Downloadable eBook: When the Headhunter Calls Collection

Questions and Answers — Working with Recruiters and Employment Agencies

Even people with healthy self-esteem and plenty of mojo can be thrown for a loop when they’re on a job hunt. When you’re working with a third-party recruiter (sometimes called a search professional or ‘headhunter’) or an employment agency, you might feel powerless. When the agency calls, you feel you have to jump. Here are questions and answers to help you get through your job search and your search firm or employment agency process without going crazy or giving up on the process altogether!

When a search person asks for my resume, do I have to hand it over?

Heck no! Your resume is your property. Before you hand over your resume, ask the search person or agency staff member what your resume will be used for. Don’t give anyone permission to send out your resume to any hiring employer until you’ve had a chance to ask questions about the search firm or employment agency’s history and credentials. You can find lots more advice on working with search firms in our When the Headhunter Calls Toolkit, here.

How many search firms or employment agencies should I work with at one time?

It is tempting to start calling agencies and recruiters and trying to sign up with all of them. The more the better, right? Your time is valuable though, and you’ve got to reserve time in your job-search schedule for your own job-search efforts, independent of your relationship with one or more temp firms, employment agencies or recruiters. Sign up with one agency first, wait a week, sign up with another one, and take it slowly. Each new relationship means time out of your day. If one firm is more responsive and has more suitable opportunities for you than other firms do, spend your time and energy on the people who are doing the most for you.

How do I find an agency or recruiter to represent me?

Start with your own friends and your business colleagues. Ask them if they can recommend a search professional, employment agency or recruiting firm for you to work with. Talk to several firms. Not every firm has suitable openings at any given time. Some of them may have plenty of job openings but perhaps not jobs that would be a good fit for you. Other firms might not want to work with you because your background doesn’t fit their area of specialization. That’s okay. Don’t be discouraged! Just as there is a perfect job for everyone, you’ll find an agency or recruiter to work with if you keep networking and keep your mojo high!

If your friends don’t know of a search professional or agency for you to talk with, use LinkedIn to search for search firms and employment agencies in your city.

Do recruiters or employment agencies provide career counseling or resume assistance?

Some recruiters and some agencies may give you tips on your resume or talk with you about interviewing Dos and Don’ts, but employment agencies and recruiters are paid by employers to find new hires. They are not career coaching firms. Don’t be disappointed if a recruiter or employment agency doesn’t have a lot of time to coach you on your career strategy. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a fantastic firm or tremendous recruiter. Their job is to find candidates for employers who are paying them. They don’t have time to give job-seekers free career coaching and advice.

Does it cost anything to work with a headhunter, recruiter or employment agency?

It doesn’t cost anything to work with third-party recruiters, headhunters or employment agencies. Employers pay their fees. Career coaching firms like Human Workplace (that’s us) get paid by job-seekers rather than by employers. That’s why we are able to spend lots of time and energy helping job-seekers get ready for their jobs searches and then get the materials, tools, muscles and mojo they need for a 21st-century job search and career!

Want more advice on working with recruiters or employment agencies?

We have two special offers on Human Workplace career tools!

Our When the Headhunter Calls Collection eBook contains ten of Human Workplace CEO and Founder Liz Ryan’s articles on job search techniques and working with recruiters. This 43-page eBook normally sells for $45 and is on sale for just $5.95 now!



Our Human Workplace MEGA Toolkit: When the Headhunter Calls contains $442 of Human Workplace lessons, eBooks, tools and our 240-question Career Altitude Inventory, and it’s on sale as a downloadable library for just $99.95!  


Reach Human Workplace Operations Manager Michael Wilcox here with your questions! 

9 replies
  1. Lesley MacKenzie
    Lesley MacKenzie says:

    What is the best way to handle this situation? A recruiter rings you either because you responded to one of their adverts or they found you on a database/job board somewhere. After an initial chat they ask if you are interested in being put forward to their client for the job/contract. You say yes. They send an email asking for confirmation of representation etc. You return it with the requested information. You never hear from them again!
    Do you:
    a) ring them and ask what happened?
    b) assume that because they didn’t get back to you that you were not successful and then move on?
    c) ring and abuse them for having poor communication skills and not having the manners to let you know?
    d) all of the above?

    I ask because this happens over and over again (not hearing from the agent) and it gets frustrating to say the least. Not referring to myself but people I know who are looking for work/opportunities.

    Your comments would be appreciated.

    • Christopher Harding
      Christopher Harding says:

      Hi Lesley,

      I don’t wish to appear jaded, but the best response in your list of possibles is b) – with the next step of moving on. In the harsh realities of the workplace, when there’s nothing to be gained from repeated phone calls to a recruiter, you can quite naturally assume they have nothing for you. As you say, it’s time to move on.

      Remember, it’s nothing personal, it’s just that recruiters are not compensated for returning phone calls and providing reassurance to disheartened job-seekers. My suggestion while you wait for ‘that phone call’ is to adjust your resume, update your references and keep driving forward.

      Good Luck!

      Christopher Harding
      Paralegals Online

    • Barbara Saunders
      Barbara Saunders says:

      Some staffing firms post fake jobs in order to build their databases. What you describe sometimes happen when there was no job to begin with. They do this so that they can tell employers (their customers) that they have hundreds of qualified candidates in their databases. If you’re lucky, they may actually email you a position sometime that works out for you.

  2. Marie
    Marie says:

    Great advice, thank you. I have been having such a hard time landing a job here in Milwaukee, WI.. I have been told I do not have the direct experience, why have I had so many jobs, why did I format my resume this way, etc.. You have come at the perfect time. I am grateful.

  3. AP
    AP says:

    In my experience working with recruiters, I have found them to be almost useless. I always complied with their request to carry out a long phone call with them, answering all their questions like in a police interrogation. That usually involves repeating obvious information over and over and things they could have read from my resume. If the recruiters are nice, they apply or pretend to apply me to a few “open positions” and after the first attempt fails they stop responding to my emails, avoid my phone-calls/go on voice-mail and gradually cut me out. For people who claim that they have a job seeker’s best interests since they get paid a commission by the companies, they are oddly unfriendly towards their clientele. I gave up after hopeless experiences with 5 recruiting firms.

    CAROLINE says:


    • Liz Ryan
      Liz Ryan says:

      Hi Caroline! Please jump here and purchase our Burning Issue Blog Answer service — we will answer your question right here in our blog! Best, Michael (

  5. Taylor Bishop
    Taylor Bishop says:

    It’s good to know that there are agencies out there than can give you advice about your resume and interviews. This could be really useful to someone who is new to the job market. Not only that, but perhaps they can help first timers understand the processes that are involved in job applications and searching. If you are new, this could definitely relieve a lot of stress.


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