Working with Third-Party Recruiters

Third-party recruiters can best serve Executive students and those with 10+ years of career experience. You should offer yourself as a candidate ONLY if you’re serious about wanting to change jobs.

As you work with a recruiting or search firm, be very clear about any industries, employers, or geographical areas that are off-limits.

Here is a great article to learn more. 

Agency staff and recruiters work for client companies, rather than for the job seeker. They seek to help the company find the talent it needs. However, you should treat recruiters like any other networking contact: build a relationship first before asking for their help. 

Continue to work with your Career Coach on any questions about your personal journey.

If a recruiter approaches you about a career opportunity, before giving permission to distribute your resume, ask for information about:

  • Explicitly the nature of the assignment or job specifications, plus competencies needed.
  • The size of the employer and its culture.
  • The nature of their search, whether working for a particular company with a specific opening (in-house recruitment) or hiring from an outside firm (retained or contingency search).
  • How their process works: what happens when you send your resume to the recruiter, what follow up you should expect.

Communicate when your situation changes (i.e. a job offer pending), and stay in touch about once every two months. If they set you up with an interview, share feedback on how it went.

Provide the name and contact information for three references when you supply your resume. These can be former managers, colleagues, customers or people you managed.

Services provided to the client company: 

  • Compiling a database of candidates for current or future openings
  • Help a company research what positions and skills they’re seeking, then look for candidates.

Specialization & geography: It is in your interest to be known to search firms who fill positions in your industry, function and salary range, no matter where they are.

  • Some firms specialize in certain management functions or industries; others don’t.
  • Generalist firms, and the largest multiple-office search firms, cover a variety of functions and industries, but often have an area of expertise.
  • Most recruiters work nationally, though the hiring company’s willingness to consider out-of-town candidates will vary.

Keep in mind:

  • While your file is being used by a retained recruiter for an assignment, no other recruiter at that firm can contact you. 
  • If you have worked for the client company recently, you will be ‘off-limits’ for any other position it may have.

View an overview of each level of staffing below. NOTE: Some companies handle all levels of staffing, others do not.

These firms work with very senior seasoned professionals at the executive or C Suite levels.  These jobs are not advertised on job boards normally and are very few in number in relation to other job openings.

Type of candidate: highly skilled, experienced senior managers and executives; often salaried $300K or greater.

Goal of Search Firm: To proactively and judiciously source the right candidate on behalf of the hiring organization.

Type of opportunities: Permanent placement

Process: Company hires the recruiter on a retained basis, works closely with rigorous vetting of 3-10 candidates before interviews begin; often used to find candidates who are not immediately identifiable in the market; in-depth research, private networking, exhaustive screening, a methodical selection process and commitment to confidentiality


  • Visibility is an important component of being considered for a role. Having a large professional network of associates who will recommend you can help, as executive search firms will often talk to people in the industry and/or look at similar sectors when searching for candidates. Executives can enhance their visibility by participating in industry/conference panels, publishing thought leadership and actively participating in industry or professional associations. 
  • Don’t wait until you’re ready to change jobs to get to know recruiters. Like with most relationships, building good ones can take time. Most recruiters encourage executives to be visible to top executive recruiters constantly. As a candidate gets more senior, opportunities that might be considered attractive come along less frequently, and the chances of one opening up just as you decide you are ready for a new challenge are not high. Improve your chances by building the relationship and rapport in advance.

These companies work with mid-level professionals who are open to project, contract and permanent placement opportunities.  These firms have most demand for those with deeper work experience, expertise or education in specific functional or industry areas. Contingent search means that the candidate is the bargaining chip: search firms receive payment only when their candidate is hired.

Type of candidate: mid-level positions, up to and including lower level management, especially roles with a large number of qualified candidates; actively job-seeking candidates

Type of opportunities: Project, contract, and permanent placement

Goal of Search Firm: Work quickly to provide as many qualified candidates for a role as possible, increasing chances of providing a candidate who gets the job.

Process: Recruiters pull lists of qualified candidates from job boards and sites, work to fill a large number of positions and spend a limited amount of time reviewing each application; resumes get widely distributed, providing a lot of exposure


  • Make sure your LinkedIn, and other social networking profiles, are search-engine friendly to make you more visible to recruiters searching for candidates there. Strategically incorporate keywords into your profile to improve how the LinkedIn algorithm perceives your fit for roles of interest, and returns your profile higher in the search results. 
  • Position transferable skills as your key selling point, especially if you want to step into a new industry. 

Type of candidate: pre-degree, pre experience or skilled labor candidates. 

Type of opportunities: Skilled labor, manufacturing, administrative, hourly, temporary or contract work

NOTE: The CBCC provides this list on the left as a reference resource only, and does not endorse any one firm or guarantee a particular outcome from working with a search firm.

This is not an exhaustive list, but a place to start your research process. Our team updates the database yearly in the spring. If you have questions or find that any contact information is incorrect or incomplete, please reach out to to let our team know.

Log in with your UMN credentials to access the database.

Keep your Career Coach updated if you decide to work with a third-party recruiting or search firm. They can offer guidance on preparing a standard resume or Executive MBA/experienced candidate format (for candidates with 8+ years of experience). Coaches can also work with you on preparing for interviews, evaluating and negotiating an offer. Visit Handshake to schedule a coaching appointment.

Reference information on this page compiled from UNC Charlotte Belk College of Business resources.

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