Confession: Before becoming a journalist and covering financial careers, I spent nearly four years as a recruiter.
Generally speaking, most recruiters are moral and trustworthy. But everyone uses a few tricks to improve their chances of inking contracts with clients and making money. Here are a few that you should look out for, as well as a piece of general advice for when you should enlist the help of a recruiter.
Trick: Giving Away Leads
Any recruiter worth their salt looks for ways to drum up new business. Many recruiters are trained to ask candidates: “Where else are you looking?” This sounds harmless enough, but be careful what information you’re giving away.
For example, let's say you just completed a first interview with a small hedge fund. You mention this to a recruiter. If you give a recruiter the name of the firm and details on the job, the first thing they’ll do after chatting with you – if they’re trained correctly – is to call the company you just interviewed and then send them the resumes of candidates on their books.
If you are not interested in the company after an interview, feel free to pass the information on to a recruiter you are working with – it’ll likely put you in their good graces – but otherwise be careful of casual-sounding questions meant to make you tip your hand. And don’t feel badly telling recruiters that you would rather not discuss your other options. They hear it all the time.
Most jobs require references, that much is obvious. But be leery of providing references to recruiters before you feel it is absolutely necessary. Most references are hiring managers – prime targets for recruiters who are looking for new positions to work on.
If you provide your references to every recruiter you’re working with, don’t be surprised if your former bosses are soon calling you with complaints. A recruiter walks through your background with your former boss, and then, at the very end, asks the inevitable question: “Are there any jobs that we can help you fill?”
Do your best to keep your references private until you’re at the offer stage of the process, lest you frustrate your former bosses and get on their bad side.
Watch out for: Contract Roles
With the cost of benefits rising, many firms have become more reluctant to offer full-time, salaried positions to employees. Instead, companies will reach out to recruiters and ask them to find candidates who are willing to be paid on an hourly, daily or weekly rate.
You’ll technically be employed by the recruiting company – even if you’ve never stepped foot in their building – and will be put on their payroll. This can create sticky situations.
More often than not, a hiring company and a recruiting firm will agree on a working rate: what you get paid; and a billing rate: what the recruiter charges their client. The difference is usually based off of a static percentage, say 25%. As an example, the search firm will pay you $100 an hour and then bill the client $125, making $25 for every hour you work, minus the cost of payroll taxes and some mandatory benefits like worker’s compensation. Everything is transparent, and there are no issues.
However, things can get difficult when the hiring company doesn’t know or agree to your working rate. This happens more often than you'd think. For example, you may find out that the firm is billing $125 an hour for your services and telling the client it's paying you $100 an hour when you're only receiving $80 an hour. It may sound crazy, but it happens.
Ask questions of the staffing company and the firm you’ll be working with. Make sure everything in terms of salary is transparent before accepting an offer.
What you Need to Remember about Recruiters
The role of a recruiter, at its essence, is to provide a hiring company with the perfect candidate - not just a quality person who can grow into the role. Knowing that can help eliminate some of the frustration that occurs when you're working with recruiters, who are often blamed for not being as attentive as they could.
If you don’t have a near spot-on resume for the job in question, you probably won’t have much success with a recruiter. As highly as they can recommend you personally, their value is identifying a hard-to-find skillset, along with the right personality of course.
If you’ve spent the last 10 years in commodities trading and are looking to make the move to wealth management, don’t bother ringing a recruiter. The easiest way to lose a client is by sending in a resume that doesn’t remotely fit the job opening. If a recruiter is smart, they won’t be submitting your resume - no matter how well you say you can make the transition.
Only ping recruiters about jobs that fit your background, and they’ll do the rest. If you want a job that's different to anything you've done before, use your network. And don't blame recruiters when they can't help out.