Make Recruiters Work For Their Money

In the software industry, the going rate that recruiters (a.k.a. headhunters) earn for successfully placing you in a job is 20% of your first year’s salary, give or take.  I imagine it’s a pretty good living if you have a large client base and an established candidate network.  As a job seeker, you should be aware of some pitfalls of dealing with recruiters that can end up impeding your job search or block you from good opportunities.

First, remember that the headhunter is a middleman.  They’re out to get you a job, but don’t forget they’re primarily there to get their cut.  The more specific you can be with them about your interests, talents and preferences, the better.  At best, they will pass your information and communications through to their clients directly.  Be on the lookout for attempts to place you in a job that isn’t a fit, but might be a fast close for the recruiter.

When you get in contact with a recruiter, be sure to interview them before submitting your résumé or agreeing to have them submit you for a position.  Ask a few basic questions to find out what their specialties are and how they conduct business with job seekers.  A few examples:

  • What kind of positions do you specialize in placement for? (they should be strong in the area of the industry for which you are most qualified)
  • How many employers are you currently actively recruiting for? (there’s no right answer here, but the number can reveal how large or focused their business is)
  • What’s your average turnaround time for placing candidates?

There’s also a common expectation amongst recruiters and employers that whichever submission – directly to the employer or through a headhunter – comes first, wins.  Some employers will even disqualify a candidate if they receive multiple submissions for the same candidate.  So, it’s important to engage with headhunters at the appropriate time in your job search.  Using them too early may end up locking you out of certain jobs, and using them too late may lengthen the time it takes you to get a job.

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