How to Find an Effective Recruiter (It’s Not Through the Job Boards)

The time to contact a recruiter is at the beginning of your search, not after you’ve sent your resume to every company in the industry or geographical area that you’re willing to entertain. Your resume is already on every company’s desk, and a recruiter can’t open a door that you’ve already tried to open yourself-and failed.One of the most reliable ways in which to find a reputable recruiter is through your associates -certainly ones who have left the company, and especially if they left through a recruiter. Word of mouth is usually a credible way to find a service provider who will perform in a manner agreeable to you. But asking current associates can sometimes compromise your confidentiality unless you absolutely know that you can trust the person.Try making some cold calls for referrals. Large companies use recruiters with frequency, though they may go through the HR department, so start with asking to speak to one of the executive secretaries. Introduce yourself and see if her boss, or any of the other executives, regularly use a particular firm or individual. You may not get anywhere right off the bat – and you may get sent to HR – but keep trying. You won’t always get warm, fuzzy responses, but as I said, keep phoning. You’re looking for information, not a new best friend.You can ask HR, although recruiters should work with the hiring authority. That’s not always possible, however, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective.Here are four additional ways to find a recruiter
Another easy and reputable way to locate an effective recruiter is through previous supervisors. Since you should be in touch with each of them for reference purposes, ask for any recommendations. Chances are one of them has used one or two firms to interview a candidate – or even to change jobs himself at some point – and will be able to tell you if the recruiter paid attention to what he was looking for or merely tried to slam a placement with pressure tactics. At the very least, each boss surely received calls and business cards from several firms seeking to do business and can give you some insight based on the conversations.
Kennedy Publications prints an annual guide called The Directory of Executive Recruiters. It’s a thick, red book available in the reference section of large public libraries. There are a great many changes each year, so obtaining the most recent edition is important. It lists both retained and contingency firms alphabetically as well as by function, industry and geographic location, and specialties by recruiter name with their corresponding firm. You can also buy a 1-year, online subscription at
Retained firms generally handle positions with salaries of $150K and above. If your salary is $100K and lower, start with the contingency firms. The salary range between the two can fall either way – usually toward retained – but there are always a few long-term gurus who began contingency and choose to remain contingency. Their career history is long and solid, and so is their client list.
Choose your category in the Kennedy guide depending on your priorities. If you need to stay within Chicago, scan by geography for firms that handle your specialty. If you’re willing to move anywhere, then choose by specialty instead. Some retained firms won’t list an area of concentration. Many of them are generalists or change their focus from time to time and thus don’t mention what industries they handle.
The Employment Agency section of the yellow pages in your local phone book lists more than just secretarial, entry-level, and temporary help. You might find a few out-of-state firms listed because they have connections in your market, though you’ll need to call to learn their specialties.
Check the classified section of publications that serve your industry. Pick up a recent issue and, if you can, an issue that’s over two years old. Your first choices should be any firms listed in both issues, because that tells you the firm has a track record and knows the trends that are shaping and contributing to the industry.Some firms such as Sales Consultants or Robert Half have been present for a long time in the sales industries or accounting industries respectively, and are large firms which serve as training grounds for recruiters. Nationwide search firms such as these have had industry presence and an established reputation for years, although, without mentioning names, a few of these firms are failing in their reputation. In any case, some recruiters in these firms are good, some aren’t. That doesn’t mean you should avoid these firms or any of their relatively inexperienced recruiters. Every successful recruiter got his start somewhere, and many began with large contingency firms prior to becoming self employed.The training in these firms is impeccable – although there are occasionally trade-offs for it – because they’re publicly traded, corporate firms or individually-owned franchises. They have bottom lines and overhead to meet, a sizeable draw allowance for the staff (with a sizable turnover) and run contests for their recruiters. These contests are designed to help beginners overcome an initial reluctance to write search assignments and set up interviews. But sometimes these contests encourage a tendency to close a deal not in the best interest of either party.Without a referral, finding a connected firm doesn’t ensure you a good recruiter; that’s a separate topic. But it will certainly yield more than working with the ones searching the job boards.

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