Career Advice

Why Recruiters Don't Get You Jobs

If you poke around the internet long enough, you’ll find someone who suggests that you should get to know recruiters. The idea is that since recruiters find people to fill jobs, they’ll be in a position to find you one. Since they know where the jobs are, they will certainly know where there’s one for you.

It sort of makes sense. Recruiters have jobs and access to the flow of job openings. Why wouldn’t that be a good place to lay some ground work?

In fact, it doesn’t hurt to be on the radar of a good recruiter. But, it’s important to understand that they are hunting for people to fill specific openings and may or may not ever come across the right thing for you. It’s an interesting paradox.

Recruiters look for people to fill openings all day long. Still, it is unlikely that they will find the right one for you. Why is that?

Recruiters are not agents for people in search of work. They are agents for the other side of the equation. Their real job is to eliminate people from consideration while they try to find the perfect candidate.

“So,” you say, “But I’m a pretty darned good candidate. Any smart recruiter would have an easy time finding a job for me. Somewhere in all of those openings is exactly the right job for me.”

If you try hard enough, you might even find a recruiter who will offer to find you a job. The results will be the same. But you will have successfully gotten a recruiter to agree to look for you.

So, why is it that these professionals, with just the right amount of access, can’t be perfectly helpful? Why isn’t the secret of job hunting as simple as getting to know a fistful of recruiters?

A high volume recruiter may fill as many as 100 jobs over the course of a year. (This level of output is restricted to corporate recruiters who make their livings by pushing candidates through a system). Filling a job usually starts with the best 50 or so prospects which are then whittled down to a field of eight or ten.

Getting the recruiter to put you in the pool gives you odds of 1 in 5,000. The very, very best she could do for you is to increase those odds to 1 in 10. But, the only way she could ethically do that is if you actually were one of the best ten. Since the recruiter is usually evaluated on the performance of the people she’s responsible for hiring, she’s not likely to help on you unless she’s certain that you’ll outshine the competition.

If that were the case, you wouldn’t need to know the recruiter in the first place.

So, the reality is that knowing a recruiter gives you a 1 in 5,000 shot at getting a job. That’s better than the lottery but not nearly as good as trying to get to know the people you want to work for directly. Recruiters are just intermediaries.