Question: I am a fourth year associate, and I am considering making a lateral move. I am not sure whether I should work with multiple recruiters. What do you suggest?
Answer: As usual, it depends! If you are trying to make an in-house move, then I suggest that you work with as many recruiters as possible. Why? In-house openings are often exclusive because they are based on personal relationships that a General Counsel has with a particular recruiting company or even with a particular recruiter. Thus, if your goal is an in-house position, it is in your interest to cultivate relationships with all those recruiters who call you because you may need to tap into a very broad network in order to secure an in-house position. If, on the other hand, you are trying to make a lateral move to another firm, then you should know the following facts.
First, most firms work with all reputable recruiting companies. There may be a scenario where a firm and a reputable recruiting company have a falling out due to a particular situation. However, for the most part, all reputable recruiting companies have the same openings so you are not going to increase your odds - i.e. discover more openings - by working with more than one recruiter. If a recruiter tells you that he or she has an "exclusive" with a major firm, then you can safely assume that this recruiter is probably not being honest with you.
Second, a really good recruiter invests a significant amount of time and energy into his candidates because he knows that if he has a marketable candidate, and handles the search process properly, then he will earn his placement fee (which is how he makes his living.) The recruiter's incentive decreases when he is subject to serendipity. What do I mean by serendipity? I once presented twenty firms to a candidate who told me that he was giving me his consent to submit to ten of the firms and he was going to use a different recruiter (who had also presented said firms to him) for the other ten firms! I am not sure about the candidate's reasoning (then or now), but I do know that before I even began the process, my chances of placing the candidate were reduced by fifty percent; and candidly, so was my incentive to work with this candidate.
Third, the quality of the recruiter is infinitely more important than the quantity! While it is true that firms will generally give their openings to all reputable recruiting companies, it is not true that all recruiting companies are equal. As a candidate, you should ask recruiters the following questions before giving them your resume. How long have you been a recruiter? How many placements have you made with the firms in question? Do you have a personal relationship with the recruitment coordinators at the firms in question? Besides submitting my resume, what other services do you provide? Do you help me prepare for interviews? What information can you provide about the firms in question that I cannot find on their respective websites?
The goal is to make sure that your recruiter is an experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable professional who will handle your search (really your career) with the utmost care. Assuming you do your due diligence and find such a recruiter, do you really need more than one?
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