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Who’s On Top? The Candidate / Recruiter “Hierarchy”

There is a lot written in recruiter training and on recruiting blogs about “candidate control” – the notion of the recruiter being “in control” of the candidate.  Here’s a peak behind the curtain….

Because of the mystique of the recruiting business, candidates often assume that there is a lot the recruiter cannot tell them – the name of the employer, the compensation, the location, etc.  Secrecy is actually rarely required in a retained search situation – the recruiter is partnered with the employer, and unless is it a confidential replacement search, the recruiter can candidly discuss most aspects of the search parameters, and in fact should be able to discuss a lot about the company –to enable the candidate to be comfortable enough to move forward.

When a recruiter persists in keeping much about the job a secret, it is a sign they may be on a non-exclusive contingency assignment – competing against other recruiters, where only the recruiter who places the candidate earns any fee.  This situation requires the contingency recruiter to be secretive, because there is a risk of the candidate “going around” the recruiter.  So, secrecy is, in a sense, a sign that the relationship between the recruiter and the employer is not very strong.  Passive candidates (not active job seekers) are justifiably wary of such situations.

In retained search, the employer trusts the recruiter, the candidate trusts the recruiter, and the recruiter acts with full transparency, to be deserving of trust.  The issue of candidate control falls by the wayside, and information flows freely, to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Some recruiters make the transition from contingency to retained, but forget that they can and should change their behavior, and continue to play games with candidates.  Information is power, so they use the game of information exchange to retain control. But that works both ways.  Candidates who are confidentially looking don’t always tell one recruiter about opportunities they are pursuing through another recruiter, or perhaps on their own.  They mislead the recruiter about their compensation and sometimes other critical job history factors, to avoid being ruled out prematurely.  It takes an effort to win their confidence and candor.

In an atmosphere of trust, there is less likelihood of a hierarchy being perceived or needed.  The recruiter who sets this up properly creates a win/win/win for him/herself, the candidate a