A friend of mine recently left his job – Director Level – over ten years with the same organization – had not looked for a job since he graduated from college. We were talking about the job search process and he looked at me and said “can’t I just hire someone to do this for me?”
There are people in the world who will offer to do just that. There are recruiters (aka head hunters), search firms, employment agencies, placement firms, placement consultants, staffing agencies, and temporary placement firms. All of these want to help you find your next job. You just have to understand the risks.
The primary thing to keep in mind, is that virtually all of these are for-profit businesses that make money from either you or the organization that hires you. Therefore, their goal may not always be to find you the best job for you, their goal is to fill the job so they get paid.
There are two basic types of head hunters – retained search firms and contingency search firms. Retained firms are hired by the organization to find the best candidate for the organization. They are typically paid a percentage of the new hire’s annual salary (usually 30-35%) plus expenses and they typically do good work. Because of the expense, retained search firms usually are only hired for bigger jobs (executive level jobs). The best ones know that their long-term success comes from placing candidates who will be successful, which will garner them additional business.
Contingency search firms are not “hired” by anyone. They attempt to match candidates with jobs, but they are only paid if the organization hires someone they introduce to the organization. For many of these firms, the key to their success is volume and they will send as many candidates to an organization as possible in hopes that one of them stick. Contingency firms usually charge a fee of 20-25% of the new hire’s annual salary.
Placement firms, temporary firms, and contacting agencies are the other major players in the employment market. They hire workers and place them in positions with their clients. Depending on the nature of the work, those placements could be for several hours and up to several years. The understanding could be that the employee will always work for the agency, or that they are temp-to-hire, meaning the organization can “test drive” the worker, and if they are successful, hire that person from the agency. These firms may provide a full benefit package to the employees, or they may simply pay them. For temporary placement and/or temp-to-hire, these firms will typically mark the employees’ salary up 50% to cover their cost and margins – so if they are paying the worker $10 per hour, they charge the company $15.
Depending on the type of job you are looking for, the urgency of your search, and the industry that you are in, any of these options might be right for you. The higher you are in your organization, the more likely it is that you should introduce yourself to both retained, and contingency search firms so that they might be able to match you with one of their clients. If you work in IT, contract-to-hire placements are becoming the normal method for find a job.
My primary message is for to understand that while any or all of these organizations might help you, their goal is not to help you, but to make money from that transaction. Using an agency can be a great arrow for your quiver, but it should not be your only arrow. Talk to recruiters and agencies and understand your options, but don’t wait for them to find you a job. Instead, network, research, apply and conduct your own search, while they do theirs, and hopefully everything will come together quickly.
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