Career

Should You Bother With A Recruiter When Looking For A Job?

For most people in the 20-35 age bracket, the idea of going to a recruiter to help with a job search is fairly foreign. What do they even do? How would they help you get jobs better than you could yourself? Well, Vivienne Egan would know after working at one.

There are pros and cons to going with a recruitment agency. The major con is that if they land you a job, your salary is going to be paying your headhunter’s commission. This could be 15% or more of your year’s salary – ouch.

Recruitment agencies tend to get a pretty bad rap – agents are, after all, in the business of sales and are working for a cut of your salary (in the case of contract work, that is – the fee is typically passed on to the client company for full-time jobs) – and you don’t have to go far online to find tales of unethical dealings, incompetence and unprofessionalism. Talk about a turn-off.

They also don’t work in every industry or for every type of employer, unless they’re a boutique agency specialising in, say, media roles. For the most part, recruitment agencies build relationships with the big corporate firms.

On the other hand, with a lot of jobs going unadvertised, it’s often recruiters who are in the know about who’s hiring and what they’re looking for, so if you find a headhunter with a decent reputation who can prove they know something about your industry, it’s another avenue for finding a job.

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Here are some times when you might consider turning to a recruiter to help you out with a job hunt:

#1 You’ve got specialist skills

If you have highly technical skills (for instance, experience in using an obscure piece of software, or are fluent in Mandarin), your CV is much easier to sell. A good headhunter will build a relationship with you, they’ll be able to keep you across any job that comes up requiring your particular brand of ninja skills, and will also be able to help negotiate a salary that reflects your talent.

#2 You’ve got generalist skills

Admin? Office manager? Receptionist? Payroll? Big companies often don’t advertise generalist roles like this because they get flooded with applications that they simply don’t have time to comb through. It’s far easier to turn to a recruitment agency with a ready-made list of candidates, so if you’re on that list you’ve got a much better chance of getting an interview.

#3 You’re a graduate

Like major employers, recruiters have grad programmes, especially for people with (for example) business, economics, finance, accounting and engineering degrees. If you’re wading into the world of employment for the first time, you could do worse than signing up for recruiters’ grad events.

#4 You’re looking for temp positions

In an increasingly transient workforce, contract and temp roles are used to plug gaps – such as maternity cover, emergency sick leave cover, holiday leave cover, and filling the space between one employee leaving and the next starting. Contractors are also hired for specific projects or busy periods.

Again, employers prefer to keep the paperwork to a minimum, and sometimes there’s a need to fill the position quickly – going to someone with access to a pool of decent candidates is way easier than advertising.

#5 You’re looking for corporate work

Most recruiters are working on behalf of corporate businesses. Why? They have a continuous need to hire people. Also, pay tends to be on the higher end of the scale, so the commission is worth it for the agent (their commission is calculated as a percentage of the salary on offer, but it doesn’t come out of the salary itself). So, if you’re looking to get on or move up the corporate ladder, talk to a recruiter.

#6 You’re too busy to look

If you’ve got a super-demanding job already but are looking to move elsewhere – and would rather spend your weekends weekending – you can outsource the search. As we all know, job hunting is a full-time job in itself, so no wonder people make a living out of doing it for other people.

#8 You’re bad at selling yourself

Dislike selling? Let a professional do it. Remember, they’re working for a commission, and competing with other recruitment firms to fill the role first. They’re looking to put you in a role that will suit you, so they’ll be talking you up to the max.

So, recruiters are not everyone’s cup of tea, and often come with the used car salesperson vibe. But there might be times in your career when you would turn to a recruiter to help with your job search, so don’t necessarily rule it out – there are good ones out there who can really help you in your job hunt.


Vivienne is a travelling freelance writer/editor, feminist, Harry Potter nerd and co-founder of Taylor Hermione & Co, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes safe relationships, consent and gender issues to teenagers in Australia. Find her on Twitter @VivEgan41 and Instagram @vivalogue