Recruiters and Headhunters for Job Hunting

Recruiters and headhunters are individuals who help companies find people to hire. They’re unaffiliated third parties who help fill jobs for companies. I’ve worked extensively with recruiters and headhunters the past year, and I want to shed some light on why and how you should work with one.


For the rest of this blog post, I’m going to use the words recruiter and headhunters interchangeably.


Why Do Companies Hire Recruiters and Headhunters?

Recruiters and headhunters have benefits for companies looking to hire people. We never really think about it, but filling a job is huge pain in the ass.


A company wants to hire someone. They post a job opening on an online job board like and can expect to get thousands of applications. Combing through a thousand applications to find 5 or so suitable candidates is borderline impossible. Then, they need to schedule interviews with those applicants. They need to coordinate schedules with 5 or more people, and the employees who conduct the interview are pissing away time that could be spent working.


And, there’s no guarantee that they’ll find any good candidates. There’s no guarantee a chosen candidate will accept the job offer you extend. And, there’s no guarantee the new hire will stay on long enough to be productive to the company.


A recruiter does all the work of finding candidates who are very likely to accept a job offer. The company only has to interview the 5 or so candidates and choose the best one(s) to hire. A recruiter also generally finds more competent candidates than a company could.


Why You Should Work With A Recruiter or Headhunter

First off, recruiters and headhunters are free of charge for job seekers. Recruiters and headhunters usually make their money from commissions that they collect from a hired employee’s salary. If you were hired to a position through a recruiter, they collect a very small portion of your salary, 10% at most, for a given period of time. Or, they charge a fee to the company that hires them.


If a recruiter or headhunter asks you to directly pay a fee, that’s a huge red flag. DO NOT work with them.


You should work with a recruiter or headhunter because you have absolutely nothing to lose. You don’t pay any money. And, job hunting is a numbers game: applying to more jobs increases your chance of successfully getting one. Having someone else also looking for a job for you will help you greatly.


Also, a company is very likely to look at your application more carefully if it’s coming from a recruiter they hired. The biggest issue with applying to a job on an online job board is that your application is in an ocean of other applications. Even if your application IS viewed by a hiring manager, it’ll be looked at for less than 10 seconds. You have less than 10 seconds to impress a very likely burnt-out and crotchety hiring manager enough to get an interview, at which point you need to impress the interviewer AND be a better fit for the job than the other 5 or so interviewees.


There’s just generally a lot of factors working against you when you apply to a job through an online job board (click here for more info.).


Basically, a headhunter won’t hurt you on your job hunt, so why not? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.


How to Get in Touch With A Recruiter

You apply to a job posting that a recruiter posts online. This gets your resume and other application materials into a recruiter’s hands. I’ve gotten in touch with recruiters by applying to job postings on my college online job board,,, ZipRecruiter, or by applying directly to positions on the recruiting company website. Unlike applying to job postings online, applying to a recruiter’s job posting has a MUCH higher chance of a someone responding to your application.


This is the best way to get in touch with recruiters and headhunters: apply to one of their positions, and it’s likely they’ll reach out to you.


Also, if you aren’t necessarily a good fit for the position you applied to, the recruiter will keep your resume on hand for a while in case a position you’re a good fit for comes up in the next few months.


Out of all the recruiting companies I’ve contacted, the best one by far is Aerotek (not an affliate link). I got my current job through an Aerotek recruiter.


They have branches all over the country and service a wide variety of industries, including engineering. Ford and Carrier are just some of the household names they work for. And once you work with one of their recruiters, your information is in their system and there’s a good chance another Aerotek recruiter with a good position will reach out to you.


I’ve worked with other recruiting companies, and they’ve all fallen short.


Working with Recruiters and Headhunters

There’s one very important thing you need to keep in mind:


Recruiters work for the company, NOT you. They help companies fill job openings. They aren’t necessarily concerned with getting you a job.


Don’t worry too much about job interview etiquette when you speak with recruiters and headhunters. You don’t need to have a prepared series of answers for typical interview questions. You don’t have to wear a suit when you meet with a recruiter. It’s much more informal.


Also unlike with job interviews, you can be a bit more open and honest with recruiters. You’re on a first name basis with them.


There’s very little time required to work with a recruiter. You’ll do an initial “interview” in-person or over the phone with the recruiter when they first reach out to you. The interview should last about 30 minutes. They’ll go over your resume, ask you about the kinds of jobs your looking for, if you’re willing to relocate (always say yes to this question), and they’ll go over the company and position you’ve applied for.


After that, the recruiter gets your resume to the company, and then you wait to hear back. If the company rejects you, that’s that. The recruiter may get in touch with you again in the future if another position that’s a good fit for you pops up.


The company will probably drag their feet in the hiring process, unless they actually NEED to hire someone.


You can expect not hear back with an interview date or rejection for about 2 weeks. So, it’s good to follow up with your recruiter 5-10 business days after the job application process starts. It doesn’t actually matter what the recruiter says. It’s important to follow up because it shows diligence and interest in the position. Follow up again in another 5-10 business days if you don’t hear anything. After that, the company either gave the job offer to someone else and didn’t bother getting back to the recruiter they hired, or they don’t have their shit together. Either way, you’re better off calling it a lost cause and pursuing other job opportunities.


If the company is willing to interview you, any recruiter worth a damn will help you prepare for it. After the interview, you talk to the recruiter about what it was like and send them thank you emails for the interviewer.


Click here for another blog post where I talk about writing thank you emails.


From my experience:

All the Aerotek recruiters I’ve worked with except one got me an interview, which is why I think so highly of them. Other recruiters couldn’t even get me an interview.


Almost all the recruiters, even the ones from Aerotek, were one and done. After failing to get a position or even an interview through the recruiter, I basically never hear from them again. It was rare that a failed recruiter would contact me again for another job opportunity.


Good news is: there’s still a way for you to maintain relations with a recruiter after a failed job opportunity and try again with them.


After a recruiter gets in touch with you, connect with them on LinkedIn. Any reasonably competent recruiter uses LinkedIn to find candidates for job openings. After you connect with them, you’ll get notifications of job openings they post on LinkedIn. If the job posting is a good fit (i.e. you think you’ve got a good chance of getting an offer), YOU can reach out to THEM.


Send them a friendly email (not a LinkedIn message, an email. You worked with them before, so you should still have their email). Remind them that you worked with them a little while back, tell them you saw their LinkedIn job posting, you think you’re a good fit for it, list some skills and qualifications you have that are great for the job, and say that you’re interested in pursuing the opportunity.


From my experience, a recruiter who contacts you again without legwork on your part can’t find any other candidates. It’s NOT because they want to personally help you get a job. It may feel great because it seems like the recruiter wants to help you, but that ISN’T the reason why. If the job is a mid-level or management level position, this makes sense. There aren’t many specialized, mid-level engineers/engineering managers who are seeking jobs.


But, a recruiter who can’t find any job candidates for entry-level positions is unusually incompetent. It couldn’t hurt to work with them (more people helping you find a job, the better), but I wanted to give you a heads up.


Recruiters: The Honest Truth

I don’t mean to insult anyone, but I want to be completely honest and arm you with the right knowledge to tackle the problems you might run into. Here’s my opinion of recruiters:


There’s no real requirements or special skills needed to become a recruiter. A lot of the ones I’ve worked with haven’t even held a lot of other jobs and/or have been recruiters for less than a year. One guy was a tour guide for a real estate company before he became a recruiter… and that’s all he did.


I do have to admit though: most of the recruiters who have a couple years of experience are reasonably competent. It’s just the ones who’ve been on the job for less than a year who cause so many headaches.


Also, there’s generally more job seekers than job openings, engineering included. Having a large LinkedIn network, posting job openings on multiple online job boards like, and going to college career fairs are some great ways of finding shit tons of job candidates.


Finding job candidates for entry-level positions isn’t hard.


Also, recruiters don’t have a very high interview rate. The successful interview setup rate for all the recruiters I’ve worked with is 40% (6 out of 15).


The Account Manager

Recruiters work with job seekers like us. They coordinate with an account manager who works directly with the company looking to hire.


Here’s the problem with that:


Companies generally don’t communicate their job descriptions very well. The reason is because those job descriptions are usually made by HR (human resources) people, who basically have no idea what the job description should actually be. Or, the job description is made by engineers, who are too busy with their projects to really give a shit about the hiring process and typically have a hard time communicating information to non-engineers.


This miscommunication gets even more screwed up by going from the account manager to the recruiter, and then from the recruiter to you.


Whenever you try to communicate with the company, you need to go through your recruiter. Communicating directly with the company is bad practice that both the company and the recruiter won’t like. So, the recruiter needs to go through the account manager, and the account manager gets your message to the company.


Things WILL get lost in translation. The company may never even get your message. Same thing if the company wants to communicate with you.


The account manager is usually a former recruiter who was promoted into the position. They come with all the same weaknesses of a recruiter (business major, no special skills or requirements). But, an account manager WAS a recruiter for a few years, so they usually have more experience and competence than an average recruiter.


Final Words

Recruiters and headhunters are never meant to be a substitute for job hunting. They’re more like supplements to your job hunting.


They’re very helpful for both companies and job hunters. Companies can avoid the difficult process of finding job candidates on their own, and job hunters have someone else looking for jobs for them.


But, recruiters should never be a trump card for either party. The companies still have to interview the job candidates, and job hunters still need to look for jobs on their own along with their recruiter.


The most important thing to keep in mind: recruiters help companies fill jobs. They DON’T really care about getting jobs for job hunters.


All right, I hope this was helpful. If it was, click that like button. And tell me some of your job hunting stories in the Comments down below.


All the best,


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