The Truth About Employment Agency

The world of contingent, employment agency is extremely competitive. The salesperson that visits clients will usually have a nice suit on and promise you the world, but as the saying goes, don’t ask how the sausage is made.

The main thing to understand is that contingent recruiting is a sales game and, as with any sales industry, it is all about earning commission. Employment agency recruiters must provide a majority of their service for free and there still is never a guarantee of earning their commission. [I would venture to say recruiters provide roughly 80% of their services for free]. It is only if their candidate gets selected will they be paid. As a result, it creates a lot of competition, not just amongst competing agencies, but between the many candidates the recruiter has sent to the client.

Therefore, employment agency recruiters focus more on making a successful placement with any candidate rather than a specific candidate. So while a candidate may be sent to that client by the recruiter, there could be as many as 5 – 10 other candidates being sent as well. This makes for a difficult situation because the candidate and recruiter have the same goal, but different outcomes. What I mean is both parties want a successful placement, but the recruiter will be happy with whoever gets placed as long as they are earning a fee.

The point of this article is to take a look into the truth behind employment agency recruiting. Please understand that I do not have an axe to grind against the agency world. I spent the majority of my career in that environment and I had a great time. I made great money, met some of my closest friends and helped change the lives of people when it came to their careers. However, there are parts of the world of employment agency recruiting that I feel it is important for people to understand:

1) Employment agency recruiters are not there to get a candidate a job:

If you are working with an employment agency recruiter, do not expect them to fight to get you a job.

Ultimately recruiters are loyal to those who pay their salary – those people are the client. They will contact you about a job, but if you do not fit the bill it is on to the next candidate. Yes you will enter into a pipeline of candidates because that recruiter should be filling similar positions. However, if they do not have an immediate role for you, do not expect them to go around looking for you!

2) Recruiting agencies hire young:

Most employment agencies hire right out of college. There are many reasons for this, but the one I have noticed the most is because recent college graduates will work 60 hour weeks for about 30K a year. That is typically what is asked of you right out of the gate. Most agencies will have working hours from 7:30- 5:00, however if you leave right at 5:00 you can expect a not so great meeting with your manager the next day. As a result there is a high turnover rate.

The amount of people I have seen get let go is astounding. It’s the main reason companies like Aerotek, Adecco, Robert Half or any of the other major employment agency won’t hire someone with experience. It is impossible to get someone with good recruiting experience to agree to that kind of demand.

3) Employment Agency recruiters have the candidates’ best interest in mind when it benefits the recruiter:

A candidate is only useful to an employment agency recruiter if they are in consideration for a job. If you are not in consideration for an opening they will most likely not give you a second thought.

Again this industry is sales based and a popular phrase in the agency world is “closest to the money”. A candidate not in consideration is not closest to the money therefore is an afterthought.

4) Your resume may open the door for other candidates:

Go to any car dealership and what will you notice? The shiny, new cars are always out front drawing the customer into the showroom. Recruiting is no different.

If your resume is one that is impressive on paper consider yourself that shiny car. Recruiters will use your resume to show their clients that they should do business with them because they will get them the best resumes. It is good to see yourself as the resume that opens the door for them, but you may only be starting the process to get someone else hired.

Hiring managers do not want to hire the first person they see, they want to do their due diligence. So while your resume may be the catalyst that starts the conversation between a client and a recruiting agency, you may just be setting up someone else to get the job.

5) Candidates are numbers:

The old saying goes “Sales is a numbers game”. The same goes for recruiting. When a recruiter first starts out in the agency world candidates are treated as numbers. For example, when I first started my career at Aerotek I was told to just bring in as many candidates as possible to gain experience. Regardless if I had a job for them or not I should bring them in for an interview. What about the candidate? They are taking their time to come into the office and interview with a recruiter, for what? All so the recruiter can gain experience? I am not against training people, but that is up to managers, not the responsibility of prospective candidates.


This article is not to persuade someone from entering the recruiting industry or candidates from working with agency recruiters. I personally have gone through all these experiences and have enjoyed my career tremendously. If you survive the initial demands as an agency recruiter there is a great career awaiting you. So if you are looking for a career in the industry, jump on in! Just understand the truth behind what goes on.

As a candidate you need to be selective with who you work with. Develop a relationship with a recruiter beyond just picking up the phone the next time a job comes in. Understand which recruiters are working in your specific industry and networking with the people you want to meet. Then develop an understanding with the recruiter of what your career goals are. That way, they can align you with the proper hiring managers. A good recruiter should be there to create conversation between two people who normally may not be connected. Employment agency recruiters can open up doors that you didn’t even know existed.

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