Five reasons to use a staffing firm

By Todd McCormick, president of recruiter business unit for CareerBuilder.com

What if I told you that I knew how you could find a job without having to dig through hundreds of job postings, wait for weeks to hear back from an employer, negotiate your salary or blindly walk into an interview ... and you could do it all for free?

I bet you'd say, "Where do I sign up?" I would answer, "With a recruiter."

Headhunters, recruiters, staffing agents -- call them what you will -- are here for one reason and one reason only: To help you and employers find a match in long-term employment.

Unfortunately, recruitment, a $92 billion industry, is virtually untouched by job seekers. Forty percent of job candidates are unable to name a single staffing firm from memory and only one-in-five have used a staffing firm in their most recent job search, according to a recent study by CareerBuilder.com and the Inavero Institute for Service Research.

Instead, job seekers are utilizing other resources in their search for employment. The average candidate uses up to four different sources in his search and only 4 percent of people turn to recruiters as their first method, according to the survey. Eighty percent of job seekers use online job boards as their first resource.

Let's take a look at why job seekers aren't using the efficiencies of staffing firms.

The perception gap

The staffing industry burdens a heavy load of misconceptions, the one of the most common being that recruiters cost money. Eight percent of job seekers are under the impression that there will be costs to them if they utilize a staffing firm, according to the survey. Most recruiters are free of charge to candidates, however, and it's very rare that the expense of a recruiter will influence an employer's hiring decision. In fact, Eric Harrington, president of Healthcare Solutions, a California-based staffing firm, says the money lost on a bad hire is about 10 to 20 times more than what a recruiter is paid to fill the position with a great match for the company.

Additionally, 10 percent of job seekers believe staffing agents only fill temporary positions. They feel as though they are only used to "fill a hole" rather than find gainful employment, according to the survey. In reality, it behooves recruiters to find clients long-term employees. Companies are considered clients to recruiters and they get paid by them to locate talent. If a recruiter consistently delivers unreliable, temporary candidates, it's unlikely they will help that client for very long.

A third false impression of the staffing industry is the experience job candidates take away from it. Twenty-five percent of survey respondents indicated that headhunters are unresponsive or don't follow up with them. Other issues they reported included not feeling advocated for or feeling they are treated as a "warm body" or "product" by the staffing firms.

Though every job seeker's experience with a recruiter is different and varies by the people he or she works with, there are a variety of reasons why job candidates can benefit from using a staffing agent.

Here are seven reasons why you should use a recruiter in your next job search:

1. It's free.

2. Recruiters get to know you and put you in companies where your career can flourish. You can be honest with a headhunter in terms of your likes and dislikes when it comes to an employer. Since a good recruiter should know the ins and outs of a company, he or she uses these details to find a job situation best suited to you.

3. They can negotiate a higher salary for you. Recruiters have better knowledge of the job market and salary ranges for different positions. Generally, it's to the headhunter's advantage to obtain a higher salary for the candidate, says Kelly Smith, a corporate contract recruiter. Usually, recruiters are paid a fee based on the overall salary that a candidate receives in his or her cover letter, so they will work to negotiate a realistic salary for both parties.

4. They can get the inside scoop. Headhunters know their clients. They work with them over and over again so they know what the company is truly looking for in an employee, says Lori Marcus, principal for Quad656. They can prepare you for a company's interview style, tell you what types of questions it may ask, inform you of its pet peeves, tell you where and why others have failed to get to the next step and how to get the information from them that you may need to make a decision as to whether it's the best fit for you.

Smith says recruiters can also give the candidate the dirt on a company's corporate culture as well as requirements for the job that may not be written in the job description.

5. You don't have to wait to hear back from someone. Some human resource departments are notorious for not getting back to candidates or for taking weeks to do so, Harrington says. Recruiters have immediate contact with hiring managers so you don't have to wait for anyone to contact you. They get you an answer one way or another.

6. Recruiters can identify opportunities that may not be advertised and that really exist. Recruiters have leads on positions you may never hear about otherwise, says Lindsay Olson, a recruiter and partner with Paradigm Staffing, a staffing firm that specializes in placing public relations and communications professionals. Some companies use headhunters to fill confidential positions that they don't want to post publicly. When you hear of a job through a recruiter, you know there is actually an opening.

7. You can get feedback and guidance from recruiters before interviews. When you meet with a recruiter, you can get specialized pointers before going on interviews, says Jodi Smith, a human resources professional and etiquette consultant. From advice on purchasing a different tie, perfecting a firmer handshake and better eye contact, to specific feedback on how to phrase answers and helping you identify your strengths and weaknesses, candidates can polish their image and be prepared before meeting with a hiring manager.

Todd McCormick is the president of the Recruiter Business Unit and Canada Operations for CareerBuilder.com. He is responsible for developing sales strategies and programs to drive profitability and maximize market share.

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