HireBetter Recruiting MythBusters

Recruiting MythBusters: Recruiters Are All The Same


Welcome to HireBetter’s Recruiting MythBusters, our series of explainers devoted to dispelling common misperceptions about the recruiting industry.

MYTH #1: Recruiters Are All The Same

It doesn’t take a deep Google search to find plenty of negative comments about recruiters. The recruiting industry has long dealt with negative perceptions. For instance, a quick scan of discussion boards yields these gems:

“Does anyone else find recruiters are pretty much useless?”

“Just go into a relationship with a recruiter expecting a 1% chance of it going anywhere.”


But the views of many are summed up by this Redditor:

“Some are good and some are not so good, but that’s the way it is.”

In our humble opinion, a few bad apples have spoiled the bunch, but that doesn’t necessarily help you, whether you are a candidate seeking your next job or a company looking for amazing talent. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

In our humble opinion, a few bad apples have spoiled the bunch. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

Recruiting Models:  Contingent vs Retained

First, it is critical to understand the difference between contingent and retained recruiters. Contingent recruiters are mostly paid on commission, which means they don’t get paid unless the client selects “their” candidate.

Our CEO Kurt Wilkin describes the problems with the contingent model in his series The Recruiting Industry is Broken:

“It means [contingent recruiters] don’t get paid if they don’t move lightning fast. It means they don’t get paid if you hire someone through another contingent recruiter or through your network or a referral from your employees.

Well, it also means they don’t have time to look for really good candidates, especially those who are not looking for a job…It means they are in competition with Y O U, their client. And I’m sorry, but any business model that puts a service provider in direct competition with their client, is a messed up business model.”

The other recruiting model is retained, in which a recruiter or firm is in an exclusive relationship with a client company. A recruiting partner who follows the retained model can still move quickly, but is more likely to take a closer look at the overall structure of your company or department. He or she may offer strategic or specific advice about your role and ensure that it fits into your overall talent plan. In short, retained recruiters tend to be able to take a more strategic, big-picture view of your hiring situation.

Recruiting Approach

Perhaps even more important than the model is the recruiter’s overall approach to hiring. Rather than seeing people as a transactional equation, you want a recruiter who sees you – whether a client or a candidate – as a valued partner in the search for a win-win situation.

There are a few things you can look for in your conversations with recruiters to help you understand their approach:

  • Do they mention strategy, planning, or being proactive during your discussions?
  • Does the recruiter work solely on a contingent basis? Is their compensation based on commissions only?
  • Are they interested in building a long-term relationship with you, whether or not this particular role works out?
  • What is their process for scoping the role? Do they understand your needs in a holistic way?
  • How do they source and screen candidates?
  • Do they offer other kinds of support during the hiring process (in interviews, negotiations, offer letters, or resignation support)?

The answers to these questions can help you determine whether or not the relationship will be a good fit for you.

So are recruiters all the same? We think not.

As in any industry, there will always be some bad apples. There isn’t much you can do about that, but you will be able to spot the difference if you ask the right questions at the beginning of the relationship.

The right recruiter can support your talent plan as well as your business and career goals, and can serve as a trusted partner as you navigate the often-challenging waters of hiring and recruiting. The wrong recruiter can cost you a lot of time and money and possibly drive you so batty that you want to post negative comments on online discussion boards!

Recruit Employees Proactively to Support Business Growth

Talent acquisition is an investment, not an expense. You need a recruiting strategy, not a knee- jerk reaction.
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