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Are You a Recruiter or an Employment Agency, and Do You Know the Difference?

I received some interesting feedback today from a recruiter about an opinion piece I wrote in April 2010. She said what recruiters “actually do….THEY HELP PEOPLE TO FIND JOBS.” I disagree; I always figured recruiters knew the difference between a recruiter and an employment agency, but apparently I’m wrong.

I believe…

Upon entering the recruiting field in 1992 (Yes, I know, it dates me) this is what I was told about recruiters and employment agencies; the distinction between these two definitions may also depend on which state you operate in.

Two sides of the same coin? I don’t think so.

A recruiter is someone who seeks out qualified candidates for, and is paid by, the hiring company (the client or employer).
An employment agency is an organization or individual paid by job seekers to find them a job.
“A private employment agency is a person or corporation that seeks employment positions for clients, in return for a fee from the applicant or from the prospective employer.” OK, so the last 4 words of this definition may contradict my initial statement, but I don’t know any professional recruiters who charge their candidates to present and possibly place them into a company. Another significant distinction is that many jurisdictions have laws that regulate employment agencies, typically relating to the amount and payment of fees charged for services as well as the legitimacy of job offers from employers. Recruiters and search firms have no such legal requirements.

I’m sure there are some folks out there who may take issue with my definitions and say that we need to have relationships with both client and candidate, and that this means recruiters help people find jobs. There certainly is truth to that. Though I no longer a full time recruiter, I have maintained many relationships with candidates and hiring individuals since the start of my career. I would assert that if you asked anyone I’ve ever worked with they’d say I represented them fairly and with integrity, though they were clear I was working with them because they were a “fit” for the client and what the client was offering was a potential “fit” for them, not because I wanted to find them a job.

You’re mad a me, why?

I had a candidate back in the mid 90s who I’d been talking to and building a relationship with for a few years. He would always make time for my calls and we got to know each other very well. He wasn’t looking for a job or even open to looking at anything new throughout those years, and he was finally ready to make a move he picked up the phone and called me. I had nothing on my desk that was a fit and nothing came out of any of the hiring managers I reached out to on his behalf. Sometimes it just works out that way.

He ended up in a great new position that was found by another recruiter, and when he finally returned my calls told me that he was angry at me for not finding him a job. He never spoke to me again. I couldn’t believe this pro turned out to be such a crybaby. He just didn’t understand that my job wasn’t to find him a job. I would have loved to place him. It just wasn’t in the cards at that moment.

And in the end

The bottom line is that recruiters are in business to deliver the best candidates to the hiring company and those companies pay a fee when they hire the candidate. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Creator and Host,

Carol Schultz

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