While looking for a new job, is it a good idea to have a third party between you and the company you are going to work at?

In my opinion, the biggest advantage of using a recruiter is that he already knows what the client wants, and knows what you want. A good recruiter won't waste your time, or that of his client, by proposing mismatches, saving time for both.

Then again, the client has to pay this recruiter. Part of that money could have gone to me? And not all recruiters are good at what they do...

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    In the UK the recruiter only get all of their money if the candidate successfully completes their probationary period (basically stays with the company). If you are hired directly that fee wouldn't be available to you in any shape or form.
    – ChrisF
    Jul 4, 2012 at 10:30
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    Hi Konerak! I've closed this question as "not constructive", because there is not enough information to conclude whether using recruiters is "good" or "bad". If you narrow down the yes-or-no question, or perhaps adjust your question to look for when using a recruiter is a good or a bad idea (again, we'll need specifics), then it might be a candidate to be reopened.
    – Nicole
    Jul 9, 2012 at 3:56
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    This is the best question on TW! People, ignore NC and get involved!
    – Martin F
    Mar 20, 2014 at 20:22

6 Answers 6


When you are trying to find a job there are three legs to the stool, you need to work all of them to some degree. I am assuming that you are not looking inside your current company.

  • Coworkers, former coworkers, mentors. - They can advise you about their companies, they can guide you to openings, they can make recommendations to hiring managers. Many times in the United States their company gives them a bonus if you are hired. They can even recommend you to another company. LinkedIn works on this model. As a part of this process you will have to use the company website to apply.
  • Company websites. This includes full blown career sites on the company website where you can find job listings, submit a resume, apply to jobs. There will be a screening by the HR department long before you meet the manager. You can also use these listings to seek out people you know who can recommend you for that position. Some small companies just list openings on the website, they don't have a complete system to process the resumes and applications.
  • Recruiters. They may find your resume on Monster, or some other site. They are trying to fill positions for a variety of companies. Some large companies use them to fill certain positions. They know they can get a recruiter to gather 100 resumes quickly. Some small companies use them because they don't have a standalone HR department.

I wouldn't ignore one of the legs just because it might mean that I am leaving some money on the table. If the company only uses references or recruiters, that is the only way to work for them. That recruiter may know of openings you can't find, or companies you never considered.

I wouldn't just use a recruiter, because then you are leaving your ability to eat up to a third party. But if one contacted you and you ended up having to endure a few phone interviews, there is little time wasted.

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    Although the info is useful I would suggest removing pretty much all the text before "I wouldn't..." as it's not (very) relevant to the actual question. I would change that sentence to "I wouldn't ignore recruiters just becuase...". The info isn't wrong, just too verbose for the question imho of course. Jul 4, 2012 at 19:43
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    +1 Disagree with @MichaelDurrant It is just a different way of answering the question. maybe a little tl;dr on the bullets but worth the read. Jul 5, 2012 at 18:22

The single best thing to have is someone there that can vouch for you. An advocate will dramatically increase your chance of getting interviewed, and will provide feedback on the way.

Barring that... It depends... If you need secrecy, it's better to have a recruiter. It can also help if you have heard of a job there, but don't know how to find it. There are a few caveats, though: You have to find the recruiter working for them. A headhunter that cold calls for you adds almost nothing. Even then, you have to remember that they work for the client, not you.

There is one case where the headhunter hurts you - when you should know of the position. I get frustrated with quality candidates who should have found an open position without needing a headhunter. If I knew the candidate in advance, then I have to tell the headhunter "Thanks but No Thanks." And if I have a publicly posted job, and the headhunter provided candidate says, "I've always wanted to work for your firm" I wonder, "Then why didn't you look for the job on our website rather than increase your hiring cost?"

  • +1 I often wondered about that, but this is the first time i've actually heard the argument from the employer's PoV. Thanks.
    – Martin F
    Mar 20, 2014 at 21:26

I think that whether or not to use a recruiter depends on:

  1. The recruiter themselves. The best ones are part of the community they work with, going to meetups, events, social stuff, etc. and getting to know both their companies and their job-seekers in detail.

  2. The market. If your segment is in super-high demand and you skills are half-way decent, you are best of approaching the company yourself. When there are many more job seeker than jobs though they can help you get in the door.

  3. The target company and their relationship with the recruiter. Some recruiters have exclusive arrangements to do hiring and all applications are funneled through them.

  4. If they cold call you. Most of those should be ignored IMHO as the time to deal with them distracts from skill improvements and company direct approaches.


No, part of that money wouldn't have gone to you. :P

The fee that is paid is for a very specific service.

In any case, I have had recruiters do their thing on my last two jobs and both worked out great, which means they must be doing something right.

That plus my present company paid them 1/4 of my annual salary as commission, so I'd assume there's additional incentive on the company to really give me a chance.

  • That's the thing tho, I don't want to be a "punt". I'd like to think that they did their research and that they are invested in getting the right person instead of taking a chance on a random, recruiters help with that.
    – Permas
    Jul 4, 2012 at 10:55
  • @MarkBooth - There is usually a 60 or 90 day period where if the employee leaves or is terminated the fee is waived. Jul 5, 2012 at 16:40
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    Many employers I've worked for offer a sign on bonus to employees who help get someone recruited through their network of contacts without going through a recruiter, so you may be able to arrange for a friend to get some of the money, even if you don't get that money yourself.
    – Mark Booth
    Jul 5, 2012 at 16:56

Recruiters are salesmen. They sell you on their service then they sell you to the target company. They have an established relationship with their clients. This allows them to ask questions you want to know but could never ask yourself. They can also put pressure on a company to make a decision that if you tried would back fire. But in the end their job is to get people hired. They are professionals at that. If you are not good at selling yourself then hire someone else for the job. Especially since it will not cost you money out of your pocket. They will also be at the other end of the phone call and able to get you good follow up on the progress with respect to a position. This is often hard to get if you are doing it yourself. Many companies prefer to leave candidates dangling in case they decide to pull the trigger after they make an initial decision.

What you should be aware of when you use a recruiter:

  • Recruiters want to fill the positions that will make them the most money. This is not necessarily the position that will be the best fit for you. Do not be afraid to say no to a position they want to submit you for.
  • Recruiters often have relationships with the company you are currently working for. This means they often must disclose to your current employer before they can submit you to another company.
  • Some recruiters will make changes to your resume to make you appear to be a better candidate. Some times adding skills you do not have. These changes are not always obvious. Throwing your recruiter under the bus during an interview is not going to get your the job, so make sure your resume is correct prior to being submitted.
  • Recruiters have access to a lot of information about you.
  • Recruiters will sometimes provide multiple candidates for the same position. You could end up being the goat that is intended to make the other candidate look good.

I have had quite a bit of success using recruiters. But early on I will agree that I felt almost victimized. But once I took control, and went for what I wanted instead of settling for what they offered I felt much better about the relationship.

  • These two don't match: "They are professionals" and "recruiters will make changes to your resume ... adding skills you do not have"
    – Martin F
    Mar 20, 2014 at 21:50
  • @martinf - do not equate being a professional with being ethical. Bernie Madoff and Jeffery Skilling were both professionals at the top of the their trades and both were licensed to operate in their trades. You do not have that in recruiting. I would also note I said "Some" will do that, which you conveniently left out of your quote. Mar 20, 2014 at 22:15

Wow, there's a lot of good answers here.

Trying to synthesize a few of them....

The deal - company to recruiter

The money a recruiter makes is not the same payoff that you would get by finding the job without the recruiter. It's the money the company might otherwise be paying their HR department to find people without the use of a recruiter or possibly the money the company may pay other employees for referrals.

The deal - you to recruiter

Whenever you work through a third party, you need to get a sense of that party's goals and business models. Some recruiters will just want to place as many people as possible to get as many fees as possible. Others are very sensitive to their reputation and will only set up cases they believe are a win/win.

When a recruiter is helping to guide you towards jobs that work for you and the company, you have a good chance of success. When the recruiter is pushing you to broaden your resume with skills you don't possess, or when you get an inkling they are selling you as something you are not - be wary. If the recruiter is just looking to fill a quota, they can easily waste your time and the company's time.

The variety

Realize that different companies have different models for how they do recruiting and hiring decisions. It varies widely from industry to industry and also company to company. Some will NOT work with recruiters, some will work with recruiters but only within some tightly defined limits (for example a job that must be open +3 months before it is farmed out to recruiters), some will ALWAYS work with recruiters.

Saying "absolutely no" will reduce the company pool, eliminating those companies who work exclusively with recruiters.

  • "Some will NOT..." = "some will NEVER..."?
    – Martin F
    Mar 20, 2014 at 21:30

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