You need to understand how recruiters work in order to evaluate whether this is a viable strategy for you to use in your job search.


The chance of a single recruiter filling a job that is just right for you... at the moment you contact them, is small. You can improve your odds and get a lot from recruiters with some advice from this section. Sending a superior resume to large numbers of recruiters is still the number one rule.

The Types of Professional and Executive Recruiters

Whether they are called search firms, recruiters, headhunters or employment agencies, all of these firms work for employers. They locate, screen and recommend prospective employees. The most prestigious category of recruiter is the executive search firm. They typically fill positions at ,000 to 0,000 and up. Many refer to them as executive recruiters. They seek to find very qualified candidates who meet highly specialized criteria.

Typically they are retained for searches on an exclusive basis, and at fees of 33% of the annual compensation of the position they are seeking to fill. To distinguish themselves in their industry, they are also sometimes referred to as "retainer recruiters."

A second category of recruiters is mid-level recruiters who concentrate on finding people between ,000 and 0,000 per year and are not normally retained on an exclusive basis. Many specialize by industry or career function. They are sometimes referred to as "contingency recruiters," in that they only get paid if they fill the position.

Mid-level recruiters generally seek out resumes (as opposed to executive recruiters, who work on exclusive assignments, and who do not depend on "unasked-for resumes"). When you want to stay in your metropolitan area, many of these professionals can be valuable career allies. They know their local market.

A growing category is the temporary professional agency. The newest breed of professional recruiter, they earn fees when employers hire professionals, managers and executives on an interim basis.

The executive search firms account for fewer than 10,000 placements per month on a national scale. Furthermore, in the U.S. fewer than a dozen firms control the majority of the business.

Mid-level recruiters have been playing an increasingly important role. Besides specializing by industry, many specialize in accounting, data processing or sales and while some are national franchise organizations, there are many local firms which can be helpful to you.

Recruiters are articulate professionals who have a broad knowledge of business. While the market they represent is limited, it will pay you to develop relationships with those you respect and to maintain them throughout your career.

When they are retained by a corporation for a search, recruiters will often help management determine the type of individual they are looking for, and they may even play a role in setting up job specifications. This consulting role is one reason why leading firms command substantial fees.

Certain recruiters enjoy considerable prestige, often working only on select high-level assignments. However, there are many very fine smaller firms who specialize in either a single industry or several industries or disciplines.

How Recruiters Find Candidates

For the most part, recruiters prefer persons who are achievers, who make a strong first impression and who are employed. They are primarily interested in those who have blue chip or high-demand backgrounds, and who have industry knowledge that can quickly help their clients.

Their sources for finding people range from directories and articles in the press, to their own contacts and files of resumes.

The best relationships with these firms are the ones that begin with their contacting you. Being visible in your industry is the major key to success with recruiters. Being in a hot field or industry can improve things still further.

Making Contact by Direct Mail or Email

To get results through a mail campaign, you need to send them a superior summary of your qualifications. At an executive level, consider distributions of 500 or more. Keep in mind that recruiters are "assignment" oriented. They work on active contracts and have only secondary interest in people from other specialties.

A more recently used approach has been the use of email submissions directly to the recruiter. Your correspondence must supply a phone number that is answered during business hours. Voice mail service or an answering machine is a must. Include your personal Email address when possible. A second mailing to the same list three months later usually produces equal results. Sell Yourself to Recruiters with These Tips in Mind

Get to know as many as you can before you need them. Be honest while pursuing a soft sell. If you are desperate or too available, they will never recommend you to their clients. Initiate major recruiter contact soon after the beginning of your campaign. Because timing is critical, "luck" can play a significant role. Career changers can't expect much here.

Many large firms are contacted by 50 to 200 job seekers each day. This means there will be instances where a recruiter calls you months after the firm first receives your resume. You will be most popular with recruiters if you are a person who will explore attractive situations but who is not too unhappy with his current employer.

Summarizing: How to Use Recruiters to Your Best Personal Advantage:

  • Openings through recruiters represent no more than 9% of the market.
  • The chance of a recruiter filling a job that is right for you at the moment you contact them is small.
  • Recruiters prefer people who have credentials on paper that are easily marketable to their clients.
  • Initiate recruiter contacts at an early stage.
  • Send your materials to as many recruiters as possible since response rates are low.
  • Never be negative with recruiters about your current or former employer.
  • Devote no more than 10% of your campaign time to recruiters.