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The Recruiter-Candidate Relationship Explained

May, 2024
Adam Richardson

If you’ve never previously engaged a (good) recruitment consultancy to help you find a job then you will likely have a myriad of questions. Some are easy to answer, such as “How much will a recruiter cost me?” (they won’t – it’s illegal in the UK for recruitment agencies to charge a candidate a fee to find a job); while others like “How often should I speak with my recruiter?” aren’t so black and white. In this blog I’ll try to answer some of the most common and most interesting questions as well as the most important ones...

Why use a recruitment consultant? I can search the jobs boards myself

If you choose a reputable recruiter who specialises in your niche e.g. procurement and supply chain roles in the construction sector, then a) they will probably be aware of more opportunities than you would be able to find yourself without considerable effort; and b) they will have more detail about those opportunities than you would get from the job descriptions. As a result they will be able to help you understand the pros and cons of each opportunity and so reduce not only the time you spend identifying potential roles but also the time you spend applying for unsuitable ones. 

How does a recruiter get paid? 

The first thing to note is that it is always the client who pays the recruiter and it is illegal for a recruiter to charge a candidate to find them a job. The terms between recruiter and client vary, the most common fee structures are:

1. Contingent recruitment: where the client only pays the recruiter if a candidate they find is appointed to a role. This means that if several recruitment companies are working on the same role only one of them will get paid;

2. Executive Search recruitment: where the client retains a sole agency, further payments are due when specific targets in a process are achieved.

In either case, the recruiter will only get to keep the fee if the candidate stays in place past their probation and long term relationships with clients are necessary to run a successful business so recruiters will only put forward candidates who they feel could succeed in the role.

Will a recruiter put me forward for a role without asking? 

No reputable recruiter will put you forward for a role without your permission, in fact it is against the law. However, when you sign up to jobs boards or register on recruitment company websites read what you are agreeing to in the T&Cs.

What makes a candidate attractive to a recruiter? 

A couple of things. The better the chance the recruiter has of placing a candidate the harder they will work for that candidate as the recruiter has a greater chance of gaining a fee. If you offer to work with one recruiter exclusively for a period of time then they will likely make finding you a role a priority. A second big factor is how easy a candidate is to work with and in particular trust and responsiveness. Trust in the recruiter-candidate relationship is critical and recruiters go the extra yard for people who are straightforward, realistic, polite and recognise the value a recruiter can add to their job hunt. The third thing is candidates with a scarce or in demand skillset and a proven record of achievement.

Will a recruiter push me towards a certain role? 

A recruiter’s most valuable asset is their reputation. If they misrepresent a role to a candidate or misrepresent a candidate to a recruiter there is every chance that they will be found out and word will get around. As a result, good recruiters will always look to accurately represent a role and your suitability for it. The best recruiters will however help a candidate understand opportunities from various angles – listen with an open mind but make your own decision.

Are recruiters career counsellors? 

Choose an experienced recruiter who specialises in your sector/role and they will likely want to ensure you have a good understanding of your career goals and how you might best achieve them. Every good recruitment consultant will also be attuned to cultural fit i.e. ensuring that your personality is what is required for the role the client is recruiting for and so will be able to give you a feel for whether you will fit in. 

Will a recruiter put me forward for every role I am suitable for? 

A recruiter will consider you for every role you are suitable for, however should they have twenty candidates for a role and the client only wants to consider four, the recruiter will select the strongest four candidates to put forward – hopefully including you. Would you have done better going direct if the hiring company is accepting direct applications? Probably not because the recruiter will likely be right about some of those four candidates being better suited for that particular role than you are.

Why do clients use recruitment consultants? 

There are a number of reasons including: 

1. The client doesn’t have the expertise or network to recruit candidates with the specific experience or skillset required for this role and so it wouldn’t be efficient for them to do so. This is the most common reason clients choose us – we are niche recruiters for procurement and commercial related roles within the construction sector; 

2. The company doesn’t have the capacity internally to run the recruitment process; 

3. The client wants to challenge themselves to understand whether they are finding the best candidates.  

    What aspects of the recruitment process will the recruitment agency fulfil? 

    Typically the recruitment agency may:

    • Help the client develop the brief for the role; 
    • Rewrite the job description to more accurately reflect the role and advertise it as agreed with the client; 
    • Proactively scope the market and identify relevant candidates who may be worth approaching; 
    • Be the first point of contact for any candidate queries; 
    • Help promising candidates with their covering letters, CVs and interview technique as required;
    • Generally receive all the applications and vet (check that information they provide is correct) them; 
    • Compile a long list of candidates for the client to consider or alternatively move straight to a shortlist; 
    • Liaise with client and candidate to arrange interviews and any practical tasks;
    • Brief the candidate about what to expect from the role/ at interview to help them present themselves in the best possible light;
    • Follow up with both candidate and interviewers to ensure both parties have presented themselves as they wanted to and in a fair way – where they haven’t they will look to correct that; 
    • When the process finishes they will look to understand the parties perceptions of one another and provide feedback; 
    • If the client makes an offer the recruiter will act as an intermediary to help candidate and client come to an agreement; 
    • Ensure the client keeps the successful candidate engaged until they start as well as potentially undertaking the reference checks; and 
    • Keep in touch with the candidate once they start to check how they are getting on. 

    How often should I call my recruiter? 

    The answer to this is situation dependent and largely a case of common sense. If you have applied speculatively for a job then follow up a few days later or around the deadline date indicated if you’ve heard nothing. If you have registered with a recruitment consultancy discuss with your recruiter how often you should be in touch. If a recruiter asks to put you forward for a role then ask when you should expect to hear more and follow up after that. If you are in a process and want to speak with the recruiter as a priority then leave a message for them and send them an email (but say you are doing both otherwise it can appear impatient) highlighting why you need to speak with them and when you are available. If you’ve not heard about any opportunities in a few weeks then email to ask for a catch up about the market and what candidates like you should be doing.

    Why does a recruiter keep chasing me? 

    There are two reasons a recruiter is likely chasing you.

    1. There is a time pressure, either because applicants need to be put forward by a certain time or because the client is working with multiple recruiters and the first person to get your CV (assuming you get the role) will be the recruiter who gets the success fee.

    2. The client is pressuring the recruiter for information from you.

    Why does my recruiter not get back to me? 

    Sometimes the recruiter will be waiting for more information from the client before speaking with you. However more often than not, the reason will be that they are out of the office, for example visiting clients, or that they have a pile of priorities they are working through systematically. Depending on the briefs, for junior to mid-level roles a recruiter will be working on between 12 and 30 roles at any one time, with clients expecting to see between 3 and 6 CVs per role… That’s a lot of juggling research, calls, interview arranging etc.

    Will my employer find out I am looking for a job? 

    The answer is the same whether you apply direct or use a recruitment consultant: they shouldn’t do but exercise caution if the idea worries you. By caution I mean don’t use your current work email or your work phone as your contact details for applications and be careful what you leave up on screen at work. Also, putting “Jane Smith – Recruiter” as the contact name in your personal phone could lead to raised eyebrows if you use that phone around colleagues. At some stage the recruiter or hiring manager will need to check references and do some background qualification which can leave a trail. It does no harm to think at each stage of a process what you would say if a colleague found out and asked you about it.

    About the author:

    Adam Richardson - Managing Director

    Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the construction sector.

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