Working with a Recruiting Firm:
The Candidate’s Perspective
The professionalism, courteousness, and
honesty that you expect of a ﬁrm are the same
attributes ﬁrms are also seeking in their candidates.
BY S H A N E M O O R E
About the Author
SHANE MOORE is vice president of
contracts management and procurement
services for YRCI, a midsized outsourcing
organization headquartered in Fairfax,
Virginia. YRCI provides commercial clients
and the federal government with a
variety of contracts management, pro-
curement, acquisition, and HR-related
services. Send comments on this article
14 ■ Contract Management / February 2006
Working in the contracts industry, These individuals’ ﬁrst-hand More lessons learned:
whether you’re a full-time employee, encounters with recruitment and
consultant, or a self-employed inde- outsourcing specialists offer a helpful ■ Work with recruiters who are
pendent contractor, I predict that you how-to guide for establishing a enthusiastic about your credentials.
will probably work with a recruiting successful long-term, proﬁtable, and At two ﬁrms, the recruiters immedi-
ﬁrm at some point during your career, mutually beneﬁcial relationship with ately began calling around to set up
perhaps even this year. From my a recruiting ﬁrm. In the interest of fair interviews while I was in the ofﬁce.
perspective, a top-notch recruiting and balanced disclosure, they share At other ﬁrms, the reception was
company can serve as an excellent the ups and downs of their experiences, more ho-hum.
resource in your quest for rewarding but they all admit the pros far
employment in the ﬁeld of contract outweigh the cons. ■ Be prepared for a wide range of
management. expertise and professionalism
Over the past decade, the rapidly A Crafty Consumer among various recruiting ﬁrms.
changing employment landscape has As an experienced senior contracts For example, one ﬁrm provided
forced recruiting ﬁrms to reinvent administrator with a company in individual interviewing rooms for
themselves for the new millennium the metro Washington, D.C., region, maximum privacy, which was
workforce. Gone are the dinosaur days Tracie Carrier never expected to need appreciated. One ﬁrm sent me on
when fat and happy recruiters, formerly the services of a recruiting ﬁrm. But, an interview to a location that I had
known rather disparagingly as “head when she was unexpectedly laid off speciﬁcally requested not to work in.
hunters,” could sit back and collect in mid-2005, she became a contracts
sizable commissions simply by vetting consultant virtually overnight and ■ Long-term friendships with
the résumés of job candidates and fax- registered with multiple stafﬁng spe- recruiters can result when the com-
ing the information to hiring managers. cialty companies—four, in fact—in an munications are open and honest.
As a means of survival, today’s next- effort to land a new job in one of the I have already referred a colleague
generation professional recruiters nation’s most competitive markets for to the recruiter who placed me
have evolved into full-ﬂedged talent contract management professionals. because I was so impressed with her.
managers and skilled negotiators, Although Carrier was a newbie to the
functioning as expert human capital world of working with recruiting ﬁrms, Working on His Terms
connectors and proactive partners she sounded like a savvy consumer After working as a contracts director
with both their candidates as well as when sharing her no-nonsense strategy for a number of years, Bob Arnold
their clients. Additionally, the most for a successful job search. “You have quit his job and took a multiyear
successful recruiting organizations, to shop around for a recruiting ﬁrm sabbatical aboard his 42-foot sailboat,
in an effort to differentiate themselves just like you would when buying a car,” the Firena (“Mermaid” in Spanish).
from competitors, have expanded said Carrier, who wanted to maintain Although he’s now back in the work-
their service offerings to include a a controlling interest in her next force as a consultant on assignment
host of value-added extras such as career move. “I made no secret that I with a major consulting ﬁrm, he
fully loaded beneﬁts packages for all was working with other ﬁrms, because values the maximum ﬂexibility that
consultants and educated recruiters I wanted them to work hard to place me attracted him to being a contracts
who act as long-term career counselors in a position that was the best for me.” consultant in the ﬁrst place.
rather than just people who help a In late 2005, one of the recruiting According to Arnold, the single
candidate ﬁnd the next job. ﬁrms placed her in a six-month most important thing he looked for
If you are unsure of what to expect contract-to-hire position as a senior in a recruiting ﬁrm was a good ben-
from a relationship with a recruiting contracts analyst for a global IT services eﬁts package. “Beneﬁts are not only
ﬁrm, don’t miss the “Bill of Rights” outsourcing consultancy. “It’s an ideal expensive, but often difﬁcult to get
for candidates and recruiting ﬁrms situation because I can test the job and on your own, so look for a recruiting
that we’ve compiled to provide helpful the company to see if I like it before ﬁrm that provides them as a standard
tips, explanations, and a short guide going full time,” she added. “During feature,” he advises, noting that
to working with recruiting ﬁrms. But, the ﬁrst six months, I’m working as a everything really depends on what
most important, listen to the personal W2 employee for the recruiting ﬁrm you and your family need.
stories of seven contracts professionals and am eligible for a great beneﬁts He especially praised a recruiting
who have extensive experience working package beginning on day one. With ﬁrm’s ability to market the talents of
with recruiting organizations and who some recruiting ﬁrms, you have to candidates and to effectively promote
conduct business in the competitive work several months before you can them to various potential employers.
metro Washington, D.C., region, a qualify for minimal beneﬁts. That’s “If you want to stay busy and employed
central hub of contract management something to consider when choosing as a consultant, it’s difﬁcult to market
activity. a recruiting ﬁrm to afﬁliate with.” yourself and to deliver a high-level
February 2006 / Contract Management ■ 15
W O RKING WITH A RECRUITING F I R M : T H E C A N D I D AT E ’ S P E R S P E CT I V E
performance at the same time,” he the call came from a recruiting ﬁrm ■ Don’t necessarily believe negative
admitted. Good recruiting ﬁrms act as about an intriguing direct-hire oppor- rumors about recruiting ﬁrms.
intermediaries to present candidates tunity for a senior position with a large They’re not always true. I was sur-
in the most favorable light and also to government contracting organization. prised by how excited the recruiters
negotiate salary, hours, beneﬁts, and Gola was wary about pursuing were to work with me.
other employment essentials on the the position, mainly because he was
candidate’s behalf. apprehensive about working through Do Your Homework
More lessons learned: a recruiting ﬁrm. “I had heard rumors Charles Davis, a 30-year veteran of
about ﬁrms that don’t always represent the contract management business,
■ I don’t like to work with recruiting the candidate’s best interests or that currently works on a consulting
ﬁrms that charge a fee to the job aren’t honest about the job openings,” assignment through a recruiting ﬁrm.
seeker for their services. Usually, he explained. But the professionalism His seen-it-all voice of experience
they don’t earn the fee, and they’re and enthusiasm of the recruiter won shares some words of wisdom about
trying too hard to ﬁt me into the him over. “The recruiter got me excited working with recruiting ﬁrms.
jobs they have, not the jobs that are about the job, even though I really didn’t First and foremost, thoroughly
the best match for my skills. need to go out on any more interviews.” investigate the ﬁrm. Look at the
federal agencies or corporations
that the ﬁrm has placed candidates
It’s important, regardless what stage of your career you are with. Review the salary ranges and
beneﬁts the ﬁrm offers. “You don’t
in, to develop a solid relationship with a recruiting ﬁrm—one want to work with a ﬁrm that just
wants to put a warm body in a job
that takes the time to get to know you, understands your slot,” he cautioned. “Recruiting ﬁrms
look at me as a dollar ﬁgure, so I’m
technical skills and capabilities, provides constructive criticism, going to look at them the same way.
Can I support myself and my family
encourages career-enhancing education and afﬁliations, with the salary and the beneﬁts that
invests in you, respects your career objectives, and works Davis addressed the topic of
whether to work as an independent
diligently to market you to the right audience. contractor, sometimes referred to as a
1099 employee (meaning the candidate
is virtually self-employed and would
■ It’s important to feel comfortable Within days, Gola had accepted the need to cover the cost of all insurance
with the recruiter. If they under- position through the recruiting ﬁrm and and other beneﬁts, as well as pay 100
stand you and your goals, they’ll has been working there for more than percent of all applicable taxes) or as
work harder to ﬁnd the right a year. “I’m convinced that a recruiting a W2 employee of the recruiting ﬁrm
position for you. ﬁrm can sell me better than I can sell (where the company may cover a sig-
myself,” said this satisﬁed customer. niﬁcant portion of beneﬁt premiums,
■ As a consultant on assignment He was impressed to discover that provide paid vacation, paid holidays,
through a recruiting ﬁrm, you have his new employer works nearly exclu- and taxes would not only be deducted
two bosses — the recruiting ﬁrm sively with the recruiting ﬁrm that for the employee but also partially
and the corporation or agency with placed him. “This speaks volumes for matched, thus covering a portion of
which you are under contract. A the credibility and reputation of the federal taxes that the 1099 employee
good recruiting ﬁrm will keep in ﬁrm,” he commented. “Over the past would normally have to cover on his/
touch regularly via calls or e-mails, year, several of the recruiters routinely her own).
so you don’t become alienated from visit my employer to thank us for “It all depends on what you ultimately
the ﬁrm. doing a good job. I like getting positive want to accomplish as a consultant,”
feedback from the recruiters about he commented. He explained that on
Enthusiasm Made the Difference my work. It’s great to stay in contact some assignments, candidates might
After 10 years as a senior professional with them.” want to be a 1099 employee and
with a major U.S. corporation, Amod More lessons learned: get a higher salary, especially if they
Gola found himself back in the job have beneﬁts covered under another
market following a layoff. He was ■ Choose a recruiting ﬁrm that’s very source, such as a spouse or a pension.
deciding between two job offers that professional and that provides a high On other assignments, it might be more
he’d found through other sources when comfort level during the relationship. advantageous to be a W2 employee
16 ■ Contract Management / February 2006
W O RKING WITH A RECRUITING F I R M : T H E C A N D I D AT E ’ S P E R S P E CT I V E
through the recruiting ﬁrm. “You have examples of trustworthy actions by a few days. The good ﬁrms will
to do what’s best for you,” he added. a recruiting ﬁrm. “You need a ﬁrm want to get to know you and ﬁnd
More lessons learned: that is honest about evaluating your out what you’re really interested in.
strengths and weaknesses — one that
■ If a recruiting ﬁrm requires the will critique your résumé, your inter- ■ The objectivity of a good recruiting
candidate to pay a fee, walk away. viewing skills, your appearance. You ﬁrm is essential to your success as
There’s such a need for contract need to hear things that will help you a candidate. If I think I’m worth
management professionals that it’s get ahead, not just what you like to more than I really am, a reputable
not necessary to ever pay a fee as hear about yourself.” recruiting ﬁrm will level with me
the candidate. And the trust factor works both ways. and tell me where I stand in
“The recruiting ﬁrm needs to trust relation to my peers.
■ I won’t recommend certain recruiting what I’m telling them, so that they
ﬁrms to my friends. Professional won’t overestimate my skills or under- Flexibility Is Key
consultants want positions that are estimate my salary requirements.” The life of a consultant suits Chris
challenging and rewarding. Just He was completely won over when Parker* just ﬁne, especially the ﬂex-
because a ﬁrm throws some bucks his recruiting ﬁrm encouraged him ibility of schedule and work hours,
in front of me doesn’t mean I want to feel free to distribute his résumé which allows him to be home in the
to work with them. on his own, if he heard about a good afternoon with his children. When
opportunity. “That small gesture one of his sons was diagnosed with
■ The recruiter has a job description, indicated that they were interested in a long-term medical condition that
but may not really know everything pleasing me and in building a long-term required injections and subsequent
that’s involved with the position. An relationship. If a recruiter wanted monitoring throughout the day, Parker
experienced contracts professional me to sign an exclusive agreement, I valued his career choice even more.
knows. You have to analyze the would shy away from them. It means In his experience, there are multiple
job description and read between they are trying to limit my interviews reasons for using a recruiting ﬁrm
the lines to negotiate a salary that only to the jobs they have on ﬁle, not that specializes in contract manage-
reﬂects what the job is really worth. in ﬁnding the perfect ﬁt for me.” ment. “I’ve heard some people say
Miss Manners would be proud of that recruiting ﬁrms just want to place
■ Have some scruples and integrity. Shaver’s business etiquette practices. anyone, anywhere, in order to earn a
Commit to the assignment for the He recommends sending a thank you fee, but I don’t subscribe to that
complete time period. If another note or e-mail to the recruiter who philosophy,” he remarked.
recruiting ﬁrm calls you in the middle places a candidate in an ideal position. A recruiting ﬁrm’s expertise lies in
of your assignment, tell them to check “You never know when you might ﬁltering through the jobs and employers
back with you when the current need the recruiter’s assistance again, to save time for the candidates and to
assignment is getting ready to end. so kindness and consideration go a make the best career match possible.
long way,” he said. “Tell the recruiter Also, it’s like getting an automatic job
■ The ﬁrst interview with a recruiting that you like your new job and appre- reference when you’re working with a
ﬁrm reveals a lot. If you get a bad ciate their hard work on your behalf.” good recruiting ﬁrm known within the
feeling, say goodbye. More lessons learned: industry as being reputable. Otherwise,
your résumé is just a piece of paper in
Trust Is a Must ■ Recruiting ﬁrms are usually good a pile with hundreds of others.
Arnie Shaver, a senior acquisitions about accommodating after-hours “Recruiting ﬁrms offer an excellent
manager for a prominent consulting discussions when you’re looking for path for working with a variety of dif-
corporation, found this challenging a new position. It’s hard to conduct a ferent companies without the stigma
direct-hire position through a recruiting job search during work hours. of being a job-hopper,” he said. “You
ﬁrm. He stated emphatically that the can explore employers and corporate
most important element in the ■ The recruiting ﬁrm should tell you cultures, and your résumé won’t
candidate/recruiting ﬁrm dynamic its expectations for the relationship suffer at all. It’s a wonderful bridge
is, quite simply, trust. “I have to trust up front; everything starts with an if you’re between jobs or if you’re
that the ﬁrm is looking out for my honest and open dialogue. retired from a full-time career but
best interests. Sure, they’re going to want to bring in some revenue doing
make money by placing me. But I ■ If you post your résumé online on work that you really enjoy.”
can’t be forced into taking a position a source such as Monster.com or More lessons learned:
that’s not right for me.” NCMA (www.ncmajobs.com), you’ll
Knowing that trust is cultivated know very quickly whether it’s well ■ Consultants are expected to be
over time, Shaver mentioned several written if a recruiter calls you within valuable from day one on the
18 ■ Contract Management / February 2006
WORKING WITH A RECRUITI N G F I R M : T H E C A N D I D AT E ’ S P E R S P E C T I V E
assignment. Recruiting ﬁrms expect ■ Take advantage of a recruiting ﬁrm’s A Contracting Mercenary
you to walk in and get to work. negotiating skills. They can serve as A retired quarter ofﬁcer who also was
Your job performance is a reﬂection an objective and diplomatic inter- a GS-11 contract specialist with the
of their expertise. mediary on sensitive employment U.S. government for four years, Michael
issues such as salary and beneﬁts. Smith* accepted a contract-to-hire
■ When an assignment is coming to assignment in 2005 through a recruiting
an end, the recruiting ﬁrm should ■ When a recruiting ﬁrm gets bigger ﬁrm. He believes that more full-time
notify the candidate well in advance and more successful, you don’t contract specialists would venture
and also let the candidate know always have direct access to the into contract consulting if they could
about other assignments that might more senior recruiters with the get an ironclad guarantee that a new
be a good ﬁt rather than just renew most industry knowledge. Make job assignment would be waiting at
the current contract because it sure the recruiter representing you the conclusion of the current contract
might be easier. knows what’s going on. assignment.
“But that guarantee doesn’t exist,”
February 2006 / Contract Management ■ 19
W O RKING WITH A RECRUITING F I R M : T H E C A N D I D AT E ’ S P E R S P E CT I V E
he said. Even though job security is recruiting ﬁrm will submit the can- relationship with the recruiting
normally a hallmark of government jobs, didate’s résumé before the actual organization.
nothing is totally secure, especially submittal.
in a post-9/11 world. “Any position Replacement Possibilities
can be cut at any time. However, I’ve ■ The right to negotiate compensation While typically determined by the
found that if you do a good job as a requirements through their recruiter end hiring client, the following is a
contractor, you’ll always be able to ﬁnd with prospective employers. condensed narrative of the three most
a new position either as a contractor likely ways a recruiting organization
or as a full-time employee.” ■ The right to be fully engaged can assist you in your next career
For aspiring contractors who are throughout the entire employment/ endeavor.
curious about the compensation levels hiring process.
for these contract consulting positions, Direct-Hire Position
Smith doesn’t mince words about his ■ The right to contact the recruiting The recruiting ﬁrm places a candidate
motivations and his loyalties. “I’m like ﬁrm anytime and to expect a prompt directly into a full-time position with
a contracting mercenary who will return call/e-mail with an update. an end client (also known as a
work for the highest bidder. I’m 100 “permanent position”).
percent loyal to the person or company ■ The right to expect the information
who cuts my paycheck, and I owe it to being provided to the candidate is Pros
them to provide high-quality service.” honest, accurate, and to the best
According to Smith, good recruiting knowledge of the recruiting ﬁrm. ■ Negotiation process concludes upon
ﬁrms have the inside scoop on the hire and ends the interviewing cycle.
best job opportunities with the most Recruiting Firm’s Bill of Rights
lucrative salary levels for contract ■ Salary and beneﬁts are ﬁrmly estab-
consultants. “When you’ve reached a ■ The right to have an open and honest lished upon hire.
point where you are paid really well relationship with the candidate in
for what you do, those jobs are not order to represent the candidate in ■ Candidate goes immediately onto
advertised,” he remarked. “It’s a plus the most honest and favorable way hiring ﬁrm’s beneﬁts plan.
to be registered with a recruiting to hiring managers.
specialist who has established a great Cons
network of federal and civilian contacts.” ■ The right to ask every question
More lessons learned: that’s legally allowed, including ■ If candidate dislikes position and
salary requirements, past salary leaves, candidate could be viewed
■ Work with a recruiting ﬁrm that compensation, location/commuting as a job-hopper.
treats candidates and their résumés needs, motivators and values, cur-
with respect. I wouldn’t want my rent ongoing interviews, technical ■ Candidate typically does not get
résumé to be put in a holding pen capabilities, reasons for leaving past paid for every hour worked as they
with a bunch of other applicants. employers, and any other potential typically do when consulting
information a client hiring manager through a recruiting organization on a
■ Work with a recruiting ﬁrm that may require. contract or contract-to-hire position.
communicates regularly throughout
the duration of the contract ■ The right to perform background Contract-to-Hire Position
consulting assignment. If the ﬁrm checks on employment and The recruiting ﬁrm places a candi-
supports the consultant and keeps education records. date with an end client on an initial
its promises, the consultant and contractual basis (typically 6–12
recruiting ﬁrm are going to have a ■ The right to meet the perspective months), after which time the can-
more successful, long-term candidate in person. didate normally transitions into a
relationship. direct-hire “permanent” status with
■ The right to get timely, honest, and the employer (generally used as a
Candidate’s Bill of Rights complete feedback from the candidate. means of diversifying recruiting costs
over a longer period of time).
■ The right to ask as many questions ■ The right to provide suggestions to
as possible about the recruiting candidates regarding career decisions Pros
ﬁrm, the position, the salary, the and interviewing techniques and skills.
location, etc. ■ Candidate gets paid for every hour
■ The right to expect candidates of work and can “test-drive” the
■ The right to approve where the to honor their commitments and position and the company before
20 ■ Contract Management / February 2006
WORKING WITH A RECRUITI N G F I R M : T H E C A N D I D AT E ’ S P E R S P E C T I V E
agreeing to accept the position ■ Oftentimes a candidate’s career can pany reorganization before starting to
permanently. actually grow because of the vast develop an afﬁliation with a recruiting
number of industry colleagues met organization that best ﬁts your needs.
■ Candidate has ﬁnal say whether to on assignment and picking up of Quite simply, during these times of
go full time or not at the conclusion additional knowledge and experi- uncertainty, you’re not always able to
of the contract-to-hire period. ence through exposure to numerous be as selective. It’s important, regard-
corporate environments. less what stage of your career you are
■ During the initial contract duration in, to develop a solid relationship with
period, candidate may be a W2 Cons a recruiting ﬁrm—one that takes the
employee of the recruiting ﬁrm (if time to get to know you, understands
offered by the ﬁrm) or a self-employed ■ While all employment is “at will,” your technical skills and capabilities,
independent contractor (1099 this type of employment is less provides constructive criticism,
employee), depending upon what is consistent due to engagement encourages career-enhancing educa-
negotiated as best for the candidate. transitions. tion and afﬁliations, invests in you,
respects your career objectives, and
Con ■ At times, a candidate will not be works diligently to market you to the
involved throughout the entire life right audience. Elite recruiting orga-
■ With most recruiting companies, cycle of the project/contract. nizations can provide guidance to the
all beneﬁts, including paid vacation, entry-level candidate and collaborate
start from the ﬁrst day of the per- Conclusion and provide direction to the mid- and
manent position, not from the ﬁrst Many people who have worked with senior/executive-level professional
day of the contractual duration recruiting ﬁrms have encountered who desires a historically signiﬁcant
period. However, there are a few and/or heard both positive and or even more challenging assignment.
companies that offer these beneﬁts negative experiences. Because of an Candidates at any level can beneﬁt
on the ﬁrst day of the consulting/ ever-changing market and personal from a long-lasting relationship with
contract-to-hire engagement. preferences that can create a biased a trusted recruiter.
perception, it is always best to see for Once you have found a recruiting
Contract/Consulting Position yourself. Conduct your own research ﬁrm that demonstrates genuine interest
The candidate is a consultant/contractor, by engaging in initial contact and in you, anticipate setting mutual
placed by the recruiting company going out to actually meet the recruiter expectations of what the relationship
either as a W2 employee or indepen- in person. Get to know multiple ﬁrms will consist of along with the objective
dent contractor with corporations until you ﬁnd the one that suits you best. at hand. Trust is important between
or government agencies on contract You should look for the distinguishing both you and the recruiting ﬁrm; with
engagements of varying lengths of time. aspects that differentiate an elite an ethical ﬁrm, your best interests
recruiting ﬁrm from others, including are its as well. The elite ﬁrms seek
Pros a staff of top-notch recruiters who have to provide the best service for their
industry-speciﬁc knowledge, a solid clients and the candidate. The elite
■ Candidate is not considered a job- foundation of long-term clients and ﬁrm is selective with which client
hopper when working through a open positions, competitive beneﬁts companies they work with, as well as
recruiting company on many different for contract and contract-to-hire-type the candidates they work with. The
assignments. positions, and a proven track record professionalism, courteousness, and
of not only building successful teams honesty that you expect of a ﬁrm are
■ There may be more ﬂexibility over to help organizations grow but also the same attributes ﬁrms are also
location/commuting time, work one that demonstrates the ﬁrm’s ability seeking in their candidates. CM
hours, and schedule. to establish, develop, and maintain
relationships with candidates and/or * Names have been changed for
■ There may be a difference in com- consultants through testimony. A privacy purposes.
pensation for each new contract ﬁrm that is successful in meeting this
assignment. criteria can not only catapult your
career as it serves as your long-term
■ Candidate may be a W2 employee career counselor but also may one
of the recruiting ﬁrm or an indepen- day help support you as a hiring
dent contractor (1099 employee), manager with the growth of your own
depending upon what is negotiated contracts teams.
as best for the candidate. Do not wait until you’re facing a
possible downsizing, layoff, or com-
February 2006 / Contract Management ■ 21