13422 Clayton Road, Ste. 220
Town and Country, MO 63131



Usually, no. And here’s why: because experience (mine and that of other career professionals) tells me that there is simply no better way to secure a job in today’s challenging labor market than networking. Only 15% of candidates secure new positions through recruiters, a statistic that comes directly from the recruiting industry’s popular “Red Book,” The Directory of Executive and Professional Recruiters, published by Kennedy Information. Up to 80% of candidates find new positions through networking.

Executive recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people. You cannot “hire” a recruiter, because you are not the recruiter’s “customer.” Recruiters work for employers who pay them to find the best-qualified candidate for a defined opening or job description.

There are two types of recruiters: retained and contingency. Retained recruiters get hired for industry expertise and their network. They are usually engaged to find the best/uniquely qualified candidate at the $100,000+ salary range and are paid for their time—whether or not a candidate is ultimately hired. Sometimes they will select a few candidates to be interviewed. If you are not the right candidate, there is no incentive to “place” you. If the retained search firm is working for your employer, you are “off limits” for any other requisition the recruiter may have with another company.

Contingency recruiters find candidates with qualifications for a defined opening or job description. They keep extensive databases of names to respond to employer requests quickly and are usually motivated to provide advice and help to the candidate. Since they don’t get “exclusive” assignments and are paid only if they place a candidate; they must work quickly to find—and present—a qualified candidate before another recruiter wins the “sale.” So the more candidates they identify, the greater the chance one will be hired, whether or not the fit is ideal.

Both retained and contingency firms operate in “generalist” and “specialist” business models.

Contingency firms typically operate at the mid-level management and professional levels especially in technical fields like engineering and IT; they often specialize by industry and/or job function. If you are conducting a confidential job search, then contingency recruiters—who are set up for breadth and speed—may not be an ideal choice.

Note that all recruiters (and many employers) prefer to hire “passive” candidates, or those that are currently employed. In a labor market where there is an oversupply of candidates, you may have difficulty in accessing and attracting a recruiter’s attention. So once you have a relationship with a recruiter, you want to nurture and maintain that valuable relationship.

Staffing/employment agencies work at the lower-end rank and file part of the workforce and many specialize in temporary assignments, which provide employers the option of “trying out” a candidate before extending an offer of permanent employment. This benefit also extends to workers who are given the opportunity to evaluate whether or not a prospective employer is a good cultural fit. You will find staffing/employment agencies in every major metropolitan market, and they’re a great place to start if you need flexibility and placement assistance.

Ellie Vargo, MRW, CCMC