Gauging recruiter reliability or effectiveness?
October 2, 2012 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Gauging recruiter reliability or effectiveness? How do I tell if they're any good?

When job hunting, it seems like a large number of posts are actually for recruiters looking to fill a position for a client. I've heard some not so great things about recruiters, but it seems like I'd be cutting out a huge chunk of my search pool by avoiding them. Also, there seems to be a difference in applying for jobs that are posted by recruiters or staffing agencies v.s. reaching out to a specific recruiter who you work with to find a position for you. Is this correct?

Is there a way you can tell if a recruiter is any good? Like some website with recruiter ratings or reviews? It sounds like most recruiters are bad, but the good ones are really good. How can you tell the difference? Or do you just have to work with them to find out?

Is there even any reason to be weary of applying to positions put up by recruiters?
posted by villafoyager to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call the recruiter and ask what companies they've actually placed applicants with and what kind of jobs they most frequently place. All of the recruiters I have interacted with brag their little faces off about what fancy clients they have, so if you run into someone who doesn't answer that simple question, it's probably a red flag.

Also, (thanks, edit feature!) you shouldn't have to do a whole lot of work once you hook up with a recruiter. Let them do the heavy lifting.
posted by phunniemee at 4:07 PM on October 2, 2012

Some recruiters are hired by a company to fill one or more positions. These recruiters know their clients well, want to maintain good relationships with them, and are generally providing the same kind of service an in-house recruiter would provide elsewhere, though their compensation may be entirely commission based. If things don't work out with the primary client they recruited you for, they might get back in touch and try to shop you to other positions, but these guys are generally on the more reputable side of the industry, imho.

In contrast, the recruiters who tend to give their industry a bad name are those who don't really represent particular clients, but rather seek out prospects and shop them around to positions in the hope of a commission. They tend to advertise jobs without actually listing the company name ("blind postings") so people don't do an end-run around them and apply directly). See, for instance, this blog post on the subject, though not all blind postings are from dishonest recruiters. In the worst cases, the recruiters have no connection with the hiring companies at all, and are basically trying to insert themselves as a middle man.
posted by zachlipton at 4:48 PM on October 2, 2012

Word of mouth is how you find good recruiters. I find working directly with companies (or recruiters who work in-house for one company) is better because the company will be more invested in getting a good fit rather than earning an easy buck by shoving you into the first marginally acceptable job they can find, but it doesn't mean you should not go for a posting you like just because there's a recruiter behind it. Zachlipton is also totally right about the two types of recruiters.
posted by phoenixy at 5:20 PM on October 2, 2012

A good recruiter builds a strong network, returns calls, and maintains relationships. They should be able to give you detailed guidance about their client before any interview. The best recruiters acknowledge inbound applications by return of mail. The worse ones are basically farms.

I would expect a good recruiter to want to meet me if they were going to consider me. If they don't, they're dealing with volume and not selecting candidates properly for their client - likely because they are dealing with so many applications and/or the fees are too low to make vetting viable. This is also not a great sign.

Look closely at the ad. Is it realistic. Particularly for jobs with a high ratio of performance related pay to base salary. If it is too good to be true, then it is, and the recruiter is selling something that isn't achievable.

Have a look at the recruiter's website. Does it give detail about who works for them - what the credentials of the recruiter are? This matters. The best places are not afraid to show you their staff and talk about their own qualifications. Do you get a good feel from the website - how long have they been established, are they clear on their own niche in the marketplace, do they talk to their clients about the service they provide? If not, then either they are very high end word-of-mouth headhunters (possibly with a side order of competitive intelligence work) or they probably are in the volume game. Good recruiters should talk on their site about the service they provide their candidates - they're getting hefty fees off placements and the ones that succeed acknowledge a duty of care to unsuccessful and successful candidates that doesn't just end when job x is filled.

Despite this, it can be still be quite hard to tell the difference and in my experience the best way to tell is what happens when you don't get the job. You don't pay recruiters. You are not the client. As per the Facebook analogies, you are the product. Nonetheless, you should get feedback off your recruiter if you are not successful. Anyone that does not do this is, in my book, a poor recruiter.

I was discussing this with a friend who is a partner at an big name executive search firm and when I mentioned my poor experience with a competitor, she explained that the competitor's senior people are not equity partners but heavily bonused on short term results. As a result, the culture is aggressive, and works on burning through candidates despite the veneer most firms of their type have of being a long term network builder. You can't really see this from the outside, but the guidance distils down to - do the people you deal with have buy in or equity in the company they work for? If yes, you stand a better chance of them not playing for the short term.

No guidance is foolproof, there are a lot of poor recruiters out there - largely because the companies that hire them do not hear the stories of unsuccessful candidates - they fill the role they are looking to fill and judge the recruiter on the success or failure of just that.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:10 AM on October 3, 2012

Apply for any position for which you feel quaified, whether or not a recruiter is involved.

A good recruiter will discuss your background, discuss the position and ask you lots of questions to determine not only if you have the skills, but also if the "fit" is right. They are the gatekeeper for the job.

If a company has engaged a recruiter, they typically are not also separately looking to fill that position. (if they are, then that's really screwed up.)

Recruiters are usually engaged for higher level positions, they'll screen, vet and research each candidate, presenting only the most qualified.

Get into LinkedIn and serch the Careers sections of any companies you're interested in working for. Apply directly.

When I'm searching for a job, I leave no stone unturned.

Also, you rarely have to deal with one recruiter exclusively. If they ask for that, forget it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:13 AM on October 3, 2012

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