In our last article, Demystifying Contingency vs. Retained Searches, the type of search is based on payment terms between the search firm and the hiring company. However when you work with either kind of search firm, there are implications for job hunters.

Why should the job hunter care about the type of search a company is conducting and how can you work it to your advantage?

Retained Searches

Retained searches are typically for sourcing high level executive or hard to find niche skilled professionals. If you know that an open position is under a retained search contract, the best approach is to qualify yourself with the retained firm conducting the search.

When a company commits to this kind of search, they have decided to put little to no internal resources towards sourcing candidates. The decision to partner with a retained search firm requires extensive discussions of candidate qualifications and culture fit. Expect that any attempt to solicit internal back door support will be met with a referral to the search firm for screening.

The other type of search which often falls into the retained category is a confidential search. As you might expect, the company’s name is generally not disclosed until the candidate has been asked to interview internally. Because the company is anonymous, it would be very difficult for a search firm to avoid duplicating candidates unless the search was retained.

Contingent Searches

This type of search can be tricky for the job hunter. Do you approach a recruiter to represent you or do you try to go directly to the company? Both approaches have risks.

If you decide to apply to the company directly, you are relying on the internal HR manager or recruiter to spot you in a sea of resumes. There is an upside.

If the hiring organization finds you, no fee is paid to a contingency firm which can represent substantial savings for small to mid-sized companies. You are betting that the company has ample resources to follow through with the recruitment process and that it remains a top priority.

However, if the company experiences resource constraints or a contingency firm presents one or more candidates that fit the qualifications, expect the company to interview those candidates.

If you approach a contingency firm, you will be screened for the position. If the firm does not believe you are a good candidate, your resume will not be given to the company.

A contingency firm may ask you if you have already applied directly to the company. If you have, expect the contingency firm to decline representing you for that position.

According to Jill Knittel, President at ER Select and COO at Employee Relations (ER) Associates, the reason that recruiters ask “what have you done so far for your search?” or “who have you sent your resume to already?” is because if you have already sent your resume to a company for a particular position, that precludes a recruiting firm from representing you on that position. For instance, one of my clients recently tried to fill a position on their own and recently called me to assist them with the position. It is important for me to know if a candidate has already sent his/her resume to that client company so that I know they have already been considered. It would be a waste of the candidate’s time as well as mine for me to present them because they have already been evaluated.

General Recruiter Basics

Job hunters sometimes think they have to go “find” a recruiter to help them look for a job or rely on a recruiter they have talked to by phone or met in person to be their advocate in the job search process. But remember….

The reality is that the recruiter or search firm works for who pays them – and that is the hiring company. If you are not a good fit for the position they are working on, they have moved onto the next potential candidate. At the very least, you will be in their database to be considered for future openings.

There are recruiters who specialize in specific disciplines or fields and it is worthwhile to contact them with your resume to see if any of the positions they are working on are a good fit.

It is advisable to work with more than one recruiter. It will be important not to overlap your efforts with multiple recruiters on a single job, otherwise you will be shut out of the search.

Don’t limit yourself to recruiters in your area even if you want to remain local. While companies may use local agencies, they also may have agreements with other agencies especially when the search involves relocation reimbursement.

Check out our career resources for more information on conducting a job search.