Tom Hull, partner at executive search firm Mangieri/Hull Solutions
What are the relative benefits of job-hunting on your own compared to using a recruiter?
Going it on your own can certainly have its advantages. You can use your personal network to learn about job openings or get interviews, and having that inside advocate is an advantage that often leads to securing the position. You can mine the job boards to locate appropriate positions, and you can post your resume online to increase your options. While representing yourself, who is better to extol your virtues than you?
On the other hand, a recruiting firm will have relationships with a small percentage of the positions available. Also, companies know that there is a fee attached to recruiting services, and this can impact the company's decision on who to hire.
Access and negotiation are two benefits of using a recruiter. On your own, you may not know who you need to contact, while a recruiter has access to the decision makers. Some companies use recruiting firms exclusively to fill positions, due either to a long-standing relationship or the need for the search to be confidential, such as when a current employee is being replaced.
The negotiation process tends to be the most difficult part of going on your own for a new job, and recruiters are independent third parties and serve as the mediator in salary negotiations.
Know your business objectives and have a plan. Use your contacts, do your own research, and if you think it beneficial, use a recruiter to supplement your search or for advice. If you do, partner with a recruiter that you are comfortable with and who understands your needs. You want to have as many options as possible, and trying to avoid having to scramble if you are downsized.