Recruiter Seduction - 6 Pitfalls To Avoid

By Tony Restell

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Despite the rise of social recruiting, there are compelling reasons why employers will continue to turn to the recruitment industry to make a significant proportion of their hires (see: Recruitment Consultant - Friend or Foe?). Given this fact, understanding the motivations of a recruiter is absolutely key to anyone looking to make a career move.

In this piece I'll share how a recruiter earns income for their company, how they in turn are rewarded - and what this means for their interest levels in helping you as a candidate to further your career.


Recruiter Seduction - 6 Pitfalls To Avoid

There are essentially two distinct services the recruitment industry offers to its clients (by which I mean employers, not you the candidate). Firstly there is retained search and then there is contingency recruitment. The overwhelming majority of people reading this article will only ever experience contingency recruitment. Let's look at each in turn:

Retained Search

In a retained search assignment, the pool of potential candidates an employer is interested in is relatively small. A hire is unlikely to be made by advertising the role, as the right candidates simply will not see the advert in sufficient numbers to build a credible shortlist. Hence the recruiter will be required to research the market, draw up a list of interesting candidates, approach those candidates, sell them on being interested in the role and then take them through the recruiting process.

When working on a retained search assignment, the recruiter will usually have exclusivity on the role. They will be paid some form of retainer for providing their services, irrespective of whether a hire is made. This may be an agreed monthly sum for providing the above services; it may be payments triggered by milestones having been reached in the recruiting process (or indeed some combination of the two). A success fee is likely to be paid when an eventual hire is made, but this is only one component of the income generated by the recruiter for their work.

This type of assignment is arguably where the recruitment industry provides its greatest value-add. Given the expense of this approach, it's usually reserved for only the most senior of positions (well into $/£ six figure remuneration packages). Correspondingly it's the type of recruitment that the majority of candidates are not exposed to. That's unfortunate, because this type of recruiting does see the recruitment industry show a healthy interest in their long-term relationship with every good candidate they come into contact with.

Contingency Recruitment

Now compare and contrast the above retained search service with the contingency recruitment offering that most candidates are exposed to...

In contingency recruitment, a payment is only made by the employer to the recruitment firm when a successful hire has been made. It's the norm that several providers will be given the assignment to work on - and so all will be working in competition to try to be the one firm that derives any income at all from their endeavours (every other provider gets nothing whatsover for their efforts).

This type of recruitment is very much a numbers game. A recruiter would only expect a fraction of the roles they are working on to ever result in fees being earnt for their company. The client may change the hiring requirement in a way that nullifies all the hard work the recruiter has done. Competitors may produce a great shortlist that wins out at the expense of that recruiter's top candidates; or they may simply present their candidate shortlist more quickly. Consequently, each recruiter is likely to be working on dozens of assignments at any point in time - but is unlikely to be able to earn any income from the overwhelming majority of candidates that they come into contact with.

Recruiter Incentives

Like many sales-oriented roles, a recruiter will usually be remunerated with a relatively low base salary - and a significant commission bonus based on the placement fees earnt for the company. The weighting towards low base / high commission  is particularly true in contingency recruitment.

This brings us to the harsh reality of the recruitment industry. Recruitment firms can only remain in business if they consistently place candidates into roles faster and more efficiently than their competitors. Whilst most recruiters I've met would love to spend more time helping every candidate that reaches out to them, the reality is that they have to laser-focus their attentions on those candidates who offer the highest probability of a placement being made.

What this means in practice is that:

  • recruiters want to invest time in candidates who are a very strong fit for the assignments they are currently working on
  • time invested with candidates who cannot be placed simply increases the likelihood that a competitor will earn a greater share of the available placement fees


Recruiter Seduction - 6 Pitfalls To Avoid

The upshot of all this is that a recruiter's interest in helping a candidate will be significantly reduced if:


  1. the candidate has put themselves forward for a role that they are not ideally suited to
  2. the candidate is already working with lots of other recruitment firms or has put already themselves forward for lots of roles directly with employers
  3. the candidate displays signs of being undecided about changing career
  4. the candidate is considering various next steps in their career, ie. is not committed to the career move being discussed with the recruiter
  5. the candidate has unrealistic salary expectations or is solely motivated by money rather than other aspects of the role
  6. the candidate shows any lack of commitment to the recruiting process (eg. not calling when promised, being unresponsive) 

All of the above sound alarm bells for the recruiter. Their chances of making a placement are diminished when any of these factors are present. So your challenge as a candidate is to do the polar opposite of these 6 pitfalls. That way you maximise your chances of appearing as a highly placeable candidate in whom they should invest their time and resources. Good luck.

Image source: Victor1558


About the company...

The Social Hire team don't just do social media.

Our group of specialists are an organisation that helps our clients boost their online marketing by offering social media management services on a monthly basis.

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