A Field Guide to Recruitment Professionals

Who does what and how


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A Field Guide to Recruitment Professionals

Recruiters are strange creatures - I should know - I've been one for longer than I care to remember.

This is a profession that people fall into. I have never met anyone who recounts the tale of how they woke up one morning at the age of 8 and said: "I want to be a Recruitment Consultant when I grow up". They may be out there, but I've never met them. Recruiters are often put into the same bracket as Estate Agents, Politicians and dare I say it Bankers, and it is safe to say that some people have recounted bad experiences when dealing with Recruiters. On the whole, however, Recruitment professionals take their roles very seriously and the problems that do occur are usually down to the immense pressures under which they work.

The purpose of this BLOG and the next is not to defend or condemn the recruitment professional, however, but rather to help you understand these strange creatures. Why? Because if you are looking to progress your career you are undoubtedly going to have to work with them. This BLOG talks about the different types of Recruiters, and my next BLOG will explain how to work with them in order to maximise their benefit to your job search.

There are broadly speaking 4 different types of recruiters. The first type you will come across is the In-house Recruiter. These are recruitment professionals who have one client, their employer. They usually form a sub-team within the HR department and often have job titles with variations on the term ‘Talent Acquisition’. The number of in-house recruiters has exploded in the last 5 years, as companies seek to reduce costs by avoiding paying Agency fees. In smaller companies they usually handle all of the vacancies from the shop floor to senior management and sometimes even the boardroom. In larger companies there are whole departments of in-house recruiters and they will specialise in different levels of seniority, or in different disciplines. The level of specialisation of in-house Recruiters in big employers, like Tesco for example, is amazing. In-house Recruiters used to be regarded rather sniffily by Agency Recruiters as "failed recruitment consultants". Whether or not this was ever fair it is certainly not the case now. Some of the most sophisticated work being done in the world of talent acquisition, in terms of use of technology, talent pools and the like is being conducted by In-house recruitment teams. In-house Recruiters are measured in a number of ways, but the most common are cost-to-hire, time-to-hire and their ability to avoid using external recruitment support.

Most Recruiters are however employed by ‘Employment Agencies’ or ‘Employment Businesses’. These are in fact legal distinctions but from the point of view of the candidate (you) the key difference is that these guys work for lots of different clients and as a result may have lots of different vacancies. These are Recruitment Consultants. Most Recruitment Consultants find their candidates by advertising vacancies on job boards and by searching databases. They work with what recruiters call ‘active candidates’ i.e. people who are actively looking for a job, indicated by the fact that they are making applications to job advertisements, putting their CVs on job board databases and are registering their details with agencies. Active Candidates are often also busy updating their profiles on LinkedIn. These are guys who want to be found by Recruiters. Recruitment Consultants may specialize in temporary work, or permanent jobs, or do both. Some Recruiters are ‘generalists’ in that they will make an attempt at filling any vacancy that they can get their hands on. Recruitment Consultants or Agencies often focus on a single trade, profession or industry, however. I remember being part of an exercise within my company where we were required as Recruiters to tick boxes on a grid to represent our areas of expertise as Recruiters. I ticked 3 or 4 boxes representing my fields of knowledge. The generalist Recruiters in the room ticked every single box, for every industry and for every level of experience, regardless. Classic generalists: I had to admire their determination!

When a Recruitment Consultant is doing their work with a Candidate who gets paid a bit more, or has a higher level of seniority, they may call themselves Search and Selection Consultants, but they basically do the same job. Most Recruitment Consultants are paid on a results only basis i.e. they only get paid a fee by a client when that client hires a candidate they have presented. They are referred to as ‘Contingency’ Recruiters.

Finally we have the Headhunters, who often call themselves Search Consultants, as some people get frightened by mental images of heads on sticks, and the like. I like calling my self a Headhunter as you may have noticed. These guys are operating for the most part at a senior level: board room appointments and those just below. Headhunters are Recruiters who seek passive candidates i.e. people who have not registered with Agencies etc. etc., but who may become interested in a role if it is presented to them. The best Headhunters have a high degree of specialism and have received a great deal of training. They will directly approach candidates based upon the research they have done to identify the people who best match their clients’ needs. They have excellent networks, which they may have nurtured over many years. The best headhunters (ahem) operate on a ‘Retained’ basis, i.e. a client pays them a proportion of their fee up front in order to access their expertise and only part of the fee is contingent upon someone getting hired. When you are applying for a job you will not have a choice as to which type of recruiter you work with. You have applied for a job on a company website and it is the in-house team with which you will be dealing; you have applied via a job board and the vacancy has been given to a specific recruitment company with whom you will have to deal if you wish to be considered for the role. Sometimes, of course you will seek out a Recruiter, and ask them to help you. 

If you'd like some support in your job search just give me a call on +44(0)333 300 1296.


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