Recruiters, staffing agencies, headhunters, executive search consultants, job placement specialists

These are all names for individuals that can help you find a job – while you are focusing on the other aspects of a successful job search.

How you use them, and which one is right for you, depends on your industry, your experience level, and your finances.


A recruiter works for an employment agency to attempt to connect people seeking work and employers seeking qualified employees. This term is used both generally (anyone whose profession it is to find people jobs is technically a recruiter) and specifically (recruiters tend to focus on full time, experienced professional level positions). These individuals spend their daily work lives networking with companies, staying on top of the job market, and developing relationships with hiring managers.

There are two types of recruiters – Retained or Contingency

Retained Recruiters are professionals that are hired by a job seeker, at an agreed upon rate, to find an individual a new position. The fees for a retained recruiter typically run in the several thousands of dollars, or an agreed upon percentage of the job seekers new salary. Given the high expense of a retained recruiter, they are typically employed by high level executives. These recruiters are paid whether a job seeker finds a suitable position or not.

Contingency Recruiters – Contingency Recruiters are professionals that enter a contract with a job seeker that states the recruiter will be paid a percentage of the job seekers new salary, only if that recruiter finds the candidate a position. This is the most common type of recruiter. Since the recruiter is only paid if they are successful, they tend to limit their clients to those with accomplished experience; in other words, they won’t work with you unless they think they can find you a job and your new salary will be worth the expense. If you fit these criteria, a contingency recruiter is well worth your time and money as they will call on their considerable network of contacts to find you an opportunity.

Staffing Agencies:

Staffing Agencies are for-profit organizations that help individual job seekers find temporary and temporary-to-permanent job opportunities. These agencies tend to focus on lower level office positions, clerical positions, accounting/finance positions, light industrial positions, as well as entry-to-mid level management, customer service, and similar type positions.

The way these agencies work, is that they operate two simultaneous functions – finding job seekers to fill their candidate database and connecting with companies/organizations to develop potential employment relationships.

To a staffing agency, their inventory is people looking for jobs. A staffing agency recruits job seekers to become a part of the agency’s database. They will solicit your resume, interview you, and discuss your career options and goals. In many cases, they will give you a battery of skill and interest assessments, as well as evaluate your computer skills in basic office technologies. Once they have done this, they will attempt to connect you with available temporary and temp-to-perm positions.

At the same time, Staffing Agents are constantly calling on and developing relationships with small business owners, human resources professionals, and other hiring managers with a wide variety of businesses to locate opportunities for their job seekers. In this sense, they are marketing their pool of candidates and their services to employers on a daily basis.

For a job seeker, a Staffing Agency can be very beneficial to a job search, as long as you understand the process and work within its parameters.

The lifeblood of a temporary staffing agency are temporary jobs. Temp jobs are positions that exist for a few hours, one day, a few days, a week, a month, or even longer. An employer will hire a temp to handle vacation time of permanent staff, to augment staff for a new project, or to bring on potential new employees in a working interview capacity. Either way, the job seeker is technically an employee of the staffing agency – your paycheck comes from the staffing agency, who in turn bills the employer for your service. So, the more hours, days, weeks, and months you work temporary, the more the agency earns.

It is in the agencies best interest to keep you temporary as long as possible. This may be with one company, or by constantly placing you into new temp positions with different employers.

That said, this can be very good for a job seeker that is unsure of their career path or wants to earn some cash on temp jobs while conducting their more rigorous job search. Job seekers that are unsure of a potential career path will be able to work in a number of different roles for a number of different employers in a variety of industries, thus providing some direct experience that can help figure out a career path.

When working with a staffing agency, be open to accepting different assignments as you may make a strong connection with an employer that decides to take you on permanently.