If you are hiring for a technical position, sooner or later, you are bound to find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of email.

My name is X, and I’m a technical recruiter with Y. I’m writing to introduce a strong candidate who has extensive knowledge in technology Z. He has an A degree from B university and previously worked as a lead at C.

He’s currently actively interviewing and he’s very interested in your company. He won’t stay long on the market!

I would like to arrange a meeting right away, as well as set up a time to learn more about your hiring needs. Please give me a call at 415-555-1212.

Lucky you. You’re indeed trying to hire someone with these skills. This candidate seems like he could be a good match. It might be the quick fix to your recruiting headaches. Except, it’s not. What’s wrong with this?

First, if a candidate is really interested in your company, he does not need a recruiter to get in touch with you. There are many ways a motivated candidate can connect to a hiring manager or someone close to them. Googling around, working the LinkedIn graph, reaching out via social media, etc. If all fails, showing up at the company and dropping a resume is actually an effective way to get noticed and raise above the noise.

Second, that attractive candidate either does not exist, or is no longer on the market, or will never consider working at your company.

Contingency recruiters use these kind of hooks to get you to sign a placement fee agreement with them. Once they have an agreement in place, they will shoot over a dozen resumes that they extract from their databases. If you end up hiring one candidate, they’ve hit the jackpot with that one placement and very little work on their part. If nothing pans out, they move along and ignore you.

Contingency (as opposed to retained) recruiters are not working for your company nor the candidates. They push resumes around in hope to make a quick placement. The higher your hiring standards, the less likely a contingency recruiter will actually send you candidates because they can get them hired somewhere else a lot easier.

Another problem is that often candidates are being submitted without their knowledge or consent. Or if they are consulted, they aren’t told anything meaningful about your company, product, team or culture.

When you first talk to the candidate, it’s rare they’ll know anything about your company. You mostly end up dealing with individuals who are not very engaged. They won’t put much effort into the relationship and will hide behind the recruiter when they need to.

You get what you pay for

But, you might say, it only costs something if I hire someone, so what’s the harm? It’s just another source of resumes.

For one, you might receive the resume of a candidate you’ve identified independently. To make sure you won’t be liable for a placement fee, you have to manage the incoming flow and react quickly when this occurs. Otherwise it might get ugly if you end up hiring that person.

Second, contingency recruiters are very pushy. They will create a false sense of urgency to quickly get the candidate hired. They will force you to move the candidate thru your hiring process on their timetable, not yours. You might fell like you need to cut corners and rush to a decision. These are not optimal conditions to evaluate a candidate and make a hiring decision.

Increasing the volume of candidates might seem like a great way to quickly show progress towards your recruiting goals, specially in a tight market. However this activity does not necessarily translate into filling the position with the quality person you’re looking for. Often, you’re just wasting time reacting to recruiters, with little results at the end.


Resist the siren call of contingency recruiters. If you’ve worked with someone you trust and know they will represent your company well, great. Once in a while, you might get lucky and hire a decent candidate that way. I know I have on a couple occasions. But these were the rare exceptions, certainly not the norm.

Save yourself some time. Invest into a recruiting strategy of your own. Amongst other things, hire a retained recruiter that will have your interests at heart. It takes some time to build up a pipeline, but it always pays off in the long term.

Don’t get lured by the false promise of a quick fix.