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How to Find a Recruiter

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The internet has made it easier to search for a job, but harder to land a position. When you apply online, your resume joins hundreds, if not thousands, of others in an overstuffed inbox somewhere. Even if you’re a perfect fit for the job, your impressive credentials may never be seen or considered.

To get your application seen, why not seek out the warmth of a fellow human being over the cold glow of your computer screen. Consider working with a recruiter (a.k.a. headhunter). This begs the question: how do I find a recruiter?

These professionals make their living by helping companies find the best candidates for their open positions. Working with a recruiter can help you get your resume straight to the hiring decision makers.

They also often have inside information about what the company is looking for and the type of candidate they prefer. Best of all: you don’t even have to pay them. They make their money from the employer.

If you’re new to the working world or haven’t needed job search assistance in the past, you may not know how to connect with the right headhunter to help speed up your job search.

How Recruiters Work


There are three types of job recruiters:

1. The most commonly used are contingency-compensated headhunters.

They only get paid if they refer you to a company and you get the job. They generally receive a percentage of your first year’s salary (up to 30%–and don’t worry, it doesn’t come out of your paycheck).

For this reason, contingency-compensated headhunters are most interested in working with established professionals who will receive higher salaries, rather than someone who is just starting their career.

2. Some companies hire job recruiters on retainer.

They are paid regardless of whether or not you are hired and are generally only used to hire employees for a company’s top positions.

3. The third type of job recruiter is the temporary staffing agencies.

These recruiters are paid by companies to find and manage temporary employees (in this job market, a temporary position can extend indefinitely).

If the agency places you in a temporary job at a firm, you work at the firm but for the temp agency — they pay you after deducting their percentage.

If the company later decides to offer you a permanent position, the agency makes a commission on the hire.

A temp agency can be a quick and easy way to find a job and may open the door to a full-time job. Some agencies also offer training that may help you find a job.

The Advantages of Working With A Recruiter

A good recruiter will be able to tell you about choice job opportunities before they have been advertised to the public.

Your recruiter may also be able to help you improve your resume and cover letter to appeal to a particular employer. After all, he only gets paid if you get hired, so he wants to help you make a great impression.

Along the same lines, he will likely help you prepare for your interview with some inside information about who’s who in the organization and what the hiring managers are likely to ask you about.

How to Find a Recruiter

If you’re not sure how to connect with these keepers of the most promising job leads, the best place to start your search for the right recruiter is within your own social and professional networks; ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations.

You can also find  job recruiters online. Try searching the web for “job recruiter” plus your profession and the area you want to work in (example: “job recruiter journalism new york”), or use a directory like Oya’s Directory of Recruiters or Find a Recruiter.

It’s important to find a job recruiter with contacts in your industry. Most recruiter websites list past and current client companies and describe areas of specialization. Some even post current job openings. Do your homework and make sure you focus your energy on the recruiters that can help you most.

Once you’ve identified the recruiters that you’d like to work with, it’s your responsibility to build relationships with them. You will likely want to establish contact with several different recruiters to ensure that you hear about all of the best new job openings.

If you reach out to a recruiter and he or she doesn’t call you back, don’t take it personally. They may not be qualified to help get you get a job in the area you’re interested in. They may specialize in more  junior or senior jobs or a specific industry. They may just have no relevant openings right now.

How To Best Utilize Your Recruiter(s)

There is nothing wrong with using more than one recruiter at the same time. The more people helping you find a job, the better your chances of getting hired sooner. Recruiters understand this and won’t be offended.

You should meet face-to-face with your recruiter. Only 5-10% of job seekers do this, but it will give you a chance to articulate your strengths and the type of job you are looking for, as well as motivate your recruiter to find you a job.

If possible, you should come to your job recruiter with a list of companies you want to work at. Follow up with your recruiter after each job interview so they can give you advice for your next one.

Above all else, be professional with your job recruiter. Treat them as you would a prospective employer. Be straightforward and honest regarding your experience, desired salary and intentions.

Recruiters may do a background check, and won’t recommend you if you are dishonest with them. After all, their reputation is on the line.

Also keep in mind t hat companies sometimes use multiple recruiters to look for candidates for the same position, so make sure you don’t apply for the same job with two different recruiters. Only the first recruiter to refer you will get paid if you’re hired and recruiters don’t take kindly to wasting their time.

Recruiters can definitely help you improve your odds of finding a good position quickly. However, don’t expect the recruiters to do all of the work for you.

Keep up your networking activity and invest time in perfecting your resume and your job interview skills so you’ll be ready when the the right opportunity comes knocking.

Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

1 Comment to How to Find a Recruiter

  • DAVID MCKINLEY PAINE

    This is pretty good overview. I would remove the link to Oya, it looks very outdated and half the links there do not work.