Corporate or Third-Party? Don’t Forget About the Candidate

Jun 5, 2006

Whether to use internal corporate recruiters or a third-party recruiter is a decision a lot of companies are faced with making. The primary reason for this decision is always bound to be about cost, followed by quality and control. It’s also about what value-added service a good third-party recruiter can bring, over and above simply presenting candidates.

As third-party recruiters, we need to give companies many good reasons to use us and pay our fees for the service we provide. Before companies make any final decision about whether to go internal or external, there’s one big factor that often gets overlooked – and it is probably the most important factor to consider: the candidates. Who is the candidate better off dealing with and more likely to respond positively to? The hiring company or third-party recruiters? Does a third-party recruiter have a better chance of getting the best candidate to be interested in the opportunity and to accept the position, should it get offered?

For the purpose of clarity, I’m talking about passive candidates who are currently being successful elsewhere and not necessarily looking to change jobs. I am, of course, also only talking about good third-party recruiters who act professionally and do their jobs well. Here are some good reasons why the candidate is better off dealing with a third-party recruiter, and why companies could increase their chances of getting candidates by using a third-party recruiter.


The approach is 100% confidential. When the headhunter calls, no one else knows, especially the hiring company. With this level of confidentiality, the candidates will speak more openly and honestly and feel less pressured into not being themselves.

Not Compromised By the Call

Candidates can listen to the headhunter and say “no,” or “not right now,” to the opportunity without blowing any future opportunities with that company. The candidate is not exposed to having to make an immediate decision whether or not to show an interest. Candidates are free to speak their minds about the company, good or bad, without risk of commitment.

Unbiased Advice

Being independent, a headhunter can give true, unbiased advice on the hiring company’s position in the market. Most well-known companies in today’s market have both good and bad reputations, depending on who you speak to, and everyone has a different opinion. I’ve spoken to a lot of candidates whose initial reactions to working for a particular company would certainly put the company off from hiring them if they knew the candidates’ comments. As third-party recruiters, we are in a better position to soften that opinion and change their views because we are not the company in question.

Interview Preparation

Any candidate, however senior, should be prepared for an interview. It’s the headhunter’s job to make sure that candidates know everything there is to know about the person and the company they will be meeting, what the interviewer will be looking for, and how to best sell themselves in the interview. Many candidates, when approached, have not been on interviews for a while and appreciate the help. A headhunter’s guidance will improve their chances of getting through the interview maze. Without this guidance, a great candidate could interview badly and be rejected based upon a lack of interview skill, rather than a lack of ability to do the job.

Good Feedback

Interview feedback is essential to both the candidate and client. It’s the headhunter’s job to make sure that both parties truly know how the interview went. Too many bad interviewers provide one sort of feedback but mean another. You will know where you stand with a headhunter. If we did not give feedback, no one would. We hear too many horror stories of candidates attending interviews with no feedback from the companies they meet.

Stronger Position to Negotiate a Better Package

If the client wants to offer the candidate a position, the headhunter will offer the best advice on what the position is worth and what the client is likely to accept. If the first offer is too low, the headhunter can reject it without compromising the candidate with the client. The headhunter can also advise the candidate when the offer is a good one. In other words, the candidate can discuss the package openly with a headhunter and agree what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable without losing the opportunity. When the candidate deals directly with the company, his position to negotiate is weaker because there is less room to maneuver. If he rejects the first offer, he could lose the opportunity. If he sounds disappointed with the first offer, his feelings have been aired, and this could go against him if he ever did join the company.

Headhunters want to get the candidate the best possible package, since we are paid on a percentage of the salary. Employers want to get the candidates as cheaply as possible, trying to save the company money. If you were the candidate, who would you rather have representing you? Before anyone responds by saying, “That’s why I would not use a third-party recruiter,” please remember the point that I’m making is from the candidate’s perspective.

Room for Error

Throughout the whole process, the headhunter wants the candidate to be successful and thus will give a lot of advice on how to get the job. The candidate can and will ask many questions, however daft they might seem, without risking his reputation with the company. We work with candidates who will often pull out of the process along the way only to change their minds a bit later. The client will not even know, the candidate’s opportunity is not lost, and the client has not lost a good candidate. We all know that recruiting is the most important part of any company’s business, and yet many still overlook using third-party recruiters because they are more focused on cost than quality. The next time there is a decision to be made on the best way to find the right candidates, consider the candidate’s position and the conditions that would make him or her more likely to accept the job.

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