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If a recruiter contacts me about an opportunity at Company X but I find out that I have second or third-degree connections with people there (through personal and professional friends), should I approach the opportunity and discuss it through the recruiter or reach out and make connections via my personal network? Is it okay to sidestep the recruiter and directly reach out to the company (assuming I have not spoken with the recruiter)?

For most recruiters that have contacted me, they have all been cold contacts via various networking or job search sites. Though I would like to work with recruiters to find good opportunities for myself, my past experience has not been too memorable and have made me feel like I am at their mercy. With an introduction through a friend, I have found that the response rate has been better and people have been more receptive that way.

  • Why not both? whatever gets you better result. – Dipan Mehta Apr 27 '12 at 18:54
  • @DipanMehta My fear is what Mike Brown posted in his answer. It creates a conflict that potentially benefits nobody in the end. – Matt Chan Apr 27 '12 at 20:52
  • I guess, i would go with the advice of normalocity which sounds most balanced and effective. – Dipan Mehta Apr 27 '12 at 20:55
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You need to make a lightning decision when you first talk to the recruiter. If the conversation starts "Hi, you don't know me, but I'd like to recommend you for a great senior ABC position that has just come up at DEF" you have to decide right then if the recruiter is staying in the loop or not. You have one chance to say "Ah sorry, I have a bunch of contacts at DEF myself so there's no need for you to introduce me there" or "Sure, sounds great, and some of those guys know me so I'd like very much to be considered for a position there". If you go that second way, or if you say you are interested before you hear where it is, then stick with the recruiter. Ask his opinion on talking directly to your contacts and then take his advice.

Why? At many large firms if you have been interviewed and then they find out the recruiter talked to you at some point, they may feel "on the hook" for the recruiters fee, or vulnerable to some sort of claim from the recruiter, if they hire you. Generally the way they deal with that is not to hire you. I have seen it happen. So there is more at stake than just "the recruiter might be mad that he didn't get a commission from my hiring." Usually, if you tell a recruiter who is representing you that you have contacts of your own they are more than happy to advise you on how best to take advantage of that. If you don't trust a recruiter and don't feel you would be well represented, don't have that recruiter represent you. But understand your choice to do that may eliminate certain positions for you.

  • 2
    Excellent advice, but I would also suggest avoiding getting beholden to a recruiter at that first call if possible. If they give the game away (tell you the company name too soon) you can easily say "I've already seen that job and I'm looking into it". If not going through that recruiter doesn't work, you can always call them back and say "I'm not happy with my current approach, would you be interested in representing me on this after all". – Mark Booth Apr 30 '12 at 11:44
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Since your premise appears to be that the recruiter contacted you first, then you later found out that you have contacts at that business, inform the recruiter you've contracted with about those connections, and proceed according to your recruiter's instructions. Usually, they'll encourage you to reach out; it's improving your odds of landing a job, and thus their odds of getting paid.

Having personal connections is great, and can be great for landing you a job. Having already contracted with the recruiter, however, if you pursue the connection through your acquaintances you stand to end up with no job and no recruiter. After all, who wants to work with someone that tries to stick it to them? At the very least, if you don't end up with the job, the recruiter will still be willing to work with you, and will have the feedback from the employer to find a better fit for them and a better fit for you.

At our company, we have good, long-standing relationships with certain recruiting agencies. Before they contact their clients, they usually contact us and send over résumés, which establishes their claim and gives us a chance to weed out the people in whom we're not interested. Chances are, if you were approached through the recruiter, it's because the company already expressed some interest. Typically, we don't hire people attempting to end-run their placement service – it shows a lack of ethics on their own part, and we're generally willing to pay more for less risk.

3

Both, with an emphasis with the personal connections, and people who are more likely to personally recommend you and speak positively on your behalf.

If the personal connections aren't providing enough of the right kinds of leads, then talking to recruiters can't hurt. Just realize that there's a big difference in quality between many recruiters. Spend the most time with the ones that seem to have the kinds of work you're most interested in and/or are able to best connect you to the people who can.

Finally, don't forget to give back. Personal connection or recruiter you just met, if someone is helping you look for work it's good advice to be nice to them and thank them for their time, even if it doesn't result in finding the work you want. That's all part of building and maintaining that network.

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If your contacts are on the team that is hiring, or knows people on the team that is hiring, you're better off going through that channel. Think about it, are you more likely to buy a product that someone you know recommended, or something that you saw on an ad on TV? Now picture yourself as the product, what do you think is the best route to get your customer to buy you?

The downside to using a recruiter is that the cost of hiring/contracting you automatically gets bumped by that recruiter's commission. So you're already starting behind the eight ball in terms of salary negotiations (especially when the hiring manager has a fixed budget for his job requirement).

Also, don't submit yourself through both channels. You create a headache for the hiring manager who now has to prove to the recruiter that he was introduced to you first through somebody else. That might prevent you from even getting to the interview where the manager might decide you're worth the extra effort.

Recruiters are a great resource when you don't have an "in" to a company already. Otherwise, just use the connections you already have.

  • +1 -- Pick one (I'd start with your personal connection, because if that doesn't work out you can always go through the recruiter. If you go through the recruiter you're "theirs"). – voretaq7 Apr 27 '12 at 22:33
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My answer would be whomever you are most comfortable dealing with, and if that is a tie, then to go with the personal contact inside the company.

In either case, you would probably want to meet with the person that will be your "in", if only so they can be an effective advocate on your behalf. As someone on the other side, it's a bit uncomfortable when I'm asked to "put a word" in for someone I know personally but notr professionally like my daughter's classmates parent, whom I might know is a decent person, but can't vouch for professionally.

If you found out about an opportunity from a recruiter telling you about it, I would tend not to work around them to go directly to a company. It probably won't cause you major problems down the road, but I would feel queasy about it. If, on the other hand, the open position is publicly available, or you hear about it from you personal contacts, then I would say it's fair game.

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