If you are like almost everyone who has ever contemplated a career move, you've probably come into some form of contact with an outside recruiter offering his assistance in your job search. Also, if you have had multiple opportunities to encounter recruiters over the years, you've probably had experiences that have ranged from the recruiter hardly giving you the time of day to feeling like the recruiter had become a second mother, responsible for keeping track of your every move. The average recruiter experience is most likely somewhere in between these two extremes. So if someone should consider using an outside recruiter in his job search, what are the advantages or disadvantages? And, on the flipside of that question, what are the advantages or disadvantages of a company contemplating using an outside recruiting firm to assist in its acquisition of the top talent in its industry?
To step back for a moment, not all of that range of service you've seen is happenstance. Some of the difference would have depended on whether you were dealing with a retained recruiter or a contingency recruiter. A retained recruiter works purely for the client. He is paid an upfront fee by the client to invest his recruiting efforts specifically for position(s) that client is looking to fill. Normally, there is a guarantee that a certain number of qualified candidates must be submitted for review in a specified timeframe, but beyond that, there is not necessarily a guarantee that the position will be filled. The advantage to the company conducting the search is that the recruiting firm is searching specifically for that company, and when quality candidates are surfaced, they will not be exposed to other potential opportunities by the recruiter. Recruiting firms with a lot of expertise in the industry can be very valuable to their clients in this situation. The potential disadvantage is that a fee has been paid, which may not result in the position being filled. Of course, retained recruiting firms that don't have a very good track record of filling positions most likely won't be too successful.
On the other hand, a contingency recruiter works for both the client and the candidate, although he is paid only by the client. The contingency recruiter will normally work with a number of different clients, as well as candidates. His job is somewhat like a matchmaker. He is trying to match the best candidates with the companies they would be the best fit for and most successful at. A contingency recruiter is paid by his client only when a candidate has been successfully placed or hired for the position for which the search was conducted.
For both the client and the candidate, what are the advantages and disadvantages of a contingency recruiter? For the client company, the advantage is that there is no cash outlay, until the recruiting firm actually submits a candidate to them that they ultimately hire. The disadvantage is that the recruiting firm may have sourced other great candidates who have been directed to other opportunities, and since the recruiter is working with multiple clients, this particular client is only getting a percentage of his full attention. Companies will often use multiple recruiting firms in this situation, which, at times, can become a catch-22, as the more firms that are competing, the less emphasis any one of them is likely putting into the given position, due to the amount of competition and the reduced likelihood their candidate will be hired.
For the candidates, the advantage is that the contingency recruiter offers another resource to be utilized in their job search. Recruiters will (or should) have expertise in the candidate's given industry, will have contacts at companies that a candidate could not normally reach on his own (thus avoiding having his résumé end up on the bottom of somebody's pile) and can help coordinate every step of the hiring process. Recruiters can also assist in résumé preparation/critiquing, offer interviewing suggestions and best practices, and help to negotiate offers. The only potential disadvantage to utilizing a contingency recruiter is the risk that he is a bad recruiter and may actually misrepresent the candidate. It is very important, therefore, that a candidate does his homework on the recruiter, understanding his background enough to know he can be a true asset.
In either case, retained or contingent, recruiting firms tend to have some specialization or expertise for the industries they recruit in. The more specialized the firms are, the greater likelihood they can offer industry insights and effective career counseling. The mortgage industry is a great example of this. The role of the recruiter expands to be more one of a career agent for the candidates who take advantage of his knowledge/relationships. Because most candidates are somewhat stuck in the trenches, putting in long hours and working hard just to accomplish their goals, they often don't have the opportunity to step back and take a 20,000-foot perspective, to dissect market trends and know what industry leaders are thinking. Strong recruiting firms are doing all of the above. They are keeping up with industry trends, doing market research and forging relationships with key managers and executives throughout the industry. It is critical to the success of the recruiting firm to understand the direction in which their particular industry is heading. They need to know the stable, long-term leaders. They need to know the aggressive up-and-comers. They need to know which firms are facing legal, regulatory or financial issues.
For their clients, these recruiting firms understand the nuances of all the various positions that could potentially come open and are well connected throughout the industry, to ensure their clients they have relationships that will produce qualified candidate leads. Recruiting firms that will be successful heading into the foreseeable future will be less the hired gun headhunters of old and more business partners that take a longer-term perspective with both their candidates and clients. One of the hardest things for a recruiter to do is tell a great candidate that an opportunity they may have, which wasnt presented to them by the recruiter, is actually better than anything the recruiter might be able to offer them. But if that opportunity is truly the best career move for the individual, a good recruiter will tell the candidate just that. The recruiter will also stay in close contact with that candidate as he moves on in his career, both to be able to assist him in future career moves and to potentially nurture him to become an ultimate client.
The extensive use of recruiters in the mortgage industry is a relatively recent phenomenon. Since networking is such a key component for success for almost all top performers in the industry, the ability to make contacts and source talent on their own was just the expected norm. With the overall expansion of the industry, though, and the rapid growth of new mortgage companies and mortgage products, the time (and potential overhead) necessary to stay on top of the expanding talent pool, as well as grow the business, became a daunting task. Recruiting firms have become more prominent as an outside arm that can assist companies on an as-needed basis, with their fingers constantly on the pulse of the industry and access to that top talent pool a keystroke or phone call away.
Gary Thompson is a principal at Lawrenceville, Ga.-based K&G Recruiting LLC. He may be reached at (866) 892-1272, ext. 103, or e-mail [email protected].