Are Recruiters friend or foe when it comes to looking for employment or career change?

Are Recruiters friend or foe when it comes to looking for employment or career change?

In the past I relied upon recruiters to aid in my job search.  In 2005 I was out of work and decided to reach out to a recruiter for assistance in temporary work assignments.  The agency was instrumental in providing me with temporary assignments that mainly consisted of working for attorneys at law firms.  The work was not easy, but it was rewarding and challenging.  I learned a lot in the process and little did I know that some fifteen years I would return to school to obtain a Certificate in Paralegal Studies.  

One of the advantages to obtaining work assignments from recruiters is that fact that you are introduced in organizations and people that you never would have encountered had it not been for the assignment.  As a result of one of my temporary assignments, I was able to land a full-time position at a large mortgage company.  I worked at the company for 10.5 years until a buy-out package was offered in 2016.  When I left the company, I decided to go back to school to be a paralegal.  As far as recruiters are concerned, a lot has changed in terms of how one goes about seeking for assignments and the agency that assisted me in a time of need as since gone out of business.  I might add they were one of the best agencies that I worked for and had good relationships with employers.

Job Hunting Before Recruiters

When my mother migrated from the South to Chicago, she was hired at Spiegel on 35th street as an Order Filler, and in turn both of her brothers were also hired based on word of mouth.  I can remember quitting a job without a care in the world because I knew I could rely on a recruiter at an employment agency to help me find another one.  That was the way baby boomers rolled back in the day.  Fortunately, jobs were plentiful, especially for entry-level applicants.

Another aspect of looking for a job back in the day included people actually going from office to office and handing out their resume to anyone who would accept it.  Job seekers would often phone companies from their home phone to inquire if they were hiring.    I forgot to mention that people relied upon the Suntimes and Tribute as a source of employment by looking in the want ads for viable employment.  According to the article “The Fascinating History of Job Hunting” By Lisa Dare and Kelly Niles they found the following throwbacks on resumes which is interesting:  In the 1990s, even after job boards started to take off, people still mainly found openings through the newspaper ads.  The same article mentions “In 1997, about 1 in 5 companies used online services for recruiting, whereas nearly half of workers were hired through classified ads. However, by the end of the decade those numbers began to change as people became increasingly comfortable using the internet.” 

How Recruiters Evolved

Simply put, what is the definition of a Recruiter?  According to Wikipedia – the definition of Recruitment refers to the overall process of identifying, attracting, screening, shortlisting, and interviewing, suitable candidates for jobs within an organization.  Employers contact Recruiters for various reasons such as filling roles within an organization that are hard to fill, reduce time that it takes to find the right candidate, and various other reasons.  You might be wondering when were Recruiters first established.  

As a matter of fact, Recruiters first evolved around 1940 as a result of WWII when employment agencies started to advertise for workers to fill the place of those who were in the military.  When the war ended and workers returned from war, there was an influx of individuals returning home with new skills that could be applied to new fields.   As a result of the influx of individuals returning from war, and with an increase in new fields, headhunters and recruiters evolved.  As a baby boomer, I can tell you that headhunters, employment agencies, and recruiters were “hot” and were relied upon to assist in one’s job search.  In addition, there were times when one would fax their resume’ to a recruiter or organization.  

As a matter of fact, recruiters were heavily relied upon in the 70’s and they were plentiful.  During the 70’s one could quit a job one week and have another one the next week with the assistance of an employment agency, headhunter, or recruiter.   Besides recruiters in the 70’s – other forms of recruitment included want ads in the newspaper, job listings on the career board at work, and word of mouth.  

Role of Recruiters

Exactly, what is the role of a recruiter and are they relevant in today’s society?  Is the recruiter working for the organization or the applicant?  In reality, the recruiter is an advocate for the organization – not the applicant.  The recruiter has been hired by the organization – not the other way around.  Therefore, they are championing for the organization and not the job applicant.  I can seek out a recruiter, but I cannot hire the recruiter to assist with my job search unless I pay a head hunter.  Do they even still exist?  In essence, the recruiter is being paid to assist the employer and they are paid to find applicants and do what is best for the company.  Some companies have internal recruiters and rely upon employees for referrals before going for help externally.  

The sole purpose of a recruiter is to help the company find the best candidate(s) suited to fill vacant positions.  Usually, recruiters have a pool of applicants, but continue to seek new applications for their pool.  What is the premise behind that concept? The pool is overflowing with applicants, but they have not gotten jobs for the people that’s been waiting for a while…..It appears to be a numbers game.  Today, recruiters search LinkedIn and other sources for candidates, and candidates seek them out by sourcing through listings on the Internet, Indeed, Monster, Zip Recruiter, and other job sources.  

Basically, the recruiter is an advocate between the organization and the candidate.  The recruiter is relied upon to rely information between the two parties prior to talking or setting up an interview.  The recruiter can help facilitate the meet and greet, but they are not responsible for the hiring process.  That is up to the hiring manager.  Another aspect of the recruiter is to build a relationship between two people that do not know each other, but potentially could wound up in an employee/employer relationship.  

The recruiter’s role is to sift through the candidate’s resume’ and find the best fit for the organization.  If the recruiter is fortunate enough to find the “perfect” candidate, the recruiter will be awarded a monetary figure based on the level of the position.  Usually, the candidate is required to stay in the position for a certain period of time in order for the recruiter to receive their monetary payout.  

Furthermore, as job applicants, do we rely too much upon recruiters to assist with our job search or career change?  What are they doing for us that we cannot do for ourselves?  According to the article” Should I Use a Recruiter in my Job Search” the following individuals should use a recruiter based on the following factors:  

Individuals Who Would Profit from a Recruiter

  • You work in a field with a shortage of talent. There are more open positions than good people to fill them (software engineering is an example right now in many cities).
  • You have very specific and hard-to-find skills. Or a lot of experience in your industry. You’re a specialist or expert in your profession.
  • You’re in a top company that is known for having talented people (Google, Facebook, Tesla, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • You’re an experienced manager or executive. Most recruiters get paid a percentage of your starting salary when they find you a job (15-25% is normal) so they’re willing to spend more time helping you if the potential payoff is bigger.
  • You’re a consultant or contractor who is looking for a temporary position, not a permanent job. If this is the case you should talk to plenty of contract recruiters.


  • Entry level job seekers. Employers pay a 15-25% fee if they hire someone through a recruiter, so they have to decide if it’s worth it for each job!)
  • You are looking to make a transition or pivot your career. A company isn’t going to pay a big fee to a recruiter if you’re not coming in with specialized knowledge and a track record of doing what they need. 
  • Your job does not require specific skills or knowledge, so companies can easily find enough people to fill open positions.


According to “Common Job Search Pain Points and How to Overcome” by Erica Woods – over 25% of applicants mentioned frustrations with recruiters and wonder why they did not hear back from them after the first conversation (1).  One of the problems associated with working with a recruiter is assuming that they are going to get you your “dream” job.  So, what do we do…..we sit back and wait to hear from them and get frustrated when we do not week-after-week.  I’ve been there. I recently had an encounter with a recruiter and her pitch sounded good, but I have not heard back from her even after reaching out.  Should I be upset with the recruiter or myself for thinking that she would deliver? She even promised to make changes on my resume’, provide feedback, and get back in touch with me.  It’s been about a month and I have not heard anything. I reached out, she promised to check with the firm where my resume’ “was sent,” but still nothing as of yet. I have pretty much written her off as many applicants do while working with a recruiter.  

I am not insinuating that all recruiters are not to be trusted.  As a matter of fact, I know individuals that have obtained employment through recruiters.  I am suggesting that at the end of the day we are responsible for our job search – not the recruiters, and if they are able to assist in the process – fine – but do not let them be your only source of landing your dream job or next opportunity!  Furthermore, we should not put our future into the hands of recruiters based on blind promises.  At the end of the day it’s all about business and not who needs the job the most!  What are your thoughts and experiences with recruiters lately?  I would love to hear from you!

What are Your Thoughts?

Last, but not least, last week I was contacted by a recruiter from LinkedIn that wanted to know if he could contact me regarding a position that he felt I was be a good fit for.  I was hesitant about contacting him, but decided to follow through since I am looking for work and want to follow up on all leads.  I asked for his number, looked him up on LinkedIn to ensure legitimacy, and contacted him.  

The recruiter thanked me for contacting him and proceeded to vaguely tell me about the open position he was trying to fill.  I asked the usual questions about the position and he proceeded to inform me that he would send me a job description to which I replied “thanks” and “I look forward to hearing from you.”  Well, after I did not hear back from the Recruiter, I decided to follow-up with him since I know that I am not the only individual looking for work and assume he has spoken with other potential candidates.  I sent him a message via: LinkedIn and have yet to hear back.  

I know that recruiters probably do not have the band width to contact everyone that contacts them, but I feel as though they can at least return a message and/or phone call if they took the time to contact one in the first place.  I think it’s the considerate thing to do.  Is that asking too much of a recruiter when they have the option to text, email, message, and call?