What to know about working with recruiters

Finding the right recruiter can help you land the right job.
By Courtney L. Vien

Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, is a Maryland-based recruiter who started her business in 2005 specializing in matching CPAs with the right employers. The JofA asked her for her best advice about working with recruiters.

JofA: Can you provide an overview of the different types of recruiters?

Beth Berk: Recruiters come in many shapes and sizes. They can work independently as a one-person shop. Or they could work for a very large multilocation or even multinational organization. However, don't assume that just because the company a recruiter works for is bigger, it is better. Many work for smaller local or regional staffing agencies or are self-employed, and they bring a lot of great credentials and relevant work experience with them.

JofA: Who pays a recruiter's fee?

Berk: The hiring party usually pays the fee to the recruiter. So, for instance, say someone finds a job by working with a recruiter who is external to the hiring organization. Once the person commences employment, the recruiter will usually invoice the hiring company, who is their client and who will pay their fee.

If you're working as a temporary employee of a recruiting agency, then the recruiting agency would most likely pay you an hourly rate for each hour worked for their client. Then, most likely on a monthly basis, the recruiter will bill the client based upon hours worked and an agreed hourly rate, factoring in a profit margin, related costs, taxes, possibly benefits, etc.

At times, a recruiter may present a professional to their client who gets paid an hourly rate directly by their client as an independent contractor. In this case, the recruiter's fee is also paid by the client and most likely is based upon a percentage of the agreed hourly rate paid to the independent contractor.

JofA: Why is it important to let a recruiter know what organizations you've sent your résumé to?

Berk: Many job seekers, especially if they've lost their jobs, don't tend to track where they're sending their résumé. At times, people will send their résumés to their family, friends, and contacts, who will then submit their résumé on their behalf to a prospective employer. Some recruiters will send your résumé to a particular company without you even being aware that it's being sent. It can be a problem for applicants when employers get more than one résumé for the same person, and it also causes issues for recruiters, who might not get credit for presenting a successful candidate.

JofA: What tips do you have for job seekers about working with a recruiter?

Berk: Here are my top five:

Vet the recruiter. Ask about how long they have been at their agency as well as doing this type of work, what types of clients they have, where else they have worked, their educational training and background, certifications, etc.

If a recruiter doesn't give you any tips on your résumé, such as pointing out formatting inconsistencies and asking you to explain gaps, think twice about working with them.

Make sure you have discussed your expectations with them. Ask that they get permission first before just sending out your résumé.

Ask to see any notes that the recruiter may send to a client on your behalf to make sure they are accurate. If the recruiter is not willing to share this with you, think twice about working with them.

If a recruiter schedules you for an interview for a role that you are not qualified for, wasn't explained correctly, is not something you expressed that you would be interested in, or is not within your salary range, again, think twice about working with them.

JofA: What tips do you have for an employer or a hiring professional about working with a recruiter?

Berk: First of all is ask for the credentials of the recruiter. It's amazing how many times the employee or the job seeker is not asking the recruiter about their credentials. I have seen many recruiters hold themselves out to be CPAs when they're not

Another thing I think is very important for the employer to understand is whether the recruiter has actually spoken to and vetted the job seeker. There are times that a recruiter may just send the résumé directly to an existing or prospective client, and they may have not even vetted that candidate.

JofA: So how do you find a good recruiter to work with, whether you're a job seeker or an employer?

Berk: Referrals are always a good source, whether they're from friends, peers, coworkers, clients, service providers (including your CPA firm), networking organizations, or organizations such as the AICPA or a state CPA society.

Courtney L. Vien is a senior editor for magazines and newsletters at the AICPA. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact her at

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