Top Misconceptions About Recruiters, Explained

Have you ever wondered why recruiters contact you for positions you’ve turned down already?  Or why you submit your resume to every position they have and never hear anything back? Or why no one explains why you were rejected after having a great interview?

Just about anyone who has worked with a recruiter has encountered a puzzling situation like this. So why do these things happen? And what can you do about it? This article aims to dispel some myths about working with recruiters and give you a peek behind the curtain of the recruiting industry.  While every company is different, hopefully this will give you some insight into the general workings of recruiting.

If any of these terms are not familiar, please review our recruiting terms glossary.

Recruiter Myth #1: Recruiters take your money

Virtually all recruiters are paid by the hiring company, not the candidate. There may be a few “job placement services” that offer services directly to candidates for a price, but these are relatively rare and tend to focus more on improving your resume and developing your interviewing skills.  The vast majority of recruiters will never charge you, and if you find one that does, make sure you understand what you’re paying for.

For direct hire opportunities, the recruiter will usually be paid a fee based on your first year’s pay. The company hiring for the role already knows what salary range they want to pay for the position and what they will pay the recruiter before you are even contacted. Remember also that the hiring company is working with a recruiter because they are struggling to find the candidates they need for the positions they have open. If you are recruited for a position, know that the hiring company wants the process to be a good one so that you arrive happy to be there. Also, you don’t need to worry about being paid less just because you are working with a recruiter;  uncompetitive pay rates only hamper recruiters, so the candidate that is selected will be paid in line with other employees in similar roles.

For staffing or “temp” positions, the recruiter’s fee is most likely based on the hourly rate you are paid. The exact percentage varies widely depending on the client company, the staffing agency, the type and duration of the position, and a variety of other factors. So, why do recruiters get paid for this?

There are many costs covered by the recruiter’s fee. First, the staffing agency needs to pay the recruiter (including a desk, a computer, a phone, etc.). Second, provided you are a W2 employee, they pay for taxes, health insurance costs, paid time off, and any other benefits that come with the position (don’t forget to ask about these!)  Then there are the other expenses like office space, professional insurance, and additional support resources (like HR, Finance, IT)… these costs add up. Staffing companies cover all of these costs through the recruiting fees they charge their clients. Most client companies negotiate the fees they are charged, but not the base rate for your pay as the employee. As a candidate for a job placed through a recruiter, you shouldn’t expect to negotiate that fee; each staffing company likely has built their infrastructure, support team, benefits, etc. based on what they expect to charge per employee.  You should not expect to be told the details of this fee.

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Recruiter Myth #2: Recruiters don’t give feedback

Most recruiters want their candidates to be happy with their experience and their clients to be happy with the candidates they submit, so they value any feedback received from the hiring manager at any point in the process. However, the behavior of hiring managers can be unpredictable. Some are very motivated to get their position filled and can be very diligent (and quick to respond to emails and phone calls!) in their interactions with recruiters and candidates. Others are hard to contact, can’t make time to review resumes, and provide no feedback after a phone screen or interview has been completed.

If you don’t hear back from a recruiter, keep in mind the situation they’re in. The recruiter was likely hired because the company employees are all busy, and this can lead to playing a lot of ‘phone tag’ between recruiter, clients, and candidates.  As a result, recruiters often have no feedback to give you. If you’ve been waiting a while to hear back from a recruiter, send them a friendly reminder and ask for feedback. Just don’t be too disappointed if they don’t have an update for you.

Recruiter Myth #3: Recruiters are deceptive

I’ve heard people complain that recruiters post “fake jobs” to collect resumes or that they are submitted for positions they didn’t agree to in advance or that recruiters don’t care about candidates. This behavior is a red flag! We actively resist these behaviors at Cinder Staffing, where I work, and if this is your experience with a recruiter, you should stop working with them.

However, there are a few scenarios that could explain these experiences:

Do recruiters post “fake jobs”?

In cases where it seems like you’ve applied or been submitted for a “fake job”, it may just be that the position has already been filled. The availability of jobs can change quickly, and on many occasions, we’ll find a perfect candidate for a position only to discover that the hiring manager filled the role internally or it was sourced by another agency. Other times, customers are looking for many people with the same basic skill set and ask us to send them candidates throughout the year. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re always hiring, and that can result in some candidates being submitted without any feedback from the hiring company for weeks.

Will a recruiter submit my resume for random jobs I don’t want?

Recruiters should always check with you before they submit you to a position. At the same time, once you are submitted, your resume might sit for an extended period of time. If the client company sees your resume weeks later, and thinks you’d be perfect for a different position, you could be contacted by your recruiter and asked if you’re interested in a position you’ve never considered. In the event that you’re still looking for a new position, this can be a best case scenario, but it can also feel like the recruiter submitted you for something you did not choose to be considered for. Remember that you can always decline if you are not interested!

Recruiter Myth #4: My recruiter will be out of the picture once I start working

In the case of a direct hire placement, typically your interaction with the recruiter after your start date will be minimal. You should notify the recruiter if you have any significant problems in your new role in case they can help, but as an employee of the client company, most of your interaction will be with your new manager and HR team.

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However, if you are in a staffing or temporary placement role, your employer is the staffing company, not the client company where you work! As such, payroll or HR questions, PTO requests, benefits paperwork, and performance feedback all fall within the purview of your staffing company.

This is an area that is quite challenging for all parties to navigate, and sometimes it can get confusing. The old wisdom applies: you should endeavor to maintain a regular relationship with your employer, whoever they may be. And they should maintain frequent contact with you as well.

Recruiter Myth #5:  There are a lot of recruiters and they all look the same

For candidates, the sheer size of the recruiting ecosystem can make it seem like recruiters are both numerous and indistinguishable. Some hiring companies work with multiple recruiters at the same time, and each agency wants to submit the best candidate they can find. Some of Cinder’s larger clients work with more than 50 other agencies to source their talent.  This is the reason why you may get contacted by more than one recruiter for the same position!

If you’re lucky enough to have a high-demand skill set, you may want to explore ways to reduce the number of recruiter calls you get. One option is to get a free email and phone number online (for example, Gmail and Google Voice) and use them when you are posting your resume online or applying to new positions. This way, you only need to monitor those accounts when you are actively looking for a new position.

For those of you that want to answer those calls from recruiters, it can be difficult to tell which staffing company is working with which client company. Your best bet to navigate this environment is to develop healthy relationships with more than one recruiter that you would be happy to work with to increase the odds of finding the best possible position. Remember that recruiters talk to hundreds of people each week, and the best way to distinguish yourself is by being friendly and responsive when you are contacted.

Want more help navigating the recruiting ecosystem?  Get more information on how to pick the right recruiter for you.

Recruiter Myth #6: Temp positions are bad for my career

Gone are the days where multiple previous roles on a resume meant that you were a serial job-hopper and no one would work with you. In the modern job market, successful people change jobs frequently. If you are able to stay at a position for a year or longer, that can be helpful to show that not all of your positions are short duration and that you can be productive in the same role for an extended period of time. However, a few contract positions of 3, 6, or 9 months on a resume now just shows your versatility in a volatile market. Make sure you clearly explain any short-duration positions on your resume, so that hiring managers understand the difference between roles you had that ended as scheduled and roles that ended unexpectedly.

Temp positions can also be unpredictable in length. While many are 12 months or less, in some contracting arrangements, you could be with the same company for several years (Cinder has many employees that have been with us over 5 years!). Make sure you get clarity on the anticipated duration before you start a new role with a staffing company.

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Recruiter Myth #7: The recruiter is working for me

While recruiters are invested in helping you find a new job, they are ultimately working for the client company, since they pay the bills. And the client company is only interested in hiring the perfect candidate.

Recruiters have limited time. Therefore, if you are not the right candidate, their first instinct is to keep looking. Some recruiters contact over 100 candidates for a tough-to-fill position, but will often skip candidates that have sloppy resumes, even if they are potentially great candidates.  Put yourself in the best position by preparing in advance. You can use organizations like Lee Hecht Harrison, University placement offices, and WorkSource to help review your overall presentation and get assistance.

If you are frustrated that a recruiter won’t submit you for a role outside of your skill set, keep in mind that individual hiring managers ultimately get to decide how flexible they want to be on candidate experience and required skills. You need to trust the recruiter; they have spent time getting to know the hiring manager and will have a good sense of how open the hiring manager will be to your unique combination of skills and experience. Don’t be disappointed, just keep looking until you find the right position for you. Often, recruiters will be able to direct you to other recruiters within their agency that are searching for your skills.

Recruiter Myth #8: Recruiters only place temps and low-skill workers

Different agencies specialize in different areas and there are some agencies that emphasize lower-skilled positions. However, companies of all sizes and industries will tell you that they have a hard time finding “good candidates,” and this applies to every skill and experience level.  From a strictly financial perspective, the higher the skill required, the more a company is willing to pay a recruiter to help find the right candidate. Senior level positions (CEO, President, Vice President) are often filled by agencies who specialize in only that type of recruiting and charge big fees for those services.

On the staffing side, experienced project managers, or experts in Security, Compliance, Salesforce, or SAP are all in high demand and staffing companies are eager to work with these individuals to get them top dollar for their skills. While the number of available positions for these skills is generally low, the companies that need them are willing to pay competitively for the right candidate.

The best part about recruiting is helping people find the “right” job – a combination of interesting work, personal growth, and great company environment. Most recruiters live to celebrate that moment with each person they help place. While there can be hiccups along the way and the process can feel a bit confusing at times, it is in your best interest to get to know a few recruiters in your area and try to develop relationships with them.  Remember that they are people too, and the best way to stand out is to be polite, professional, and engaged in the process of finding your next position.