Working With a Recruiter? Ask For a Cut.

February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

And now, for something completely different.  I have used recruiters in the past, I have got jobs using recruiters, and yet I still think recruiters are vampires (or leaches, or any other parasite).  With so many people unemployed right now, I thought I’d write about something I think about every time I go to look for a job:  What is the value of a recruiter?

In a perfect world, the recruiter has some sort of exclusive deal with hiring companies, spends his or her days sifting through resumes to find the best candidates, saving the hiring manager all of that work, and gets the right candidate the inside track on some sweet new job.

In real life, the recruiter has a deal with a company which is non-exclusive (you don’t have to go through the recruiter to get the job), the recruiter shot-guns candidates to interviews regardless of fit or qualification, and if one of the recruiters prospects pans out, the recruiter gets 10% of the recruits starting salary for their trouble.

Why did I work with recruiters in the past, if I hate them so?  Easy:  I didn’t realize how badly screwed I was getting until after the deed was done.  In the end, the recruiter got a month and a half of my pay (paid as a service fee by the company that hired me) for doing nothing more than telling me to go to the interview.  The recruiter didn’t negotiate on my behalf, didn’t know much about the company I was interviewing with (they all say the companies they work on the behalf of are great — but ask some specifics, the recruiter will definitely B. S. you).

Perhaps my wording is strong.  I wasn’t screwed in the normal sense; working with the recruiter didn’t cost me any money, I got a good job, things worked out pretty much okay.  The part that gets me is that the recruiter got so much money for so little work.  That’s money the company could have paid me.  The recruiter was an unnecessary middle-man, doing what middle-men do:  nothing.  But, like all middle-men, recruiters claim to bring some level of efficiency to the hiring process (after all who wants to be bothered reading the resumes of people they may hire?).

Would I suggest that you avoid recruiters?  No, I wouldn’t suggest that.  In fact, recruiters are sort of hard to avoid, since a good percentage of any job postings for higher-level positions are handled through head-hunters.  What I do suggest is that you ask the recruiter for a cut.  If they are getting a fee of 10% of your salary, then ask for 5% for working with them.  The recruiter still gets something for, basically, nothing, and you get to use the recruiter’s contacts to further your career.

The instant reaction to my suggestion is probably that the recruiter would just choose to work with someone else who isn’t making demands on their commission.  Maybe, but not if you’re the most likely candidate to be hired.  It’s not difficult, after all, to back-door the recruiter by using their listings and then doing a bit of research to find out who the hiring manager is for yourself.  If you are the best candidate, and you let the recruiter know that you’ll work aroudn them if you have to, then you’d be surprised at what they will accept.

Economics tells us that the recruiter will be better off as well.  It’s all about incentives:  The job seeker has an added incentive to negotiate a better salary if that means instant gratification in the form of a kick-back from the recruiter.  Not only will they be getting a better salary, but they’ll get a larger check from the recruiter as well.  The recruiter makes more, the job seeker makes more, and the company is only out whatever it was willing to spend in the first place (assuming the company won’t pay more than it intends to).

Also:  When your recruiter asks you for referrals, ask him how much each referral is worth.  The recruiter is going to call your friends, family, and business associates in hopes of making money off of their next job-move, so why shouldn’t you get a cut of that as well?  The information you’re disclosing is valuable (if it wasn’t, the recruiter wouldn’t want it), giving it away for free is like handing out dollar bills to anyone who asks.  Even a trivial fee, $100 per lead, makes it worth your time to help the recruiter out.  Remember, the recruiter stands to make thousands if your referral gets the job.

This method of dealing with recruiters goes to the heart of how I think people must look at themselves if they wish to remain, or become, economically viable (to steal a phrase from the film “Falling Down”):  We have to look at ourselves as businesses.  When we partner with someone, anyone, we must make that partnership as profitable for us as is possible.  Where profit can’t be achieved, then cost must be minimized.  It’s not hard, it’s just a matter of thinking through the ways in which people are making money off of you, and find a way to make money with them instead of for them.




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