Got a great question today from a reader looking for some help with their job search:
I’m on a job search right now, and I have been in contact with what appears to be a reputable, local recruiting agency.
When I find an opening online, I often contact the recruiting agency to see if they have a relationship with the hiring company. I’m hoping that they might have an “in.” Now I’m wondering if this is a good idea due to the extra fee my application would carry with it. This is especially true if the hiring company was not planning on using the recruiting company for the opening in question.
On the flip side, applying online can feel like sending my application into a black hole. I know the best option is to have a friend/colleague on the inside to get my resume to the hiring manager, but let’s assume I don’t have that – which I often don’t.
So the question is, which is better?
(1) Applying online with the risk of never being found (but also with no extra fees), or
(2) Using a recruiting firm for a position that they weren’t specifically contracted to try to fill, but they have connections.
I wish there was a definitive correct answer for this situation. Truth is, it really comes down to the relationships between the job seeker, the recruiting agency and the corporate recruiter. To offer some insight, I reached out to Lars Schmidt, who leads the talent acquisition and innovation team at NPR. Lars understands the hiring process and was gracious to share his expertise.
[Lars] Agency recruiters can be a valuable tool for your job search, but the key to their value usually depends on two things: 1) they have a relationship with the company 2) the company is using agencies for the open job. Unless both conditions are met, agency recruiters might not be your best job search resources.
The reality is internal recruiting departments and hiring teams in many companies are under tight pressures to contain costs. This reduces their ability to use external agencies, outside of very niche skillsets and hard to fill roles.
Most internal recruiters I know won’t accept unsolicited resumes from agencies. This means your approach behind option #2 might work against you. If an agency submits your unsolicited resume to a company, they likely won’t accept it (unless they’re approved to work with agencies on that search, but even then, they may not if they don’t have a relationship with the firm). Even worse, your background may be a good fit for the job but they won’t consider you because they don’t want to deal with an agency trying to climb a fee if they hire you. That’s a worse outcome than if you would have applied directly.
That story isn’t meant to scare you away from agency recruiters. I spent the first 3 years of my career recruiting for an agency. There are some great ones out there who truly have strong relationships with companies, are ethical, and work in both party’s best interests. The challenge is that often time you have no way of knowing whether they really have relationships with clients they claim to. There are shady firms, and shady tactics, out there so if you find a great recruiter make sure you cultivate that relationship.
I would recommend option #1, but add some additional steps. Recruiters will need you to apply online for a variety of reasons including compliance, process and workflow. Savvy job seekers know that’s just one aspect of the process. It’s important job seekers actively work to network, identify and engage recruiters and hiring managers within a company.
LinkedIn is great for this. Even other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are good options. In person networking at conferences, meet ups, etc. is also really important (though I understand this can be pricey, there are alternatives online forums like groups and chats that also provide networking opportunities). The bottom line is if you can get a source inside that company to share endorse your resume and candidacy, and assuming you have the right skills/etc. for the role, that will give you an advantage and help you stand out – on your own.
We’ll actually be discussing how job seekers can optimize their LinkedIn profiles and more effectively use it as a job search tool in the next episode of Career Hangout with Craig Fisher and Laurie Ruettimann this Tuesday 9/25 11-11:30am ET. If you miss the live broadcast, you can watch the archived version on CareerHangout.com. Hope this helps!
I also wanted to share the staffing company perspective. So I reached out to a long-time friend and colleague, Joan Ciferri, SPHR, CPC, president of David Wood Personnel in South Florida. I asked her to share a firm’s POV about candidates calling them regarding openings. Do staffing firms cold call companies when they have candidates who appear to be a good fit? Here’s what Joan had to say.
[Joan] When a company pays to post a position on a job board their preference would likely be to find a candidate through that posting rather than adding a recruiting fee to what they’ve already paid for in the posting. That being said, if they are open to working with a recruiter the process of hiring is much easier and time effective for them in the long run.
Many recruiters spend most of their day finding candidates for jobs instead of jobs for candidates. What that means is that clients contact the recruiter with job openings and they recruit for the qualified candidates to fit those jobs. After all it is the client company who is paying the recruiter to perform.
If you, as a candidate, have a nice relationship with a recruiter who is proactive and a “go getter” (Like the recruiters at David Wood Personnel) it would be a great idea for you to call that recruiter before you answer the posting. If the recruiter has an “in” with the client AND you are a good match for the position the recruiter should be able to contact the client in hopes of creating an interest in you because of their relationship and your qualifications. At this point they should not tell the client your name UNTIL the client agrees to see you or your resume through this referral. It is done this way so if the client does not have an interest in using a recruiting company you can still have an opportunity to apply on your own without you or the company violating any agreement with the recruiter.
If you are able to get an interview through the recruiter it will allow you to have a big advantage over the 100s of other resumes the client is receiving. Prior to your interview the recruiter should be able to share more about the job than just the information in the job posting. They should be able to give you insight into the person you will be interviewing with and should practice a mock interview. This will help you to feel confident about communicating the qualities and experience you have that qualify you for their job. The recruiter should test your skills required for the job, check your reference and share these with the client. This will make it much easier for the client to hire you than to have to do this all on their own with candidates who are answering their ad.
You and the recruiter should have a timeframe in mind for the recruiter to create interest. If they are unable to create interest you could then apply on your own.
I hope this helps answer your question. Best wishes for a quick and effective move to your next career position!
My thanks to Joan and Lars for sharing their experience and expertise. I hope that once job seekers are armed with good information, they can make the right decision for their situation.