Engineers: Should You Use a Recruiter or Apply Direct?

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With an unemployment rate as low as 2 percent (March of 2012), job prospects are especially good for today’s crop of young engineers. This demand pretty much covers the spectrum and includes automation, controls and robotics, R&D, power generation/transmission, sustainability/environmental, and petroleum engineering.  


Given this exploding demand, the question often arises: do you need a recruiter to find a job, or can you simply approach a company you like and submit your job application directly to the hiring manger in that division?

There are pros and cons to the recruiter approach. 


On the pro side, using a recruiter can save you time and energy in screening jobs that may or may not fit your career goals.  Recruiters usually have the inside scoop on who’s hiring--before jobs are advertised. They can also help you with salary negotiations, since they presumably know what the industry is paying and they negotiate every day. If you have a friend or relative working for the company you’re applying to, keep in mind that they may not have the skills or knowledge to negotiate the best salary/comp package on your behalf. 


Another thing to remember is that companies take a closer look at resumes submitted by recruiters. They know that the recruiter may have already screened the candidate for at least a minimum of qualifications. It’s not a total “square-peg round-hole” situation. 

The downside of using a recruiter is that they are human and subject to biases. They may not like the way you look in person, or how you sound on the phone. Some are driven by billings and try to place as many candidates as they can in a month or week—failing to ferret out strengths in a candidate that employers may be looking for. On the other side of the coin, some recruiters have been known to send your resume to every employer in his or her  address book/file--in hopes of boosting billings. If you’re looking for a job in a small city, word could actually reach your current boss—not good. 

You may also get stuck with a junior recruiter who may have little or no prior experience and won’t know how to read your engineering resume. This can cost you a job as he or she will simply shelve your resume. This is another reason to make sure you get an experienced recruiter, and that you’re both on the same page when it comes to properly presenting your technical skills and abilities.


If you do go the recruiter route, make sure you first interview several recruiters before deciding on one that’s right for you. Ask about their track record in securing engineering jobs you’re interested in. Make sure they can “talk the talk” in your particular field, and that they understand the value of your training and experience. 
Have you ever used a recruiter to find a job?  Tell us about your experience.




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  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Thanks for your comments. Using a recruiter is a personal choice one has to make. Yvonne: I can't really recommend a recruiter specific to your field. I would ask your friends and associates who they use, if any.
  • Allen S
    Allen S
    I have never had any success using a recruiter. Most of them are only for their customer. They have no idea what type of person you are. And most of them have no idea about the position you are trying to fill. To them you are a resume, a name and a possible candidate for the job. They may promise you the moon, but deliver nothing. I have one at the moment trying to assist me in a job I am perfect for. But he left out one small detail. The company wants me to relocate for a national position and do not have the ability to do that. But with airports, Skype, email, etc. he can't seem to get it done. All I can say is Bad!
  • Cyril Onu U
    Cyril Onu U
    Haven't had a job from recruiters before, but hoping to some day. One thing is sure: you CV is your first impression to any recruiter, so taking out time to make it look impressive is worth the effort.
  • Joyce F
    Joyce F
    I think the more experienced recruiters might be more guilty of shelving, or the young inexperienced may not know what to do with them, and, as they are working on a commission type basis possibly, would not refer the less profitable ones.  Everyone should do their own searching, regardless, for these reasons.  The recruiters can be good as they do have the inside track on availability.  If you are young and just beginning, it is not likely they are going to get anything quickly.
  • Therese C
    Therese C
    in my field. that is how I find jobs. through recruiters. I ask questions when they call to see if they know what they are offering or if they can find out the information I need to know to find out if I am qualified. The problem is, a lot of companies now are subbing out recruiters to head hunters from the middle east and I can't understand them. I am not bias in any way but I like to speak to someone that knows something about the position they are offering.
  • Yvonne K
    Yvonne K
    I have never used a recruiter. I have over 25 years experience in engineering firms as a Sr Project Accountant. Do you know of any recruiters in this field. I understand I am not an engineer but Project Accountant is just as important in engineering firms as actual engineer.

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