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Understanding Recruiters

By Susan P. Joyce

A recruiter is typically the person who talks with job candidates and screens them. They are the "gate keepers" for the hiring managers.

Employers hire recruiters to find the right people to fill open jobs. Notice who the recruiters work for -- not job seekers.

Because recruiters are paid by employers, they focus on pleasing their boss (or client in the case of external recruiters).

Basic Kinds of Recruiters:

While all recruiters work for employers, not all recruiters are employees of the employer who has the open job.

Many do work only for one employer (their employer), but many others are either independent (running their own recruiting business) or employed by a recruiting agency or staffing firm.

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1. Internal recuiters

These recruiters are employees of the employer with the open jobs, usually part of the employer's Human Resources organization. They are also known as "in-house recruiters" or "corporate recruiters."

2. External recruiters

These recruiters are not employees of the employer with the job openings. They work for themselves or someone else and are often called "agency recruiters." External recruiters are classified into one of two categories, based on how they are compensated for the efforts:

  • Contingency Recruiter

    A contingency recruiter is paid "contingent" on whether or not a person referred by them is hired. In other words, they are paid a commission for every job opening which they fill. So, the jobs they are filling may also be filled by another agency or even an internal recruiter.

    Typically, employment agencies and staffing firms are contingency recruiters. Be careful about working with too many contingency recruiters. An employer may exclude you if you are submitted by more than one recruiter because they don't want to face a dispute over which one to pay if they hire you, and they certainly won't want to pay more than one agency.
  • Retained Recruiter

    Sometimes called "headhunters" retained recruiter are paid "retainers" for their recruiting efforts, independent of whether or not open positions are filled. Usually, their focus is on senior level jobs or jobs where finding qualified job candidates is not easy. Presumably, if no positions were ever filled, the retained recruiter would eventually be replaced by someone more effective.

Many recruiters help job seekers, but it is important to remember that they are paid by the employer, not by the job seeker. So, their primary goal and loyalty is to that employer.

New Variation of Recruiter: "Sourcer"

A sourcer is a researcher who identifies possible qualified job candidates, typically via the Internet. Sourcers use search engines and other tools to find "passive" job candidates - people who are employed and not apparently looking for new jobs.

Sourcers provide the recruiters with the names, contact information, and details of qualified candidates. They don't usually contact job candidates directly.

Read Hannah Morgan's article "Get 'Sourced' to Get Hired" for more information about how to be discovered by sourcers, even if you are not a passive job candidate.

More about working with recruiters:


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management since 2012, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and onGoogle+.



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Guide to Working with Recruiters

Handling Special Situations:

How Recruiters Work:

How Recruiters Find You:

Why Recruiters Choose You:

How to Impress a Recruiter:

More Tips for Working with Recruiters:

More Information:

Working w/Recruiters Expert: