5 Rules for Recruiters

If you've had  a profile on LinkedIn for more than a few days you are probably connected with a few "3rd party recruiters".  I think that many land professionals have a hard time understanding the true nature of their relationship with these types of professionals, so I'm going to try and lay out for everyone what I consider to be some ground rules.  Ignore them at your peril.

When you hear (read) me say headhunter, executive recruiter, 3rd party recruiter, talent agent, recruiter -- they all mean the same thing.  A person who finds talent for their client and gets paid for it.  I'm not talking about corporate recruiters who work in-house for a company.  Before we get into my rules, let's just start with a few general facts:

  • Headhunters don't work for you, they work for their clients - the people who pay them.
  • Recruiters may not know much about your business, or how your experience is relevant to a position without you explaining.
  • Recruiters typically earn a fee that is a percentage of the salary of the person hired. (Typically 15%-30%, but could be as higher for difficult searches.)
  • After presenting a candidate, the recruiter can earn a fee if that company hires that person over a period of time.  Likely six to twelve months.

Let's think about those facts.  It means that you, as a candidate, are a commodity.  You are something that is bought and sold, and the recruiter makes a margin off of your value.  That means you should have certain expectations of your relationship with that recruiter.  Allowing a recruiter to represent you could mean the difference between you getting an interview, and not getting an interview.  

Does that mean you should never work with a recruiter?  No.  It does mean that you should very carefully vet any recruiter that you work with.

With that in mind, here are the questions I ask anytime a recruiter contacts me:


What company is hiring for the position?

Some recruiters will tell you that they can't share the information until after the company agrees to interview you, or some other reason that it has to be a secret.  I haven't heard a reason yet that makes me ignore this rule.  You have to tell me who your client is.  Maybe my college buddy is a senior level employee there.  Why do I need you to present me?  Maybe I am very familiar with the company, and I know that I don't want to work there.


What is your relationship with the company and the hiring manager?

If I'm going to work with a recruiter, I want it to be someone that can get me an interview I might not otherwise have received.  Let me share with you a 'good' answer to this question: "Randy, the hiring manager was recently promoted from a senior analyst level position.  I placed him at the company 2 years ago, and have kept in touch.  He contacted me personally to assist with the placement. "  I want to hear about how the recruiter will use their personal relationship and knowledge of the company to highlight my skills in the best light.


How many placements have you made in the last 6 months with this company?  With this hiring manager?

This is how you can separate the talkers from the doers.  They should have a good answer to this question.  There are acceptable reasons for them not have made any placements, but it should be a reason like "the last hire the company made in this department was nine months ago, they now feel they are ready to expand because they need the help."  The bigger the company, the larger expectation you should have that they have an active, existing working relationship and can show that through metrics.


Is the position posted publicly, or is it a private placement?

Nowadays, nearly all publicly-held companies post their job listing publicly.  However, some companies and positions aren't listed publicly. These types of placements are generally for leadership positions, but you can expect that your recruiter will have a lot more sway with the company when they have a private placement.


Will you contact me after you present me to your client and let me know the results?

It's not unreasonable to ask a recruiter who has submitted you for a position to follow-up and let you know the response from their client. Even if they pass on your resume, it's fair to ask for them to let you know.

The Takeaway

How you interact with recruiters is a major part of managing your reputation. These professionals interact regularly with hiring managers, and are often asked unofficially for information about candidates. Don't be a push-over, but always hold the reins.

What steps do you take when dealing with recruiters?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

Randy Young

Randy Young

Randy is a land consultant with experience in field and in-house land work, land administration, and software consulting with systems used in the land management business. He is an active member of the AAPL, HAPL, and NHAPL and is a regular attendee of industry functions. Randy's latest projects have included land data systems integrations, with a focus on Quorum Land System.