tight and finding good employees is more difficult than usual. As a result, they may be more receptive, but not that much more.

Smaller and not-so-well-established firms tend to be more receptive to receiving your resume. Your chances of success however are slimmer because of such firms' limited access to good companies and jobs. Some not-so-successful firms may ask for money for placing you. Our advice is to stay away from them. As a prospective employee, you do not have to pay for placement, since the employer picks up the tab.

Our advice would be to use other means of job search and do not depend too much on recruiting firms. Let them call you, instead of you reaching out to them. Your time would be better spent searching for that ideal job through networking, classifieds, jobsites, and so on. Incidentally, you may want to see the iMahal Jobsite Ratings for guidance on a Web-based job search.

We wish you success in finding a great job.

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