Recruiter monogamy?
March 8, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

How many recruiters should I work with?

I have decided after many years that I need to find a new employer. I have had the same role for over 10 years, and there are no opportunities to advance with my current employer. It's time to make a step up, but since I haven't looked for a new job in 13 years, I am not sure how things work now. I have the names of several recruiters that friends have used, and want to start looking through one or more of these.

Is it advisable to work with multiple recruiters at one time? Do I need to select just one? They may have a non-overlapping set of contacts and I want to maximize my potential opportunities, but will they end up showing my resume to the same people, and does that hurt my chances?

Some relevant details. I am in the Boston area, and a Senior Scientist/Project Manager for a pharma company, looking for a Director level position.

Bonus question. If you know of any recruiters in the Boston area who have excellent credentials filling science related positions, please pass them along.
posted by genefinder to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is it advisable to work with multiple recruiters at one time? Do I need to select just one?

Definitely work with multiple recruiters. They all have different listings, though there will occasionally be overlap. Based on my experience this summer with multiple recruiters, my advice is to trust nothing they say. They will use any information you give them about other jobs you've applied for to get clients for themselves- and then they'll send other people to fill the jobs, not you. So zip your lip about everything. If they ask what jobs you've applied for, talk in generalities but offer no specifics. If they press for details, just say the job details are confidential.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:14 AM on March 8, 2010

I ran into this very same quandary a while back. I met with one recruiter, who told me the following (cut and pasted from her email):

My experience is that most recruiters have several loyal clients who will give their openings and first preference to one or two agencies at most. So, you can work with a couple of recruiters without creating confusion, if you set a few ground rules. Most importantly, you want to always know where you resume will be sent by an agency before it is sent. In the unlikely event that the two agencies both have the same opening, you can prevent the confusion that ensues if your resume is presented to a firm from two different sources. Secondly, you should not share where one agency is sending your resume with the other agency, unless the second agency wants to send your resume somewhere you know it has been sent. In that case, you really don’t even need to say whether another agency already sent your resume or you sent it yourself. Confidentiality and respect are the key concepts.

Note: I work in the legal field, so the above may or may not apply to scientist/project manager-type positions.
posted by invisible ink at 7:19 AM on March 8, 2010

My experience at the director level, although different industry, is that there is no harm in working with multiple recruiters. Having two head hunters offer the same position is would be rare, as the executive recruiters I've worked with have exclusive contracts on a specific position just to avoid that kind of thing.

So, if you wanted to cover your bases, you'd need to have more than one recruiter. Also, your peers may have been solicited by recruiters in the past and may have names. If you are able to ask them, you may find good resources.
posted by qwip at 7:19 AM on March 8, 2010

My experience is with UK IT recruiters only.

In this industry it DOES hurt your chances if the resume arrives from two different directions; recruitment agencies have been known to sue companies that hire people they have put forward without paying the commission.

In my experience, many agents will lie freely about anything. If you ask them to not send your CV anywhere without your asking you first, or to kindly not modify your CV in any way, they may pay no attention. (They may lie to you and the company about everything else too). One agent sent my CV to a sister company of the one I already worked at, so it arrived on my boss's boss's desk.

I've found that going directly wherever possible is far far better. Some attractive employers won't use agencies at all because they have been bitten too badly in the past. Conferences and industry forums or mailing lists (where applicable) are invaluable for networking.
posted by emilyw at 7:38 AM on March 8, 2010

I’m have used recruiters before as have many of my colleagues. In addition, I still get contacted by recruiters all the time (this is for medical education and/or pharma)

If I were in your shoes, I would opt for one who has a lot of contacts and carefully decide if you will work with others (and if you do this, as you stated, make sure the listings, don’t overlap).

I could be wrong about this (this is only what we heard through the grapevine), but I’ve been told that if recruiter A turns in your name to a company, as does recruiter B and then recruiter C that you may not be hired due to a possible conflict between recruiters and as to who has rights for the $ to place you. I did, in fact, have one work colleague who was looking for a job, did use multiple recruiters, and was told that her CV could not move forward at a pharma company she wanted to work at for this reason. There was even an internal person at the company who wanted to work with my colleague. This friend/colleague even contacted the company and HR herself to try to undo this (and just go with one recruiter) but she could not get herself put back into the system. Again, I can’t verify that this was actually the problem, but this was what she was told and I would still use caution if you are attempting to do the same thing.

Also, are you using linkedin really well? List that you are at pharma now and your exact job title and give a lot of details as to your specific job (and previous jobs). Make sure you have contact information directly available, state that you are looking for other possibilities, and make it searchable to everyone. I still have lots of recruiters/HR people and potential clients (pharma and med ed companies) contact me through linkedin, so it can be a passive way for you to learn what is out there. Finally, you can use linkedin to do the reverse. You can search for therapeutic areas, the pharma industry, and your job title – you may want to do this and linkin in to people and let them know that you are looking to network and look for other opportunities. I’m suggesting that you find the interesting projects/companies that are out there rather than having them look for you. If you do this you may avoid having multiple recruiters

Even though I just said all this, I have used multiple recruiters in the past and I was placed by the recruiter who had multiple contacts. I was still cautious and did what invisible ink suggested; know where your CV is going and make sure it isn't going to the same company.

Good luck.

posted by Wolfster at 7:43 AM on March 8, 2010

"In this industry it DOES hurt your chances if the resume arrives from two different directions; recruitment agencies have been known to sue companies that hire people they have put forward without paying the commission."

Yes. But this should never happen because no agent should ever submit your CV anywhere without first telling you who the company is and asking your permission. If you've already applied there you can say you've applied there "in the past" or you're not keen on them for some vague reason.

"In my experience, many agents will lie freely about anything. If you ask them to not send your CV anywhere without your asking you first, or to kindly not modify your CV in any way, they may pay no attention."

True. However there are agents who will stick to the well-established, well-known professional guideline of asking you before they submit your CV anywhere and these are the only ones you want to work with.

You can check reviews online for this sort of thing, but a more reliable scum detector is to pay attention to what the recruiter asks you in the early conversations. Many of them will ask you what other companies you've applied to "just to make sure they don't submit your CV anywhere you've already applied". This line is a total red flag because it's none of their business where else you've applied to and they should NEVER ask you this. If they do, you reply "well, why don't you check with me before you submit my CV to a company, and that way we can be sure that won't happen". They will probably argue with this, because the ONLY reason for asking where else you've applied is to sniff out vacancies. It certainly isn't to spare you any embarrassment.

"(They may lie to you and the company about everything else too). One agent sent my CV to a sister company of the one I already worked at, so it arrived on my boss's boss's desk."

They may indeed. However a minority of agents are not sociopaths, and while they may not be easy to find, the sociopaths do tend to display dodgy behaviour within the first few minutes so at least you can screen those ones out.

And sending your CV to your boss-once-removed is the stuff of nightmares; if any recruiter is satanic enough to do that to you, there's probably no way to stop them. That, unfortunately, is the risk you take dealing with recruiters. But then you also risk that your cab driver will be a speed demon or a serial killer, and that probably doesn't stop you taking cabs.

Overwhelmingly, though, approaching companies directly is far far more efficient than using a recruiter. God bless the good recruiters I've known, they've certainly made a difference to my life, but the rest I have no idea why they don't become overwhelmed by the sense of their own uselessness and just kill themselves.
posted by tel3path at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2010

Be really careful not to give your info to any scammy recruiters. One guy called and e-mailed me several times a day for months, trying to get me to apply to positions that I was obviously not qualified for; he kept it up even after I was happily employed and had told him so. After that experience I'd ask any recruiter what companies they've worked with, how many people they've placed successfully, etc. before bothering to meet in person.
posted by miyabo at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2010

My credentials: worked (in IT) for a large UK recrutiment company. Got made redundant, spent 4 months looking for work - and using agencies.

In summary? They arent worth your time. Simply put, they will waste 80% of your time and not get even close to a 20% return.

Go direct to the hiring companies and yes thats harder to research, but nothings easy. Here are my stats from Sept-Dec last year:

Postitions applied for (via agency): 194
Agency replies: 44 (not bad)
CV's put forward (apparently): 17
feedback from those 17: Zero.
Time spent - I cant even begin to calculate.

In Nov/Dec, I started going direct to companies:

Positions applied for: 3
Replies: 3
Interview requests: 2
2nd Interviews: 2
Job offers:1.

I turned it down and started my own company instead this year. Never going back to a 'proper' job again, its a joke.
posted by daveyt at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2010

daveyt: now that's illuminating. All that time I thought I was just exceptionally unlucky and dumped-on. Now I see it's not just me.

My figures are from 27 July through 3 October 2008. I applied for 168 agency-advertised jobs during that time. I think I got about 8 or 9 interviews, which is not terrible, but it's not exactly good either.

I don't have records about the results I got from going directly to companies, but the difference was striking. 100% reply rate, with interview requests for at least two-thirds. The job I finally got, I applied for through an ad placed directly by the employer. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of advertised IT jobs are advertised through agents.

Yes, I did find a very few good agents during my search, at least three of whom I would work with again. These were the ones that asked to see me in person and who explicitly adhered to the guidelines of their profession.

So apart from those few, I'm resolving never to use agents again. It's clearly a waste of everybody's time, not just mine.
posted by tel3path at 12:44 PM on March 8, 2010

The recruiters you choose are more important than whether you use one or several. Their job is to offer the employers who are paying them a range of top-flight candidates. They won't actively work to find jobs for people who are not top-flight candidates. It's not in their best interests to send sub-par applicants to interviews - doing so would risk losing the business of the companies they contract with.

Almost every field now has recruitment agencies which service that particular sector. If you have specific companies in mind as potential employers, find out who they use.

Sometimes companies advertise the same positions they've listed with recruiters independently, and sometimes they only use their recruitment agency for certain positions. Don't limit your options by turning the hunt for suitable positions over to recruitment agencies alone.

Keep in touch with people in your field. They usually have an idea of what jobs might be coming up long before the formal recruitment begins and can sometimes get you a foot in the door to a position for which a recruitment agency would not refer you.

And remember that many recruitment agencies will sign you up simply so they can use the number of people "on their books" to attract clients. When you're considering signing with any agency, ask them exactly how they are going to assist you in finding employment. Many only go to the people already "on file" if they haven't attracted enough suitable candidates when advertising the position - this is the reverse of what you want in a recruitment agency.

It is absolutely expected that you will be applying for other jobs - you may even find potential employers asking you which other companies are currently interviewing you. Don't worry too much about the "multiple resume" scenario - it isn't likely to work against you if multiple recruiters put you forward for the same position.
posted by Lolie at 12:51 PM on March 8, 2010

Following on from Lolie - tell the agent - if you so stick with them - that you are currently looking at other postions. Rather than the agent thinking you're not worth the time, they'll use it as a bargaining chip - "hey i've got this candidate, he's really good but theres a couple of other companies after him, we'd need to move quickly".

But going back to my original comments, currently, the market is client driven - not candidate.

Its a pyramid of three levels - currently, from top, jobs, clients, candidates.

Statistically, it is unlikely you wont get a job with an agency, yes there are jobs available, but purely statistically, you wont.

Play the odds.
posted by daveyt at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2010

Christ, how many errors??

*if you do stick with them*
*it is unlikely you WILL get a job*
posted by daveyt at 3:14 PM on March 8, 2010

One other point I should have mentioned is how far a recruitment company will work with you before needing to contact your current employer. Many reputable recruitment agencies pre-screen on things like educational background, criminal background and employment references before they'll even put candidates forward for positions - they don't want a client to select a candidate who then fails those benchmarks, it makes them look incompetent. If your current employer doesn't know that you're looking for a new direction, this is an issue you need to develop a strategy for handling.
posted by Lolie at 5:17 PM on March 8, 2010

I'm sure this has been mentioned already, but any recruiter worth his or her salt should be discussing a possible job match with you before sending the hiring company your resume, otherwise they don't really know if you're interested in the job or not.

FWIW, I work in engineering/IT and have worked with nearly a dozen recruiters off-and-on in the past year. I never had any issues with the recruiters I work with and I was definitely able to get several interviews for unadvertised, hard-to-find job openings that I doubt I would have found on my own. Unfortunately I don't know of any recruiters in Boston, but I found mine through a variety of sources (recommendations from colleagues, using LinkedIn, responding to ads on Dice and Craigslist, etc). I guess decent recruiters, like decent jobs, are best found via good old-fashioned networking.
posted by photo guy at 9:19 PM on March 8, 2010

"Many reputable recruitment agencies pre-screen on things like educational background, criminal background and employment references before they'll even put candidates forward for positions"

Right. In order to do this they most often will have a meeting with you where you have to sign the appropriate declarations. *All* of the good agents I've dealt with have insisted on starting with a face-to-face meeting. None of the bad ones ever have.
posted by tel3path at 5:42 PM on March 9, 2010

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