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Recruiters, Employers, and Jobseekers: A Love Story

Part 2 of the “What Recruiting Is, Isn’t, and What’s Important to Know” Subseries

By Brian Sullivan

In a recent edition of R&W Group Blog, we discussed What Recruiting Is, who the key players are throughout the process, and what are reasonable expectations for a jobhunter to have when it comes to recruiting. However, one of the most common misconceptions about recruiting, especially when working with a third-party staffing agency, is who is the recruiter’s priority. It’s Part 2 of the “What Recruiting Is, Isn’t, and What’s Important to Know” subseries, and I will be adding context to this deceivingly complex question in the hopes of adding some clarity to the topic.

Where Did My Recruiter Go?

Years ago, a close friend of mine was looking to leave his teaching position and move into a new field, seeking a technical administrator role within a corporation, hospital, or other large organization. He contacted many of the industry’s largest technical staffing agencies; at least half of them scheduled phone screenings with him, but every single one went dark after that initial interaction. Frustrated, he told me it was “silly” that recruiters were disappearing on him, seemingly too busy to notify jobseekers (who he called “clients”) about new opportunities that might interest them. He compared it to “a restaurant that didn’t have enough food for its customers”. Based on his understanding of what he thought a recruiter was, his frustration is very understandable.

He’s not alone in the sentiment that recruiters are thought to be impersonal, pushy, and randomly incognito for long periods of time. It can sometimes feel they are only after a candidate’s money. After all, why would they help someone find a job if there wasn’t something in it for them? The truth is, when it comes to getting paid, that is equally true for recruiters as it is for pretty much everybody: we all work to make money. However, the belief that a recruiter is trying to con a candidate is almost always false. If we think of the “jobseeker” as the “client” in the traditional sense, this misconception could greatly influence those feelings of dissatisfaction, or instill worries that we have become forgotten by our recruiter. Not to mention it makes their seemingly altruistic willingness to help candidates find jobs seem even more suspicious. But this isn’t actually how the process works.

So… Who Does a Recruiter Work For?

Most staffing agency recruiters do not charge jobseekers any fees. Yet, unless they’re directly funded by a state’s Department of Labor or a similar agency, they have to generate revenue from somewhere. Revenue for most staffing agencies comes from the company, not the employee. In many ways, staffing agencies have two clients: the company with the open job and the potential employee. Agencies, like a matchmaker, try to facilitate a mutual connection between both parties.

As a side note, some niche businesses actually do charge jobseekers for a variety of their services, such as resume writing, intensive career coaching, interview skills, and networking opportunities. Some firms even job search for a fee, which may be where this myth originated. These services are so far outside the scope of recruiting though, they are often characterized as reverse recruiting. Career-Finder by Find My Profession is an example of one of the best businesses in this space when it comes to finding potential jobs for jobhunters. That being said, by charging a monthly fee north of $2,000, most jobseekers will not see a return on their investment for services like these unless they are already at a very senior stage in their career and can afford to invest in that cost.

Does That Mean Recruiters Don’t Care About Candidates?

The dynamics of a staffing agency are more complex than that of a restaurant, especially because we never should associate jobseekers with a “product”. In fact, that comparison is too simplistic for the relationships and responsibilities that staffing agencies have for both the employers they work with as well as the candidates they work with. Recruiters absolutely care about candidates and placing them in the right position for them. While the employers are the ones writing the check at the end of the day, recruiters invest tons of time in cultivating relationships with and trying to help candidates. It’s important to establish this baseline understanding before diving into the nuance of this love triangle.

Letting you behind the veil of my actual workflow might help to illustrate the strength of the rapport between recruiter and candidate. Pretend I just received a new job order from a client for an immediate staffing need. My first step is identifying what the 3 or 4 most crucial parts of the role are, and then searching our candidate database, a digitized collection of jobhunters I’ve already spoken to in the past and I generally understand what they’re seeking, to see which candidates embody most/all of those criteria. I then will reach out to all of those applicable candidates to see if any are still on the market and interested in this new opportunity. Many times, that’s as far as a search needs to go, as a recruiter that knows the candidates on their “bench” can quickly assemble a list of highly-qualified applicants for the employer to review. Should these steps not yield any interested candidates though, the next step would be to publicly post the job description, network with people who might have referrals, and to reach out to jobseekers on some of the internet’s most popular job boards and continue to expand that candidate network.

We would love to help each and every candidate find their dream job. Everything depends on the employer’s needs at a given time, the candidate’s background and experience, and the overlap that exists between those two seemingly separate things. Sometimes, timing is everything. Keeping this perspective in mind will help set realistic expectations for your job search, and will strengthen your relationship with your recruiter.

In Short, Both Employers and Jobseekers Are “Clients”

Hopefully, this post helped clear up some things about recruiters and where their loyalties lie. The simple answer is that their loyalties lie with both sets of clients (the employers and the candidates), but nothing in recruiting is ever simple. Don’t take my word for it though; just ask your friendly neighborhood recruiter!

All joking aside though, it is important to remember that recruiters maintain partnerships with a series of employers, and they pair the employer’s staffing needs with the respective skills, experiences, and professional interests of their candidates. This is only possible if a recruiter has a firm grasp of both the employer and the candidate; without it, they risk situations where short-term gains will be outweighed by long-term gaffs, lapses in judgement, and a string of revolving door placements instead of finding the right candidate for the job.

If you have any questions for us, or if we can help support your candidacy in any way, please be sure to email us at Looking forward to hearing from you!


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