Understanding the Recruiter; part 1

Recruiters are essentially agents that act as the liason between their clients and the experienced and skilled individuals who are seeking employment; and vice versa. A recruiter is also referred to as a head-hunter.

Some of you who are in the architectural profession may have heard of recruiting services, and recruiters, and may wonder what they do, and if you should work with them. While some of you may have worked with them in your [architectural] endeavors, and may have cursed or praised them for their services, or lack there of.

I have mixed opinions about recruiters. I’ve worked with them. In fact, that is how I obtained the position I am currently holding. I’ve also heard stories of architects and their experiences, and it was interesting where the similarities laid even though the end results differed.

For instance, a recruiter helped a former colleague with a successful hire at a prestigious NYC firm and brokered a salary that was more than what she asked. Whereas I, went through several recruiters (some inadvertently, some deliberately) with little to no leads. I was disappointed and annoyed.

The client is usually the hiring person of an architecture firm, or employer, who uses the services of a recruiter to find candidates who may be able to fulfill the open position as well as meet other hiring criteria. The recruiter is supposed to work on behalf of the client’s best interest in seeking the best candidates and arranging the interview. The recruiter is usually paid by commission, which is a percentage of the agreed salary between client and candidate.

An architect, whom I inquired with about his experience working with recruiters, revealed to me that he had been approached by a recruiter and their commission fee was 17.5% of the expected candidate’s asking salary. He continued to explain that often times a candidate that was sent to him did not match the formatted information the recruiter provided to their clients. And thus, he could not justify paying the 17.5% in recruitment fees on top of the asking salary when the recruiter was sending candidates who did not fit the specific hiring requirements. In fact, when I asked, he admitted that he would not use their services again.

This reminded me of an experience with one of the recruiters I contacted to help introduce me to more firms beyond the ones I had already found on my own. I had explained to the head-hunter what kind of firm I wanted to work in and the type of projects I was interested in pursuing. And then he would contact me about opportunities with firms that were contrary to what I had clearly explained. It was slightly troubling that the recruiter contacted me with opportunities I would not consider. I mean, I was eager to find another opportunity but I wasn’t desperate!

As I mentioned previously, a recruiter helped me to obtain the current position I am holding, and despite a successful placement, my experience was rather unsatisfying. I did not trust them and thought they were perhaps operating suspiciously because it seemed the only motivation for these recruiters to even acknowledge a candidate was if they were going to be successful in collecting their commission fee, which, as I stated earlier, is a percentage of a candidate’s agreed salary.

Despite the examples I described earlier, I could not accept that all recruiters practiced unprofessionally. I had already considered that part of the reason why recruiters may be looked upon unfavorably is due to the lack of knowledge and comprehensive understanding of their role. As much as I would prefer to look for employment the old-fashioned way, (scouring the classifieds), I do think that recruiters are another set of resources that should not be overlooked.

So, I contacted Roger Dunning, of Hunter:Dunning, co-founder and managing director of a UK-based recruiting agency that specializes in architectural and planning placement. He did not dispute that there are some recruiters who do not always play by the “rules”. Mr. Dunning was kind to help clarify some negative attitudes towards recruiters as well as explain the practices of a recruiting agency. Mr. Dunning outlined several factors that contributed to the negative opinions of recruiters. The key motivator to a recruiter’s practice is money; and as a result, this can “…attract a certain type of approach and attitude, (and) that this is one reason that recruitment can be given a bad name…”.

Mr. Dunning also clarified that recruiters do not serve the fee paying client only. The recruiter’s objective is to satisfy both parties with a successful hire otherwise, a negative reputation may develop and the recruiter may lose part of their fees, which is a situation that gains nothing for anybody.

There have been insistences where recruiters have pit candidate and client against each other for more money. I suspect this happens partially when the recruiter thinks the candidate has skills and talents that can command a specific salary bracket, and the other is for personal financial gain. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. It’s a risk, and some recruiters may be willing to take those risks.

The lack of communication and available opportunities presented to clients and candidates also contributes to a negative attitude towards recruiters. Mr. Dunning revealed that recruiting agents are busy at work sifting through 50 to 100 CV’s or resumes daily, and contacting clients to find out what sort of candidate(s) they are seeking and working to match candidates they have on file with the client and vice versa. As a result, they may not always be readily available with updates.

Cold calls from recruiters is a common practice, however there is difference between cold calls and poaching a candidate. Cold calls are typically unexpected calls made to a potential candidate by a recruiter that they have not worked with in placing them in the current position. Poaching, on the other hand, is where a recruiter contacts a candidate with another opportunity after they’ve been hired by their client and fees have been paid to them. This is a very bad practice, which creates distrust.

Mr. Dunning acknowledged that poaching occurs within the practice of recruiting, and admitted that it is a problem he has heard from clients. A recruiting agency has a database of candidates that they have collected, and rely on this resource to help their clients with a successful hire, instead of resorting to underhanded tactics.

And this concludes part 1 of Understanding the Recruiter. In part 2, I will dispense advice and tips on what to expect, and how best to work with them to get the most out of your experience, or money’s worth.

If you’ve worked with recruiters, and would like to share them whether they’re positive or negative, I’d love to read them. Please leave your stories in the comments of this post. Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “Understanding the Recruiter; part 1

  1. You have very valid comments and observations about Recruitment Professionals. My father is an Architect and I specialize in coaching / mentoring Recruitment Professionals. This gives me a unique advantage point to witness first hand what can be gained and lost from both sides of these relationships. You have been able to demonstrate the value and identified the pitfalls accurately.

    I would to also extend my thanks to you for taking the time to go above and beyond to research Recruitment Professionals and explain our industry in a professional way. Mr. Dunning is definitely a valuable asset to the Recruitment Industry.

    Cheers,
    Rebecca B. Sargeant
    President / Recruiting Coach
    RBS Staffing Consultants
    Telephone: 905-627-5060
    E-Mail: rsargeant@rbs-staffing.com
    LinkedIn: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/rebeccasargeant
    Blog: http://rebeccabsargeant.wordpress.com/

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