What Is a Recruiter’s Role?

Updated Dec 21, 20223 min

What Is a Recruiter’s Role?

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20223 min

If you are a job seeker, you might have noticed an increase in the number of recruiters contacting you with job opportunities. That’s because the job market has tightened since the COVID-19 pandemic, and companies are increasingly turning to recruiters to find them good candidates. According to LinkedIn, the demand for recruiters increased by almost seven times from June 2020 to June 2021.

With a tight job market, now is the time to begin your job search and land your dream job, but how should you handle the recruiter? This article will help you warm the hearts of these busy HR professionals by explaining what a recruiter’s role is, what incentivizes them, and what you can do to make the recruiter's work of selecting you easier.

What Is a Recruiter?

Recruiters come in two sizes. There are corporate recruiters who work in-house for large organizations, and there are headhunters or agency recruiters who work for independent human resource or recruiting agencies. The two types of recruiter have different incentives that can affect how they choose candidates.

The Role of a Corporate Recruiter

The corporate recruiter works in-house and takes out the legwork for the hiring manager. They seek candidates for hiring managers' open positions, narrow down the candidate pool to three or four who might have 75 percent of the requirements, and then allow the hiring manager to start the interview process and make the final hiring decision.

The corporate recruiter is the contact for a job opening. They create the job posting, source candidates, and process and screen the applications so that only the most qualified are presented to the hiring manager.  

Corporate recruiters are paid by the companies they work for, and they are concerned with retention. They want to find the candidates who are the best fit so that they stay the longest. This reduces recruitment costs.

The Role of an Agency Recruiter

Agency recruiters, or headhunters, work for external, independent agencies. They are paid by companies who hire the agency to find the best candidates. Headhunters are only paid when a company hires a candidate. Therefore, the best recruiters from an external agency are concerned less with longevity in a hire and more in the hiring rate. This motivation might mean that a company could face costlier recruitment if they use an agency because candidates might not always be a good long-term fit.

Although agency and internal recruiters may have different incentives—low employee turnover for the corporate recruiter and a rapid hiring rate for the agency recruiter—the search and screening process for both types of recruiter is similar.

The Recruiter Search Process

Typically, a manager who needs to hire someone will undergo an approval process. The company management must agree to the salary and benefits overhead costs and the cost of the hiring and onboarding process.

Once the position has been approved, the company will turn to either an in-house corporate recruiter or a headhunter from an outside agency to find the best talent. Which type of recruiter is used depends on the organization and its hiring policy.

Next, either the hiring manager, the recruiter, or both will write the job description. The recruiter will typically have a background in human resources and will help the hiring manager include the necessary skills and not ask for too much bearing in mind the job level and the salary offered. Market forces play a role here because any company looking to hire full-time talent faces competition from other companies seeking the right person.

Once the job details are finalized, the recruiter posts the job on their website or a job board like Indeed, LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Monster.

The Recruiter’s Screening Process

The number of applications that a successful recruiter receives could number into the hundreds. While some recruiters will sift through the applications, proffering only six seconds or so per application, other recruiters use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen out applications that don’t meet minimum requirements.

These automated systems look for keywords on resumes and cover letters that match up to the job description. For example, a keyword for a data analyst might be “Python” or “data cleaning.”

For tips on optimizing your resume for ATS read, “How to Make Your Resume ATS-Friendly.”

Some systems ask “knock out” questions on the online application to screen candidates at this very early stage. For example, suppose the minimum qualifications are a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience. In that case, candidates who answer “No” when asked if they have these requirements when applying online will be disregarded.

Expert Insight: According to Jobscan, 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS.

Once the initial automated screening has been done, recruiters typically arrange phone interviews with candidates. These calls usually last around fifteen minutes to half an hour during which the recruiter checks for several things using interview questions.

  • Whether the candidate meets certain requirements.

  • The candidate’s communication skills.

  • The candidate’s enthusiasm for the position.

  • Discrepancies in what the candidate says vs. what's on their resume.

If the recruiter finds discrepancies, they may consider it a red flag and doubt the candidate’s trustworthiness.

After the phone screening, it is the recruiter's job to assemble a list of potential candidates for new hires with notes from the phone screening and any other information the hiring manager needs. The hiring manager then proceeds with in-person interviews.

It’s worth noting that an in-house recruiter will better understand the job requirements, the work environment, and what the job entails. They work in the same organization and have experience hiring for that organization and will be a more reliable source of information for the candidate.  

Candidates should know that an agency recruiter does not work within the hiring company and may not completely grasp the company culture or the job.

In some organizations, the in-house recruiter may become involved in the recruitment process once again when a candidate is chosen and salary negotiations begin. However, an agency recruiter is unlikely to step back into the onboarding process once the initial applicant pool has been tapped and screened.

Sourcing Passive Candidates

Recruiters also actively seek or “source” qualified candidates who are not applying to job postings. Passive candidates are already employed, but they can be “poached” by other employers, particularly if they possess rare skills or the job market is tight.

Many people have their resumes already saved on job posting websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and CareerBuilder. Recruiters can use software to search these sites for people that have the skills and qualifications they are looking for.

Expert Insight: 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn to source or vet job candidates.

How To Impress a Corporate or Agency Recruiter

Candidates tend to focus on impressing the hiring manager and don’t take the recruiter quite as seriously when considering a new job. However, the recruiter is the first hurdle they must clear. Here are some tips on meeting recruiter needs and moving on to the next round in the hiring process.

  • Show that you meet the minimum qualifications.

  • Use metrics and examples to validate your accomplishments.

  • Submit a tailored resume and cover letter.

  • Optimize your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile with keywords.

  • Show enthusiasm during the phone interview.

  • Email a thank you note to the recruiter after your phone interview.

Although corporate recruiters and agency recruiters may have different goals regarding hiring rates and retention, at the end of the day, their processes for sourcing and screening candidates are similar. Now you know the way to a good recruiter’s heart, you can take your pick of the job offers that should land in your lap while the job market is hot.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

Grow your career with a coach

Find my coach