Business Columns & Blogs

Diane Stafford: Recruiters work for employers, not job hunters

Diane Stafford is a workplace columnist for The Kansas City Star.
Diane Stafford is a workplace columnist for The Kansas City Star.

A mechanical engineer who has been in a job search suggested that recruiters, not just job hunters, could benefit from guidelines for professional conduct. Point well taken.

An explainer to start: Not all recruiters are created equal.

Some are payroll employees – essentially the human resources department – of the organization that they’re recruiting for.

Some are “retained search” recruiters on contract with employers to fill select job openings.

Some are more like freelance recruiters, making cold calls to job hunters whose résumés they find online.

It’s the third group, who may work for verifiable companies, that most need guidelines – not that anything said here will change that segment of the industry or some of the people who practice in it. Sadly, many recruiters in that industry are known more for relieving job hunters of considerable sums of money than fostering a hire.

Too often, job hunters have received calls from recruiters promising access to a hidden job market or tools to perfect a job search. All the searcher has to do is provide a credit card and maybe bring the spouse along to open up secret possibilities. It’s a nasty ruse that preys on vulnerable people.

Job hunters are advised to spare themselves grief and politely decline any such offer that asks them to pay to find a job. Legitimate recruiters don’t charge the job hunter.

But back to the engineer who wasn’t a financial victim but nonetheless felt abused by recruiters who he felt didn’t have his interests at heart. To paraphrase his requests for good recruiter etiquette:

▪ Please read my résumé thoroughly before you call me. Don’t waste my time and yours by asking questions that are clearly answered on my résumé. Give me confidence that you actually understand the position and my qualifications.

▪ Don’t pressure me to go on an interview that I know isn’t a good fit for me or the employer.

▪ Don’t submit my résumé to any employer without getting my permission first.

▪ Be honest. Don’t tell me you’re exclusively recruiting for a company’s opening and then I find the exact position posted on job boards.

His points are all sensible. But his reaction to recruiters also serves as a reminder to job hunters that legitimate recruiters work for employers, not job hunters. Their role is to fill job openings, not find employment for job hunters.

Similarly, people often ask how to get a headhunter to work for them. It’s important to understand that a “headhunter” is a recruiter and – to repeat – recruiters work for employers, not individual job hunters.

Individuals can send their résumés to headhunters who specialize in their fields. Ideally, though, headhunters already have found individuals through professional and industry contacts, individuals they would like to present to employers. Headhunters get paid by employers to present candidates.

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star: stafford@kcstar.com, 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford, kansascity.com/workplace

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