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How to Work with 3rd Party Recruiters

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Steven Steinfeld
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Published on November 12, 2014

When I say 3rd party recruiters, I am referring to recruiters who do not work directly for an employer. These recruiters, who typically work on a “contingency” basis, seek out and provide job candidates to their client companies, but receive no payment from these companies unless their candidates are hired. Relationships with these recruiters may expand your opportunities, but you should have a clear and realistic understanding of the relationship and how to manage it.

The recruiter may find you on LinkedIn or other social media, or you can do some research to find a recruiter who specializes in your field. In any event, do not depend on a 3rd party recruiter to take responsibility for your job search, particularly since he may never bring you to the attention of a company if you are not one of his most qualified candidates. Also be aware that 3rd party recruiters are typically more interested in finding candidates for full time positions who are currently employed (known as passive candidates), since that is the greatest value-add that they can provide to an employer. A recruiter may also just be building his database with your resume without having an immediate opportunity. Keep in mind always that a recruiter works for his clients to help them find qualified candidates for specific jobs. His job is not to find a job for you!

If you are an international student, the recruiter will often lead you to a contract assignment. If you receive an offer for a contract assignment through a 3rd party, you need to know who will be your employer of record.

Tips on Working with 3rd Party Recruiters

  • Do not pay the 3rd party recruiter. He will be paid by the hiring company if you are hired and stay for a specific amount of time (e.g., 3 months).
  • Do not provide sensitive information (e.g., social security number) or sign agreements that you have not had carefully reviewed (preferably by an attorney).
  • Be honest with the recruiter. Do not exaggerate your qualifications, education, or past salary history.
  • If you are already interviewing at a company, have had a good informational interview, or have a plan to contact a company on your own, tell the recruiter not to submit your resume to that company. If he submits your resume, you may be at a big disadvantage with other candidates if the company feels that they may owe him a commission (typically between 15% and 25% of your first year’s base salary). For this same reason, do not allow your resume to go out without knowing the name of the company receiving it, and tell the recruiter not to send your resume to any company without your permission.
  • If not really interested in an opportunity, be honest. Don’t waste the recruiter’s time.
  • Most recruiters specialize in an industry. Work only with the ones who specialize in yours and have strong working relationships with employers of interest to you. Check out the recruiter’s website and research him in a Google search and on LinkedIn. A good recruiter will have an excellent reputation, understand his client’s organization very well, have worked with candidates similar to you in the past, and should know almost immediately if you are a potentially good fit.
  • Follow up with the recruiter to get the status of a specific opportunity, but do not call him more than once per week or he may get annoyed and you may appear desperate. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t remember you immediately. Recruiters speak with many people every day.
  • Treat the recruiter in exactly the same way you would treat a corporate recruiter who works for the company directly. Remain professional at all times, proofread your written communications to him, and do not share negative information or doubts about your ability to meet less important job qualifications.
  • Work with no more than 3 recruiters, and concentrate on building a strong relationship with the one who appears most interested in working with you.
  • Keep your expectations low. Assume that nothing will happen, and you will not be discouraged when he doesn’t get back to you. Remember, he will only put his best candidates forward.
  • Don’t contact the recruiter’s client directly at any time since it will be seen as very unprofessional and will almost certainly disqualify you from the job.
  • A good recruiter will schedule and prepare you for interviews, provide you with timely feedback, and work out your compensation and benefits if you are offered the job.
Steven Steinfeld

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