Working with a Recruiter

This article will explain the different types of recruiters, how they are paid and how to use them in a job search.

What are the Various Types of Recruiters?
(Note:  Headhunter and Recruiter are often used interchangeably.)

Contingency Recruiter:  This recruiter is only paid upon completing a successful hire/placement and always paid by the employer. The recruiter is responsible to do the initial recruiting, screening and interviewing. The contingency recruiter will also arrange interviews with the candidates for the employer. The employer pays either a flat fee or a percentage of the first year salary – only if they decide to hire the candidate.

Retained Recruiter:  Similar to a contingency recruiter in that the employer pays the fees. The main difference of a retained recruiter is that the employer pays a nonrefundable retainer fee for the recruiter to perform a search. A portion of the overall search fee is paid upfront and the remainder at an agreed upon later date (often times after a set number of qualified candidates have been presented). This retainer fee is paid whether or not a placement/hire is made. Companies often use retained search firms for higher level positions within an organization (e.g., CIO, Vice President of Sales).

Retingency Recruiter: 
Retingency is a made up word in the recruiting world.  A retingency search (also known as a container or partial retainer) combines both elements of a contingency search and a retained search.  In this situation, a portion of the overall search fee is paid upfront (retainer) and the remainder is due only upon a successful hire (contingency) – both paid by the employer.

Staffing (Contract/Freelance/Temporary):  A staffing firm provides candidates for a client company’s project needs (when a direct-hire employee is not needed). In this relationship the candidate is often times hired by the staffing agency and the staffing agency pays the candidates wages or invoice. The client company then pays a slightly increased hourly rate to the staffing firm for the contract, freelance or temporary employee.

Outplacement Recruiter: 
An outplacement recruiter or agency provides job search assistance to jobseekers, typically downsized/displaced individuals. Many times the employer will hire an outplacement company to help their recently downsized workforce find jobs. Outplacement services include providing resume/interviewing assistance, career counseling, etc. Candidates can also hire an outplacement recruiter to work with them.  However this is often an expensive endeavor. 


Do They Charge Fees?  How Do They Work?

Recruiters are paid by the employer – they are not paid by the candidate (unless you chose to hire your own outplacement recruiter as explained above).  Many think recruiters Find Jobs for People – the reality is Recruiters Find People for Jobs!

Recruiters are paid to find very specific requirements for the employer.  Often they are looking for “hard to find” skills or a unique combination of skills (they may be hired after the employer is unable to find the right person).  In many cases, the jobs are not posted – for example, if conducting a confidential search or searching for a higher level position.

The recruiter reviews many resumes daily working on multiple assignments/positions.  They review their own database/network and sites such as Linkedin, Monster and Indeed, or target competitive companies with similar positions looking for candidates.  They will conduct an initial screening interview (by phone or in person) to gauge your qualifications, interest and fit.  Generally, they will provide “counsel” to candidates are qualified for the position, help them refine their resume, assist in interview preparation, and coach them on interview expectations.

Unless you match the requirements they are looking for, often recruiters will not spend much time with you.  This is not to be taken personally – they do not have time for a lengthy discussion with everyone and are often under a tight deadline to fill a specific job.  As a result, relying on recruiters only for your job search is not a good plan.

How Should I Use Recruiters in My Job Search?

It is a good idea to contact industry-specific recruiters, as generally they will each have different assignments/positions  — you want your resume in their databases.  Some recruiters are more focused than others.  For example, a recruiter may be a general IT recruiter, looking for any and all technical positions while others may be focused on a smaller subset of IT — SAS programmers or Hadoop, etc…   It is worth your time to get on the radar of those recruiters specializing in your field.  Check their website for job postings and contact them if you see a position that is a fit.  Ideally, you want to tailor your resume for the specific position prior to sending it to the recruiter.

Be sure to keep your online profiles up to date and filled with appropriate keywords to make yourself “findable” when a recruiter does a search.  It is not uncommon for a job-seeker to let a recruiter know where they land in order to develop that connection for the future.


We generally recommend spending only about 5% of your time working with recruiters – use your network and focus on activities to get you in front of the decision makers at your desired companies!   Recruiters can be a great resource, but the vast majority of job-seekers will NOT find their next job through a recruiter.

Career Evaluation Form

When reviewing career opportunities it’s important to be objective and keep in mind that many intangibles go into an employment decision (salary, benefits, 401K, flexible work schedule, etc.). The following spreadsheet has been created to help you rate and evaluate career opportunities while providing an objective weighted score for each opportunity.

Career Evaluation Form
This is a Microsoft Excel® document with formulas provided to help weight the importance of various factors to consider when evaluating career options.

The Excel document file size is 136K.

(use document on current website)



Helpful links for Job Search

There are many job search websites – these are a few you should consider:


Monster –

LinkedIn –

Indeed –

Career Builder –



MN Marketing Events

Marketing Events within Minneapolis and St. Paul:

AdFed: Advertising Federation of Minnesota

AWM-MN: Alliance for Women in Media

MN AMA: MN American Marketing Association
IABC MN: International Association of Business Communicators

MDMA: Midwest Direct Marketing Association

MIMA: Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association
Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association – MNSearch

MNWIFT: Minnesota Women in Film and Television

MWMC: Minnesota Women in Marketing and Communications

MN PRSA: MN Public Relations Society of America
PRSA: Public Relations Society of America
The Ciceron MBA Program: Marketing, Booze and Art


If you would like to reference this list in the future you can do so by bookmarking the following URL:



Salary Research

Generally the best barometer of what the market is paying for certain professions within specific industries is to obtain a salary survey from an industry trade journal. If you’re unable to locate a salary survey the following links can also provide you with a general idea of what the market is paying. However, be objective when reviewing this information and keep in mind that many intangibles go into a compensation package (benefits, 401K, flexible work schedule, etc.).