In a previous post about finding UX jobs, I briefly mentioned talent agencies, staffing firms, and recruiters.
This is a world that is often a foreign concept to college students, recent graduates and junior level talent. With the shortage of UX talent in most parts of the country, it’s important to cover this in detail. If you have talent, you will be exposed to it.
You may have heard the term headhunter before. That term is usually mentioned in movies and sitcoms when so and so character gets recruited to be a big shot at a big company. It’s glorious. The actor doesn’t even apply for the job, he/she may have never even heard of it and doesn’t even want it. Yet they have this person (the headhunter) selling them hard on the opportunity by throwing money, perks and power at them. I’m sure that happens… to some people but it’s really not that common.
More often it’s basic economics. Supply is short, demand is high. Companies have so many roles to fill and it’s expensive to find talent. So they outsource most of the process.
What’s in it for the agency or recruiter?
Most likely you’re aware of a referral bonus. This is very similar but on a larger scale.
These people certainly aren’t doing pro-bono work for you to make six figures at your dream job. The hiring company is willing to pay a fixed fee or percentage of compensation to a recruiter (for firm) for finding good talent. If you’re placing dozens (even hundreds) of people, this can add up really quickly. Just think 5-10% of $100k per year times 20 people. That’s a pretty nice income.
I jokingly call this practice a legal form of human-trafficking. Please save the hate mail. I know that’s not very nice and I should probably stop that. I’m certainly not hating on the industry. Staffing agencies and their recruiters get results. They put butts in seats.
Sounds awesome… how do I work with a recruiter?
Good recruiters will probably find you before you find them. However, it doesn’t hurt to actively get your name out there. Having a presence on LinkedIn, AngelList and the like will get you on their radar. I’m sure we’ll talk more on the specifics of setting up a good profile later… back to finding recruiters.
Referrals are a great way to get introduced. Reach out to someone you know that’s more senior and ask if they have worked with any good staffing agencies. If you work somewhere with contractors, they’re often placed by an agency. Ask them for a referral and some advice. Serial contractors literally live in this world so they know the ins-and-outs of it.
We’ve been commissioned to not bombard recruiters. However, that’s really only for in-house recruiting or HR staff. Messaging recruiters that work for staffing agencies is completely acceptable. Letting them know you’re in the market is good and they’re always looking to widen their network. Especially if you have a skill set they source regularly (e.g., UX design, Front-end development, Project Management, etc.).
So what’s the catch?
Honestly, there really isn’t a catch if you work with a good recruiter. However, good recruiters are hard to come by.
Most likely you’ll run into many people that are only in it for the money and if you’re remotely qualified for a position they’ll do anything in their power to get your butt in that seat. Regardless of your preferences, the companies preference, cultural fit or anything else that stands in the way of their commission. It’s the classic good salesman versus bad salesman.
You’ll come across plenty of people just blasting potential candidates with emails and inMails (a LinkedIn message) for anything that remotely aligns with your profile. Including tons of jobs you wouldn’t remotely be interested in if they even read your profile. This gets really annoying and it’s pretty much spamming.
These are just some of the many reasons some hiring managers and companies hate dealing with third parties, and outright block them in some cases.
However, they do get results. And if you’re working with someone that is genuinely interested in getting you somewhere you want to be, it works for everyone. The company gets motivated talent, you get to work somewhere you’re fulfilled and the recruiter gets their commission. A real win-win-win.
Tips for working with your recruiter
1. Be honest with yourself
Don’t waste your time or other people’s time. If you’re not planning to leave your current job, don’t bother looking for a new job. These types of recruiters are there for those that are active.
2. Know what you want
If you put in time beforehand, it really helps the process. Ask yourself what type of role, team, company and employment type you want. The more specific you are then likely the longer it will take to find but you’ll be happier in the end.
3. You’re a team… work with them.
Don’t be a plastic professional with your recruiter. Be upfront with them and let them in on what you’re trying to do with this move. A good recruiter is trying to help you get where you want to go. You don’t have to lie and fake it with them. They’re on your side. If they ask for you to work on something (e.g., updating language on your resume or your portfolio), you have to put in the time and effort.
4. Be patient
In some cases, a recruiter is sourcing a position that you’re a perfect fit for and you really want to be there. So you’ll chat with your recruiter a couple of times and then you’ll be interviewing with your prospective employer. More often it’ll take time to find a role for you. You have to be patient. Take the time to find roles for yourself and to work on your skills.
Note: If you’re looking for a good recruiter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, shoot me an email with a a short description of what you’re looking for, a link to your resume and portfolio, Dribbble and/or LinkedIn profile. I’d be happy to point you in the direction of a few that I’m familiar with.