Even though the staffing industry is a dominant contributor to our Gross National Product with nearly $100B in annual revenues, accounts for a massive piece of internet traffic, and directly touches practically everyone... Recruiters and staffing professionals still suffer from an identity crisis.

If you’ve ever spoken to someone outside of the recruiting industry and told them you were a ‘recruiter’ they may have thought it had something to do with a college or the military.

How about you? Do you know what a recruiter is? Does a recruiter work at a staffing firm? Does a recruiter handle human resources responsibilities? Is it possible that a ‘recruiter’ doesn’t actually recruit candidates? After you read these top ten definitions of ‘recruiter’ below, perhaps you won’t be so quick to assume you know the role! There is a lot of subjectivity here, so you’ll have to weigh each definition through your own experience.

Top Ten Ways to Say, “ I’m a Recruiter ”

Corporate Recruiter
This type of recruiter likely manages internal hiring processes for a company as a full time employee of that company. Frequently corporate recruiters are part of the human resources team but can also be found in functional units as well such as in Product Development, Sales or Accounting. When ‘recruiting’, a corporate recruiter focuses on the tasks and skills required to locate and qualify top candidates and then works to coordinate the interview and offer process with the internal hiring managers.

Contract Recruiters
This is a close relative of the Corporate Recruiter and a definition that has dual meaning. In its most frequent form, this term refers to individuals who work on-site for a company; yet they typically are paid on an hourly rate as a consultant or an under an arrangement other than as a full time employee of the company. Frequently, these recruiters are working on a specific project (“find X number of engineers for this new team”) and once the project is completed, the contract recruiter often finds themselves seeking a new contract. Or, if they are lucky or can deliver great work, they can get their contract extended to work on a different internal hiring project. Like their cousin, the ‘corporate recruiter’, these recruiters typically focus solely on finding and qualifying candidates as well as coordination of the hiring process. As a secondary definition, recruiters in a staffing firm (third-party agency) will also use the term ‘contract recruiter’ to refer to recruiters in their staffing agency that fill contract or temporary jobs.

Third-Party Recruiter
This refers to anyone that locates candidates for another company to utilize and expects to be paid a fee for that service. If you are a recruiter at a staffing firm, then you should know that Corporate and Contract recruiters refer to you as a ‘third party recruiter’. However, recruiters working at staffing firms often refer to firms that supply them with candidates under this nomenclature.

Virtual Recruiter
This is a recruiter that typically works from home or from a remote location. Many virtual recruiters are ex-staffing agency recruiters or corporate recruiters that have opted to work from home due to personal circumstances. However, there are also many virtual recruiters that are working on an hourly basis as a ‘contract recruiter’, a ‘researcher’ or a ‘sourcer’ (see below). Virtual Recruiters are working as part of both Staffing Agency and Corporate recruiting teams today. Being a Virtual Recruiter allows this type of staffing professional to work from home, juggle multiple clients, and increase their personal income. At the same time using Virtual Recruiters helps staffing firms and hiring managers to keep their costs down, gain access to niche market expertise and expanded geographic coverage.

Perm Recruiter, a.k.a. Contingency Recruiter
This recruiter works at a staffing agency and fills job openings at other companies in return for a placement fee. In some staffing agencies, this recruiter works “both sides of the desk”; which is a way of saying that the recruiter locates clients and negotiates fee agreements as well as searching and matching candidates. And in some agencies, the term ‘recruiter’ is used for members of the staff that locate candidates only and leave client generation duties to ‘account managers’ (see below). These recruiters typically are commission-based and will be paid predominantly based upon their success in filling job openings from their clients. The term contingency refers to the type of fee agreement in place which is only earned as a commission based on successful hiring of a candidate provided.

Account Manager / Business Developer
This version of ‘recruiter’ is someone working at a staffing firm who focuses on sales by locating and interfacing with companies that have hiring needs. They may not consider themselves ‘recruiters’ in their actual daily role since that do not post jobs and search for candidates. Instead, this individual will work closely with another ‘recruiter’ or team of recruiters (see ‘contract/temp recruiter’ above) who will actually locate the candidates for the hiring company.

Executive Search
The term ‘executive recruiter’ and ‘executive search’ are incorrectly interchanged at times. For this definition, we define this as an individual that locates candidates for high-level positions for external companies (“clients”) for a fee; frequently on a retained search basis. The retainer fee is typically a percentage of the placement fee that is paid in advance, with the remainder of the fee being paid as milestones are met throughout the search and hiring process. A typical retained fee is 30% (or higher) of the first year’s total compensation of the candidate, including bonuses.

A sourcer is a type of recruiter that typically locates candidate names, job titles and contact information. These recruiters typically do not interview candidates, perform background/reference checks, match candidate requirements against job requirements or carry out other steps in the hiring process. Frequently, these recruiters are paid a nominal fee for each name they generate on a given search or paid hourly. Staffing firms and Corporate Human Resource departments frequently hire a sourcer to give them a head start on a candidate search. Many sourcers are highly skilled in the art of Internet searching to find resumes of qualified candidates via social networking, using Boolean search strings, blogging or other specialized techniques.

Researchers often work as part of a recruiting team to help build lists of qualified candidates. In many Executive Search firms the researchers are the ones who do the bulk of the candidate recruiting, interviewing, and coordination.

Independent Recruiter
These ‘third party recruiters’ typically work on a contingency basis, although some work on a retained search basis. Most have a history of working at a staffing firm. However, in some cases, they are corporate or contract recruiters who wish to translate their candidate search skills into a lucrative line work as a self-employed ‘independent recruiter’. The individuals operate in much the same way as a staffing agency, except that they work for themselves. Unlike recruiters at some staffing firms, independent recruiters usually work “both sides of the desk” (locating candidates and generating new clients with hiring needs) or may opt to focus on just one side of the desk, while relying on other independent recruiters with whom they network or work on split placements to fill the void. Independent recruiters typically rely on networks of other recruiters to get the training, support, and tools they need to be in business.

To complicate matters even more, we in the recruiting industry talk to one another as if we all share the same definitions. The next time you refer to someone in ‘staffing’, stop and think about what this means to the person to whom you are speaking. Some of us use the word ‘staffing’ to refer to contract/temporary hires only, while other use the word ‘staffing’ as indicator of the entire market segment that locates candidates for job openings. Clearly, the word ‘staffing’ can be too vague, depending on the audience in question.

And as you can see from the above, the word ‘recruiter’ is much the same way; with different meanings depending on your background or vantage point.

To avoid any ambiguity, make an effort to use the terminology most likely to be accepted by your target audience. And don’t be afraid to check and qualify your definition as often as is necessary.

Happy Recruiting!

Craig Silverman
Albin Engineering Services

Views: 4971

Comment by Will Branning on November 6, 2009 at 12:54pm
OK, I'm a Perm Recruiter, who is also an independent Recruiter since I'm a 1099 contractor. I agree with you that there are significant differences among those in the recruiting community. I've worked as a Corporate Recruiter as well and though I occassionally did some proactive sourcing, most of the time I focused on interviewing, and coordinating activities with hiring managers and offer approvers...
Comment by Craig Silverman on November 6, 2009 at 5:57pm
Interesting how many of us play sseveral roles or take on different assignment over time. Some recruiters new actully recruit, others never speak to candidates...I look forward to hearing from others on any missing roles that need to be added to the next update of this list...


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