How to tell if a recruiter is actually helping you

Good recruiters care more about making the right placements than closing the deal.
By Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA

If you’re a CPA on the job market, or a hiring manager looking to fill a key position at a CPA firm, you may choose to work with a recruiter—or have one contact you. But how do you know if a recruiter is really on your side? While most recruiters hopefully have your best interests in mind, there may be a few who are more focused on getting job candidates hired quickly—and earning a commission—than on making the right match between a candidate and a firm. If a recruiter pushes you to take a job or accept a candidate that you’re not sure about, he or she is probably not the right person for you to be working with.

To help determine if a recruiter is on your side, ask yourself whether he or she:

  • Provides sufficient information to help you make an informed decision. For job seekers, that might be information about a company or role that goes beyond a job description—for example, expected hours, turnover rates, why a position is open, what training a firm provides, and what your potential supervisor’s management style is like. For employers, this might mean a summary, or what I call a “write-up,” that shares additional information about a job candidate that might not appear on his résumé, such as the types of clients he served and returns he prepared, and his reasons for leaving previous jobs.
  • Provides advice that is about you and your needs, rather than trying to just close the deal. For instance, a good recruiter may tell a job seeker when to apply to a job directly rather than going through him or her. (In some situations, companies may not want to pay a recruiter’s fee, but recruiters may still know about jobs they have open.) Or he may advise a job seeker not to accept an offer with an employer he feels isn’t a good fit. And, if circumstances warrant, he may even suggest an employer rescind an offer (for example, if he discovered after the offer was made that the candidate had engaged in unethical behavior).
  • Gives you his or her undivided attention. Good recruiters will spend adequate time preparing job candidates for interviews. During the entire interview process, they will keep both sides informed about all relevant topics, including any reservations either side might have, items to be negotiated, and timing constraints. They’ll also tell clients when they have no appropriate résumés to submit and tell candidates when they do not have opportunities for them.
  • Does what he or she says he or she is going to do and keeps you up-to-date on search status. A good recruiter will check in with you regularly (usually at least once a week), especially if he or she is the only recruiter you’re working with. (You should keep recruiters informed as well: If at any point during the process you decide not to work with them, let them know immediately. Also, let them know if you have filled or found a job so they don’t keep looking on your behalf!)
  • Portrays you (or other job candidates) accurately. If you’re a job seeker, always be sure that the recruiter is correctly representing your skills and experience. Be sure you disclose to the recruiter any paid work you’re doing, even if it’s freelance or part time, and that the recruiter shares this information with employers. Any work you do on the side could create a possible conflict of interest.
  • If you’re a hiring manager, ask interviewees if there’s any information you need to know that they haven’t disclosed on their résumé, such as any additional freelance or part-time work they’ve done or jobs they didn’t hold for very long. If their résumé has gaps, it’s a sign that the recruiter may not have vetted them carefully enough or may be giving you a false picture of their capabilities.

  • Is transparent with you. If you’re a job seeker, make sure the recruiter tells you where he or she is planning on sending your résumé and has permission to submit it (in the form of either a relationship with a company or contract to do business with them). There are times I speak to CPAs who have no idea where recruiters are sending their résumé!
  • Recruiters should also immediately disclose to employers any relevant information they discover that may impact the hiring process (for example, if they’ve heard a candidate may be moving within the year due to their spouse’s relocation).

    A great recruiter should be the eyes and ears of the hiring process for both the job seeker and employer. If a recruiter has been honest and respectful with you, even if they were unable to fill a role or find you a job, be cordial in return and stay in touch. You never know when you may need them

Beth Berk

Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, is an independent recruiter based in Maryland.

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