Most job seekers we work with do not have a fundamental understanding of how executive recruiters (also known as headhunters) actually work. Most people are under the wrong impression that executive recruiters work to benefit the job seeker. Because of this assumption, job seekers get upset when they do not get speedy replies or feedback from recruiters after sending them resumes.
In reality, recruiters work for the employers. Companies hire the recruiter to find, screen, and pre-qualify candidates for specific positions. Recruiters are paid by the employer based on either the salary of the candidate (contingency basis) or on a flat-fee basis (retained). Most recruiters are contingency recruiters who are paid anywhere from 15-30% of the candidate’s salary; therefore, a recruiter who successfully places a candidate who makes $100,000 will make between $15,000 and $30,000 for that placement.
Since the recruiter is paid by the employer, his/her loyalty naturally goes to the employer in all negotiations and activities. It is a recruiter’s job to find and place the best possible candidate for the job. That means working very hard to find candidates that meet 100% of the employer’s requirements. Job seekers who do not have all the requirements will not get attention from the recruiters. This means that many times, well-qualified job seekers who meet most, but not all, of the requirements of a position will sometimes feel snubbed by recruiters.
There is one way recruiters work to benefit the job seeker. Recruiters will try to negotiate the highest possible salary for candidates because it means more in their pocket due to their contingency percentage. That is why it is important to be very clear and open concerning your salary requirements with recruiters. You should also be very clear concerning issues such as relocation. Recruiters need to know how much you want to get paid and where you are willing to work so they can be most effective in their role as middle-man between the job seeker and the employer.
In general, recruiters do not work with entry-level or blue collar workers. Because it is expensive for employers to use recruiters for hiring, companies tend to use them only for executive or management positions or positions that might be difficult to fill. It is not cost-effective for companies to use recruiters to fill entry-level positions because these candidates are easy to find and recruit through the human resources department.
Because recruiters are dealing with sourcing candidates for multiple positions for multiple employers at any one time, they do not have time to follow up on resumes that do not fit their exact criteria for current open positions. If you are a Sarbanes-Oxley expert and you send your resume to a recruiter, and that recruiter does not have any positions at the present that require Sarbanes-Oxley expertise, your resume will be filed for future reference. That is why it is important to play the numbers when working for recruiters. You might send your resume out to 500 or so recruiters but only 50 of those might be sourcing for your type of position at any one time.