There are benefits and issues working with search firms.  First of all, they are not here for your convenience.  Their job is to find candidates for their clients.  Their job is to get you an interview.  Your job is to get the job!

There are two kinds of search firms – contingency and retained.  Contingency means the client is using more than one search firm and they only get paid if their candidate is chosen.  Retained means the company is using only one search firm and they are paying them a fee until they find the right candidate.

ADVANTAGES– Search firms can provide you with an additional way to get out your resume.   They can help you in certain industries that primarily use recruiters: legal, banking, IT, non-profits, and academe.  They are a source of confidential opportunities that are never advertised online.  Search firms can provide you with information about a company’s corporate culture that you cannot find out otherwise.  They can be helpful in giving you insight into salary ranges.  The search firm knows exactly the range for a particular job title in a particular company.

DISADVANTAGES – Some search firms are not very ethical.  They might pump you for information about the other companies you are applying to so they can find out what is happening in the industry.  The purpose of the search firm is to fill a position for their client, not to obtain contacts for you.  It can be easy to lose control of your job search if you only depend upon the mercy of the search firm.  Search firms are not useful if you are changing industries or careers.  They want candidates who have done exactly what their client is looking for.

How to Contact – Write a cover letter that is specific to their job title and includes the key words, skills and accomplishments they are looking for.  State the job title, industry, geographic location and function you are looking for.  Include a summary statement with your most remarkable attributes.  Include your key accomplishments.  End the letter with “If my background and qualifications meet the needs of one of your clients, I would be happy to meet with you to further discuss how I might contribute.”  Follow up with a phone call to the contact person.  Express an interest in the job.

Get the most of a search firm – Research which firms are in your field.  Use the Directory of Executive and Professional Recruiters.  Look on the search firm’s web site for the types of jobs they are filling and apply only to the ones that are a good match for your skills, qualities and accomplishments.  Find out if they are reputable.  They get you the interview, you get yourself the job.


These suggested were provided by Amy Geffen from Geffen Careers at