Recruiting Daily welcomes another guest blogger this week – Ken Sundheim

So, you’re about to graduate and are in the process of sending your resume out to several jobs. Well, it just so happens that one of the ads you applied to is through a recruiter. Besides being an online media consultant, I run a recruiting firm who deals with executive level job seekers. That means our company only places jobs which are $100,000 base salary or above. For several reasons including ethics, we do not place recent college graduates.

Coming out of college, I strongly suggest that you do not use a recruiter for your first job. There are exceptions such as Heidrich and Struggles as well as ManPower, though there are not many. Actually, I wish most colleges would stop letting recruiters post 3rd party employment openings. If it is directly for that recruiting firm and the position offers compensation, then it is an exception. We’ll get into what it is like to work for a staffing firm later in this article.

Personally, before I graduated college, I had no idea what a recruiter was. That is, until I got staffed by one in a job which I would leave in 4 months to, ironically, start my own recruitment company.

How do recruiters get paid:

Recruiters get paid two different ways:

1. Contingency contracts – a contingency contract is when a company pays a recruiter (typically 15% – 25% of the base salary) to find them an employee. With a contingency contract, the recruiter only gets paid if they place somebody for that particular position.

Therefore, if your base salary is $35,000, then the recruiter would get $7,000 in commission once you officially became employed with the organization. Actually, the $7,000 would go to the recruiting company and, depending on what firm’s commission policies were, the recruiter would get a certain % of that money.

2. Retained contracts – these days, recruiters are less likely to obtain these contracts, however it is when a company pays a recruiting firm upfront or in stages regardless of if they make the placement. It is unlikely that a firm would be retained to get recent college graduates.

3. Guarantees – recruiters almost always give their clients guarantees. These guarantees, more or less, are a form of risk management so the employer does not have a job applicant leave and is left with a hefty bill. The industry standard guarantee is 90 days prorated on a 30/60/90 days basis. Prorated guarantee explained:

Let’s assume, to make it easy mathematically, that the recruiter is charging 20% of the base salary and is working on a 30/60/90 pro-rated guarantee. So, if your base salary is $30,000, then the total fee the recruiter would receive is $6,000. With the aforementioned guarantee, the payment schedule would be as follows: $2,000 after you were at the company for 30 days, the second $2,000 after you were at the company for 60 days, and the final $2,000 after you were at the company for 90 days.

Common sayings that recruiters use to manipulate recent college grads:

1. “Do this favor for me” – this is how recruiters will, in an indirect manner, tell you that if you go to a job interview, then they will still work with you. In return, ask them for a favor. Politely request that they listen to the dial tone for a while. If you say it in a dry manner, there is a chance that they will for a few seconds. Not a bad trick.

2. “This company is the best” – if the company was really the best, they would not be going through a recruiter for their recent college graduate hires. Companies like Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs never have to use recruiters for recent college graduates. Dig deeper with this statement, quickly go to and ask the recruiter what the company’s revenue was the past year.

3. “We have an exclusive on this job” – this means that they have a “retained contract.” This may or may not be true, however there is no reason to announce this to everybody. More likely than not, I would be skeptical. First, ask them if they have a “retained contract.” Then, to see if this is true, do your research. Look at all the career boards such as Monster or Hotjobs and see how many postings there are. Again, refer to the “What I should not do to a recruiter” section as, in every case (no exceptions) it is unethical to circumvent a recruiter.

Red lights:

1. Never use a recruiter who is going to charge you money. There is not one single exception to this rule. A recruiting firm should never sell resume services to you either. You should find your own resume writing service. If a recruiter asks you to pay any type of fee, promptly report that organization to your university.

2. The recruiter won’t tell you the company’s name. If a recruiter is hiding the company name from you, how much else are they hiding? Would you ever buy a car without knowing the brand? Remember, this is your career, you should be in the driver’s seat.

3. The recruiter wants to put things on your resume which you are uncomfortable with. If the recruiter is helping you with some formatting, then maybe you have a good recruiter, however if they want to put certain claims of knowledge on your resume which you are uncomfortable with, promptly tell your university.

4. The recruiter does not do a full interview with you. This means that the recruiter is “chucking resumes” at their client. “Chucking resumes” is a term which I coined as some recruiters will keep sending resumes regardless of background or interest in order to staff a position. If this happens, promptly tell your university.

5. The position they are filling does not pay a base salary. If you are ever approached by a recruiting firm to interview for a position which does not pay a base salary, tell your university because no reputable recruiting firms work on commission only positions.

I sent my resume into a recruiting firm but nobody answered:

This is par for course and does not reflect either positively or negatively on the recruiting firm or you qualifications. The reputable recruiters are paid by their clients to find someone very specific. Therefore, unless you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you probably will not receive a call. Don’t be discouraged and, again, these are waters you probably should not be treading.

For instance, if my company is working on a biotechnology software sales job, we are not going to call everybody who submits their website because we have an obligation to find somebody specific.

How do I get noticed by a recruiter?

Again, I do not recommend recent college graduates using recruiters, but here is how to increase your odds:

The subject line of the email should be: Auburn University ’10 – Major: Physics New York, NY

As you can see, your college goes first, then your graduation date, then your current location. The reason this works is because recruiters receive so many resumes per day which read “resume” that they don’t have the time to look at them. I can’t speak for every recruiter, though this is my personal recommendation.

Important: do not send your resume into a recruiting firm more than once a month. Also, do not do a mass email to a bunch of recruiters at once.

Do I need a cover letter:

No. This is one of the biggest myths about resume submission. Actually, it is quite annoying to receive a cover letter because you have to scroll down to see the applicant’s resume. When submitting a resume directly to a company, they are going to expect it, so make sure you do so. Though, most employers won’t read every cover letter sent. To increase your odds of having it read, do the cover letter in bullet points.

Ways to gauge whether a recruiter is worth speaking to:

How intelligent and knowledgeable do they sound?

How many openings does the firm have? How good are those postings? Most recruiting firms have their open jobs posted on their website. If you see a company taking every job available, then you may not want to work with them.

Questions to ask a recruiter:

Remember, be polite, but get your answers. If the recruiter does not want to answer your inquiries or is rude, report them to the university.

1. How long has this job been open for?

2. How many times has the recruiter worked with this company?

3. Do you know how many people are interviewing for this job?

4. Do you have any tips for the interview?

5. Why would you be a good fit for the job?

Remember, be polite.

What you should not do to a recruiter:

Recruiters are in business to staff individuals. By no means, should you speak with a recruiter, then circumvent them and go directly to the company. Even though I don’t love recruiters who work with recent college graduates, this gives you no right to go directly to the company. Business ethics are not stressed enough in some classes, but if you want to be successful, learn them quickly.

Working at a recruiting firm:

Just like any other industry, working at a recruiting firm can be either rewarding or unchallenging and uneventful.

The typical day at a recruiting firm consists of doing research on your clients, gathering pertinent resumes and interviewing candidates. If you decide to work at a recruiting firm, make sure that you are not staffing an industry which you are not interested in. Also, if a recruiting firm wants you to cold-call potential customers, decline the position. Nobody in a HR division has time for this. Make sure the recruiting firm has a good business plan.

Recruiter Lingo:

CV – curriculum vitae – this is a fancy word for resume.

Placement – this is when a recruiter successfully staffs an employee at their client’s company and receives the subsequent commission.

Headhunter – another term for a recruiter, however as of late, recruiting firms have not used this term

C-level recruiters – the term “C-level” refers to the titles at firms which begin with a “C” – 95% of the time, these are the executives at the company. So, CEO, CFO, COO, CTO are all high-up titles in a company.

CEO – Chief Executive Officer

CFO – Chief Financial Officer

COO – Chief Operations Officer

HR – human resources department of an organization

About the Author: Ken Sundheim runs KAS Executive Recruiters a New York executive sales and marketing recruiting firm.