Headhunters have a somewhat bad reputation and, more often than not, people say you should avoid them, as long as you do not really need them.

There are many cons to use an recruiting agency for the own job search.

However, they have some pros and under some circumstances, it might worth using their service.

As an example:
I'm a software dev with just 2 years experience but no academic background. In my area, an academic background is expected to do that kind of work and finding a job without tends to be very hard, even if there are plenty of open positions.

So the question is, under which circumstances, using recruiting agency services is worth the cons?

Note: This question is not solely opinion-based as it is about the pros and cons of using a recruitment agency, not whether doing so is ultimately beneficial or generally recommended

  • I agree that this is a good question, which is likely to lead to good quality answers. This is a related question, but not the same, because it doesn't focus on the benefits or when to use an agency: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/1716/…
    – user45590
    Jun 1, 2016 at 7:56
  • Relevant: se-radio.net/2016/05/…. This is a podcast interview with a recruiting agency owner in San Francisco. He does a good job explaining the Pros.
    – Kent A.
    Jun 1, 2016 at 11:34
  • 2
    I am a little confused by this question. People seeking work do not usually engage the services of a recruitment agency or headhunter; that is done by the potential employer. Therefore as a candidate your choice is whether to apply for a job through an agency or only apply to job advertised "directly". Therefore, if it's a job you want, that you can only get by applying through an agency, it's a no-brainer isn't it? Are you a job seeker or a potential employer? I assume a seeker given the question title. If so, how would you "use" a recruitment agency?
    – Marv Mills
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:04
  • Also, permanent full employment or freelance/contractor?
    – Marv Mills
    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:06
  • 1
    @Carson63000 I agree, I always speak to all recruitment agencies when looking for work. It's a symbiotic relationship. However it was not clear in the OP whether he was expecting to somehow engage the services of an agency...
    – Marv Mills
    Jun 2, 2016 at 9:21

3 Answers 3


I would say you write down the requirements or expectations for your Profession.
In your case you are expected to have a academic background.

Then you look why is this a requirement for example getting this education requires:

  • Certain communication skill
  • Certain professionalism
  • Useage and knowledge of Professional terms
  • Useage of certain products (Software, Hardware, equipment)
  • Certifications that come along
  • Legally required

Now you might not have this or a different requirement on paper.
A recruiter might have a certain reputation where a Company would say.

If recruiter A is willing to recommand candidate B then we can assume he has skills A to C even though candidate B has no official record of this.

Why would a company trust a recruiter like this.
Well thats quite simple, recruiter A might have tests where they say we don't care if you have an acadamic background, you have to take all the tests.

They might do certain Screening tests. Like is your resume real. Are your references positive.
This could save A Company time and thus Money.

Now the Company might also have commited to a single recruiter/Headhunter.
Meaning you have to take that way.

That is how I would collect my pros and cons in useing a recruiter/Headhunter.


I've used recruiters on-and-off for twenty years now.


  1. They are a great resource, because they can do the digging for positions while you can concentrate on becoming a "star" developer.
  2. You can tell 'em what you're looking for, and the nice ones won't bug you until a close match comes up. So really, you can customize your experience
  3. They can get you in the door much faster than going through HR
  4. They are a resource for you to know what current trends are.


  1. Newbie recruiters are a frustrating annoyance, because they don't know sugar-from-shinola about the actual work or the tools. They are typically trained to match keywords between requisitions and resumes.
  2. Very small firms often have cashflow problems, and the principals may divert revenue into their own pockets first and try to make you wait to get paid (i.e. missing payroll). If you are a W-2 employee, this is usually illegal! They use peoples' ignorance to their advantage. If something starts to not feel right, don't WAIT to take action.
  3. The ones that haven't been around for long have no qualms at all about putting you into an environment that they know is hostile or troublesome. They're not about building win-win situations for the long term. They can be pushy. Avoid them.
  • I don't see your point 2. Recruiters don't get anywhere near paychecks. They arrange an interview, and they get their check typically after a few months after the applicant has been hired. You might be thinking of staffing agencies.
    – MSalters
    Jun 2, 2016 at 13:06
  • Staffing agencies have recruiters. They recruit for both full-time and contract positions. In the case of the latter, it's important to pay attention to the recruiter's behavior because sometimes the recruiter is running much of the operation (small, new businesses).
    – Xavier J
    Jun 2, 2016 at 13:10

I am not sure how the recruiters in Germany work, but if it is anything like here in the USA, you should avoid one particular type of recruiter: The pesky one. By which, I mean, the person, who is located somewhere in a third world country, sending out form letter emails, because one or two keywords in the job description is found on your online resume you posted god knows when and where. These are the type of people who bombard you with emails day after day, relentlessly. And one look at the job description, you know it is not you who they are looking for. These people play the numbers game, like Viagra spam emails do. If out of five thousand emails they send every day, they find one candidate to place, their day is done and profitable. I stay away from this type like a plague.

On the other hand, if you peak the interest of a well known and reputable recruitment agency, even if there are no jobs to have around, they just want to conduct an so-called exploratory interview, you should take time out of your day and meet them. These people don't call you just because of a 2 keyword matches from your resume to a position they have. They are more diligent in selecting candidates. If you are being contacted, you have potential for future, if not now.

One thing you should stay away from is the recruitment agencies, who ask you to pay them, to find the hidden jobs in the market which are not advertised. They are pure scam. If you possess the knowledge an employer needs, you will be found no matter what. You don't need to pay someone to put you up in the list. Just because, they can't. As a rule of thumb, employer pays the recruiter if they are good. If they are not good recruiters, they want to hit you up for their payday, but do you really want to work with this sub-par people ? I know for sure, I wouldn't. So, stay away from pay-to-play recruiters.

Having said all of this, being from that side of the Atlantic ocean myself, I know how the college degree importance is. And if I were you, I would slowly study for a degree in my spare time. If you are not an academia type of person, try some online courses, maybe one class per semester, very light load study and get yourself a degree. It opens an immense number of doors. It is not what the employer thinks that you know, as a result of your degree, but it shows that you are trainable and determined to accomplish something. It shows personality, not necessarily the knowledge.

  • I don't think the word "peak" means what you think it means. Jun 1, 2016 at 20:23
  • I believe he was looking for pique, which in fairness I had to look up to make sure I got it right. Aug 10, 2016 at 22:06

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