Envelope #17: Recruiters - yes or no? Maybe not, maybe so

Happy Thursday! This is Back of the Envelope – the place to be for SE-related snacks that you can bite in less than 5 minutes.

Today, I am going to talk about our favorite group of people on LinkedIn – recruiters.

Should you talk to one if you are looking for a “new opportunity” (that’s the lingo for “new job”)?

Let me tell you what I think.

(Estimated reading time = 3 minute and 22 seconds )

Should you talk to a recruiter?

I’ll cut straight to the chase – the answer is: most definitely no (and maybe yes sometimes)

Jk… but seriously, in the structural engineering field, the answer depends on two things:

  1. What kind of position are you looking for? (C-suite/senior executives. Or everything else.)

  2. What kind of recruiter is reaching out to you? (in-house, or agency)

Let me explain.

C-suite/senior-executives vs. everything else

Only larger companies have these so called C-suite senior-level jobs. They are rare and are typically not widely known because companies need to keep that confidential.

You most definitely won’t find these jobs on job boards, so the only way to know about them is through networking and possibly through recruiters.

Anyhow, most of us belong to the “everything else” category. I.e., entry-level (recent grad or EIT), mid-level (5 to 10+ years of experience), or senior project engineers/managers…etc.

90% of the time (educated guesstimate), you can find these on job boards or company websites. You could also sometimes uncover them through “natural/casual networking.” (topic for another day).

You might be thinking, “Oh so that means I should probably talk to a recruiter to find those hidden jobs that aren’t posted?”

Well, maybe.

Before answering that, you should know there are two types of recruiters: "in-house" and "agency".

In-house vs. agency

As the name implies, an “in-house recruiter” is someone who works at the organization and is helping his/her company find new employees.

You can usually tell this is the case by looking at the person’s current position on his LinkedIn profile, or you can also tell from the person’s email address.

On the other hand, an “agency recruiter” works at a recruiting agency and works on behalf of one or more companies to fill positions.

They usually get paid a commission if a candidate gets successfully hired (how much commission? I’ll get to that in a minute).

Most of the time, it’s pretty obvious from the person’s message to you that he is an agency recruiter. (E.g., “One of our clients in XYZ is looking for a civil-structural engineer.”)

Sometimes you have to do a quick Google search on the person’s company to confirm.

Anyways, back to the question: “should you talk to a recruiter?”

If it’s an in-house recruiter and the company looks relevant, then the answer is “yes”. 

The person will be able to tell you more about the company and what they are looking for specifically since she literally works there.

On the other hand, if an agency recruiter reaches out to you and says something along the line of “You have an impressive resume! I thought you might be the perfect fit for this position!” – my suggestion is to “respond but don’t engage.”

Meaning, you can politely reply by saying “Cool -- thanks but no thanks” or you can ask light, surface questions to find out more so you can do your own research (e.g., “where is this company located” and “what’s the position title they are trying to fill?).

They’ll probably tell you to get on a call and ask you to send over your resume – DON’T DO IT. Because it could potentially hurt you.

Why an agency recruiter could potentially be bad for you

Here is the thing, as soon you send over your resume and the recruiter applies to the job for you, he is now entitled to a commission should you end up getting hired.

And the commission can be as high as 25% of your first-year salary at the company!

Think about that for a second.

Let’s throw in a random salary number, say $80k/year.

The recruiter (that you barely knew) could pocket $20k just because he got your permission to send over your resume to companies, for jobs you could’ve found yourself!

“But that money it’s not out of my pocket, and the recruiter said she will help me get the highest salary!?”

Well… if the company has to pay a commission to hire you, it means they’ll have less money to offer you.

If another candidate comes in without a recruiter and has similar qualifications and qualities as you... financially, it just won't make sense to offer you more money. #logic

So it doesn’t matter what the recruiter tells you, he/she literally has no power nor authority to make sure you get the highest salary (unless he lowers his commission to $0, which obviously won’t happen).

To sum up, my thoughts on recruiters:

  • Talk to an "in-house recruiter" if it makes sense since they know about the company they work for.

  • “Politely respond but don’t engage” an "agency recruiter" because it could actually hurt your chances of getting more money (assuming you qualify and do well in the interview and all that)

Hope that all makes sense. Enjoy the rest of your week and thanks for reading!

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