You need a new job and you want it to be as painless as possible. So you’re wondering… “Should I use a recruiter in my job search?”

The answer is “it depends.” I’m going to show you how to decide for yourself if you should use a recruiter.

First things first… we need to separate the two types of recruiters out there.

There are two different types of recruiters

The two types are “in-house recruiters” and “agency recruiters”.

In-house recruiters work for one company and help that company hire. That’s it.

In-house recruiters conduct job interviews and “screen” applicants but they can’t take your resume and show it to multiple companies, and they can’t help you expand your job search. So let’s move on.

What about agency recruiters? They work for a recruiting agency and help multiple companies find people to hire. They’re the ones we need to focus on in this article.

But not so fast… they can’t help everyone. Let’s look at why.

Agency recruiters work for the company, not you

That’s the reality. They serve the needs of the companies who hire from them.

When was the last time you paid a recruiter as a job seeker? The answer should be “never.”

Meanwhile, the companies they partner with are paying them thousands of dollars. That should be enough proof of who they really work for. (More info coming up on how much they get paid and how it works!)

That doesn’t mean recruiters can’t help you, though…

So, recruiters work primarily for the company. But they need job seekers, too.

You can’t fill a job without both sides of the equation. And most agency recruiters are only paid when they fill jobs. So that’s the good news. Here’s the bad news though…

Because of the pressure to fill positions, they need to focus on job seekers who have in-demand skills or very impressive experience. Not necessarily the people who need their help most.

So, let’s take a look at how you can quickly decide whether or not you should use a recruiter in your job search.

Should You Use A Recruiter?

Who recruiters can help most in their job search:

If you fit into one or more of these groups, you should consider using a recruiter to find a job.

  • You work in a field with a shortage of talent. There are more open positions than good people to fill them (software engineering is an example right now in many cities).
  • You have very specific and hard-to-find skills. Or a lot of experience in your industry. You’re a specialist or expert in your profession.
  • You’re in a top company that is known for having talented people (Google, Facebook, Tesla, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • You’re an experienced manager or executive. Most recruiters get paid a percentage of your starting salary when they find you a job (15-25% is normal) so they’re willing to spend more time helping you if the potential payoff is bigger.
  • You’re a consultant or contractor who is looking for a temporary position, not a permanent job. If this is the case you should talk to plenty of contract recruiters. Most of this article assumes you’re looking for a full time, permanent job.

Who recruiters can help least in their job search:

  • You’re an entry level job seeker. Most recruiters can’t help you. There are a few exceptions, like college campus recruiters who specialize in entry level jobs. But most companies won’t pay recruiting agencies to fill entry level jobs because they can find enough people on their own. (Remember, employers pay a 15-25% fee if they hire someone through a recruiter, so they have to decide if it’s worth it for each job!)
  • You are looking to make a transition or pivot your career. A company isn’t going to pay a big fee to a recruiter if you’re not coming in with specialized knowledge and a track record of doing what they need. So if you’re a customer service expert but looking to get into marketing, you’re better off job hunting on your own.
  • Your job does not require specific skills or knowledge, so companies can easily find enough people to fill open positions.
  • You’re looking to find a job in a new city but don’t have a compelling reason why companies should hire you over a local candidate (such as a shortage in talent in that city, or a unique skill or piece of experience you bring.)

The right way to use a recruiter to help you find a job

There’s no harm in sending your resume to a few recruiters. If you want to, go for it. Regardless of what I said above.

Why do I say that? Well… it doesn’t cost you anything to try. Plus they might give you some resume tips if you ask.

But here’s where people run into trouble:

They contact a recruiting agency and talk to a recruiter. The recruiter takes their resume and promises to keep an eye out for opportunities.

So they sit back and relax, thinking “alright! I have a pro helping me now. This is going to be easy.”

Two weeks pass. The person hasn’t heard anything. They start getting frustrated and angry. Why isn’t the recruiter helping? Well, because of the reasons above.

So here’s the key: You can talk to a few recruiters, but don’t count on them. You should assume you aren’t going to hear anything from them and go start your job search on your own too. If they are able to help, it’ll be an added bonus and a nice surprise. But it won’t hurt you if they can’t.

How you can get hired by companies even if a recruiter won’t submit your resume

If a recruiter says they can’t submit you for a job, you can still apply on your own. Sometimes a company will be more willing to hire you without the recruiter’s fee attached. So don’t let yourself get discouraged.

Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times as a recruiter I’ve found a job seeker who seemed qualified but my recruiting manager wouldn’t let me introduce them to the employer I had in mind for them. Here were my manager’s exact words: “They’re not bad for the job, but this isn’t the type of person this company pays us to find.”

If you apply on your own you might still get that job.

The 4 best ways to find a job without using a recruiter

Here’s what I’d recommend you use along with recruiters in your job search…

  1. Use your network. Talk to people you know and see if they know about any relevant openings. This is one of the best ways to get hired because companies trust you more if you are referred by somebody they’re familiar with!
  2. Apply for jobs on LinkedIn. (Use this LinkedIn job search method, it’s my favorite method by far!)
  3. Job boards. Here are 12 top job search engines to use.
  4. Use Google to find individual companies and apply through their websites.


Biron Clark

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