Recruitment agency 101: What does a recruiter do?

Talent Acquisition Career Advice
Charlotte Bosley-Plumb

By Charlotte Bosley-Plumb
January 12, 2022

December 1, 2023

0 min read

A recruiter does more than find suitable candidates for jobs.

They also

  • Help people throughout their job search to prepare for interviews,
  • Assist with resumes and cover letters
  • Interview candidates
  • Manage salary negotiations on both sides
  • Advise clients on employment issues
  • Stay up to date with labour laws
  • Share market and industry knowledge

They may work for a staffing agency, work for an agency placed internally with a client, or do corporate recruitment. They might work on commission or retainer.

They may be a headhunter or have people coming to them to look for job vacancies.

Recruiters can work in a number of different areas, but how they work is pretty similar in any role.

Who does a recruitment agency work for, and how are they paid?

A recruiter is primarily working for their client, the employer. This can be hard for some people to understand as recruitment agencies work to promote the best interests of both the employer and the job candidates.

But at the end of the day, their client is the one looking to fill vacant positions, and a recruiter will be looking for the most qualified candidates that fit their criteria.

As recruiters are working on behalf of an employer, the employer is the one who will be paying the recruitment agency fees. Fees differ between recruitment agencies, industries, and types of roles. Fees are calculated as a dollar value or % of a candidate’s first year’s salary.

A recruiter only gets paid if they find the right person for the role; and remember, the client always makes the final decision on who they hire.

What is important to know is that a candidate’s salary should never be affected by that fee. A salary range for a position is set based on a company’s salary structure for that role.

A recruiter’s fee is a completely separate entity from that salary range.

Process a recruiter follows

Though each recruitment agency will operate slightly differently, generally, they all follow a very similar process.

1. Open position

The first step of this process occurs when a client calls with a job opening that they need help filling.

The recruiters’ work will then involve getting all the details they need to start preparing the perfect job ad.

This involves more than just slapping together a job description for the client’s open positions.

The recruiter will do a deep dive on

  • Salary range
  • Desired interview questions
  • Benefits of the role or working for the company
  • Company culture
  • Vacation allowance
  • Reason the position is open
  • Management styles
  • Soft and hard skill sets needed
  • Start date
  • Advancement opportunities
  • And any other benefits.

2. Posting a job

Recruitment agencies post all of their open jobs on their company website, as well as other relevant job boards and social media sites.

Recruiters will also reach out to their network to find candidates who are looking for their next job or may be interested in advancing their career.

3. Finding great candidates

The average job posting gets 250 applications, which can start coming in within 5 minutes of the position being posted online!

A recruitment agency needs to review all of these resumes to identify candidates with the hard and soft skills their clients are looking for.

Once they do, they will contact and begin interviewing candidates to determine whether or not they fit the role requirements.

These interviews are critical because presenting an underqualified candidate to a client could potentially cause a recruiter to lose that client. A good interview also provides an opportunity for a recruiter to find out all those things that aren’t on a resume.

It is these hidden skills and personality traits that are so important to prospective employers and make the difference between a candidate that gets hired and one that gets passed over.

Once the recruiter has determined a candidate matches the experience and personality that the company is looking for, they may be required to carry out some background checks to confirm the information the candidate has submitted. If the candidate is still interested in the position, they will present that candidate to the client.

4. Presenting candidates

Recruiters don’t just email resumes to clients and hope that something sticks.

They will talk to their clients about each candidate and “bring them to life” off the paper by discussing their work experiences, career aspirations, and why they match the client’s needs.

Recruitment agencies know that employers hire for both hard and soft skills and will make sure to express both to their clients.

5. Client interview stage

Clients are busy people, often managing large teams within their business, and their schedules fill up quickly. A great recruiter knows this and schedules interview slots in advance to match the schedules for all involved.

This helps keep the hiring process as short and succinct as possible. No client wants to miss out on the best candidate because of a scheduling issue.

After the interview, the recruiter will collect feedback from both the candidate and the client.

Recruiters want to ensure they can give their candidates as much feedback as possible – good or bad – so they know where they stand and how to improve their communication skills for future interviews.

6. Job offer

When a job offer is extended to a candidate, a recruiter will often be there as a sounding board for both sides. They will facilitate any negotiations and strive to keep this process seamless.

This also entails letting unsuccessful candidates know that a role has been filled. Recruitment agencies are always looking to maintain positive relationships with talented candidates and may offer to help unsuccessful candidates with their job search by offering advice and putting them forward for similar vacancies.

Recruiters may be involved in the onboarding process and can provide the first-day details that candidates will need to transition into their new jobs.

7. Stay in contact and recommend top performers

Recruiters will follow up with clients and candidates on their first day, end of the first month, and at the end of a probation period. Should any small problems crop up during this time, both employers and new employees can be hesitant to voice any concerns as theirs is a new and fragile relationship.

Recruiters stand outside of that relationship and can be good mediators if needed. Little issues can be easily overcome rather than becoming something that leads to an early resignation.

Once a candidate has been hired to fill a role, they should keep in contact with the recruitment agency.

You never know when situations may change and you will need their assistance again. Recruiters are always looking for great people and also are happy to have you recommend top performers to them.

Recruiters build relationships

A recruiter’s work is rarely straightforward, and there are good reasons why the process is the way it is. Make sure you get the most out of your recruiter relationship.

If you have questions along the way or are confused by where you are in that process, always reach out to the recruitment agency and ask questions.

Even though recruitment agencies are paid by their client, they are also working for you.

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