Recruitment and Selection are two different organizational processes connected by the underlying principle that in order to select the right person for the job, you have to have attracted the right group of folks to pick from. Some companies cast a wide net, include a lot of candidates, and engage in a winnowing process. Others are highly targeted, focused on a narrow audience of special people they court and consider. There is no right or wrong; it’s a matter of company choice. Either way, you need to know who you are dealing with in order to make the right move for you.
Here are some of the major players you might encounter:
Headhunter. A “headhunter” is a recruiter who works for himself or herself or a major (or minor) headhunting firm. A retained search firm is paid (usually a percentage of the job’s annual cash compensation) whether or not they place a candidate. A contingency recruiter is paid similarly, but only if his or her candidate is placed.
You might first hear from a headhunter’s researcher whose job it is to qualify you or get your ideas for leads, if you yourself prove to be wrong for the opportunity. The researcher is highly oriented to recruiting—the message is that you are great, the job is great, the company is fabulous. You are her new best friend; you will discover you have many friends in common. The actual account manager, though, is more likely to winnow. Both have a stake in your positive vibes, but also a stake in both your deliverability (are you really interested?) and your suitability (are you right for the company and the job?)
Contract recruiter. A contract recruiter is screening potential candidates who’ve landed in a pool, through the company’s outreach activities. Might have been advertising, might have been a file search, might have been a job fair, but the contract recruiter (who is not an employee of the company) has a crowd to turn into a qualified few. He or she is criteria-oriented by definition—the contract determines the task. Contract recruiters are usually paid by the hour or perhaps by the day, week, or month.
Company recruiter. This person is definitely a company asset, with lots of knowledge and lots of enthusiasm for getting and keeping you interested. This is someone—who may or may not have the title of recruiter—who probably has some say into the selection pool, but is more likely the professional who keeps it all moving and makes sure the company gets its value and the candidate gets treated right. He or she is deeply concerned with what you think of the company, and also knows that it isn’t over until it’s over, so is inclined to keep you interested all the way to the end. And then some.
HR Manager. This is another level of HR involvement that may or may not happen; sometimes it’s a recruiter’s boss, sometimes it’s a hiring manager’s HR Business Partner, depending on the size of the company or the level of the job for which you are being considered. Probably an influencer with power; don’t be fooled by the authentic interest in you as a person.
Hiring Manager. This is a (maybe THE) decision-maker, who might go by any number of titles, including manager, director, vice president, owner, or boss. Assume that this is by definition the person who narrows the field to one.
Selection Committee Member or Selection Committee Chair. The name says it all. The people who see these people, if a committee is being used, are in one of the selection rounds. You might see such a group all at once, or one at a time. Some will be in recruitment mode, some will be examining you with a microscope.
The Big Boss. This is the honcho who gets to say, at the last minute, either, “wow, everybody did a great job; I like her (or him),” or “what were you people thinking?” Screw this one up at your peril; it looks like a pleasant lunch at the local white tablecloth restaurant, but it probably isn’t. Selection masquerading as recruiting.
Stay tuned in to who you are talking to, and who is talking to you. By the time you get to the hiring manager, you can think of yourself as a real candidate. Until then, you are being recruited into a pool, and then a slightly smaller pool. Pools aren’t jobs, so don’t get ahead of yourself.