Could you please clear up the different recruiter types? What exactly is the difference between Contingency, Corporate, Retained, Staffing/Temp, etc.? What advantages/disadvantages does each pose? And what level of hiring (entry, mid, exec, etc.) does each do?
Corporate Recruiters are the folks who work in a company’s HR department. They recruit only for their own company and are paid a salary (and sometimes a bonus).
Staffing/Temp Firms are employers themselves. They recruit and hire people, then they assign these folks to client companies. The workers go to work at the client company every day. The client pays the staffing/temp firm a fee from which the firm pays the worker a salary and benefits. If you want to be employed directly by the company where you show up for work, then staffing/temp firms are not for you. Neither corporate recruiters nor staffing firms are headhunters. (Nor are career coaches or career marketers.)
Real headhunters are independent. They are not the employees of any particular employer. They do not hire you. They will not find you a job. Their business is filling positions for their client companies. That’s why headhunters usually will not return calls from job hunters. It’s not their business.
Lots of folks are confused by this. If the headhunter needs to place people to make money, why wouldn’t they return your call? They need you, right? Well, yes and no. Headhunters need good candidates to place, but they are not usually interested in unsolicited calls from job hunters. Good headhunters target specific people they want to recruit, and they go after them. They will come to you if you are on their target list. That’s what they’re paid for: To go find the right candidates, not to filter candidates who come to them. (Contrast this to most corporate recruiters, who wait for applicants to respond to job ads.)
Contingency Headhunters are the most common. They operate like hired guns; the client pays for results. They are paid only when they actually fill a position. They almost always juggle several clients and assignments, and they usually compete with other headhunters who are trying to fill the same jobs. Only one will get paid when the job is filled. Contingency fees usually range from 15%-30% of the new hire’s salary. In my opinion, some of the best headhunters work mainly on contingency. It keeps them sharp.
Retained Headhunters are paid a fee whether they fill a position or not. They are consultants to a client company. The goal, of course, is to fill the job. But they will also interview and consider candidates that their client company introduces to them – even internal candidates. It doesn’t matter where the candidate comes from. The retained headhunter gets paid regardless. Their recruitment process is usually more formal and structured than that of contingency headhunters, and it includes a level of consulting that few contingency headhunters provide. That’s part of what the client is paying for.
Retained assignments are relatively rare, and are usually done at the executive level. (Bear in mind that only about 3% of all jobs are filled by any kind of headhunter.) Retained fees usually are around one-third of compensation.
When dealing with headhunters, what matters most is who the headhunter is. Forget about the firm and what type of headhunter they are. What matters most is how good they are at their work and how motivated they are to work with you. That’s why you should judge a headhunter before you agree to let them present you to their client.
Remember that a real headhunter’s job is not to place you. It’s to fill the position. But if they place you, they will try to make sure you are happy with the deal, because you are their next potential source of new candidates.