by the NACE Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee

At times employers hire an external resource to assist them in identifying and hiring candidates. Such organizations are generally referred to as “third-party recruiters” or “staffing agencies.” Third-party organizations can be retained to conduct on-campus recruiting, represent their organization, and screen job candidates who apply online, or take part in other hiring activities.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) defines third-party recruiters as “agencies, organizations, or individuals recruiting candidates for temporary, part-time, or full-time employment opportunities other than for their own needs.”

There are several different categories of third-party recruiters. Below is information about the following types:

Some college career centers allow third-party recruiters to engage students through their offices. Oftentimes these career centers have special policies regarding how, when, and where third-party recruiters can engage through their office and with students.

The determination whether such organizations are permitted to work through the college career center is made by each institution. You should be aware of issues that are pertinent to working with these organizations. In addition to this guide, NACE encourages you to contact your career center ([email protected]) for university or college specific policies.

Third-party recruiters may also be hiring for their own organization, i.e., they may seek human resources majors for recruiting roles or students who are seeking part-time work as an assistant at the recruiter’s office.

Employment agencies list positions for a number of organizations and receive payment from the hiring organization when a referred candidate is hired. They often do not have an exclusive contract to place an individual in a role with a client organization.

Depending on the policies of each institution, campus and online job boards may include job postings from employment agencies or staffing firms. Career centers that choose to work with third-party recruiters do so because they have concluded that doing so is appropriate and advantageous for their students and alumni as some industries do the majority of their hiring through staffing agencies.

Business processes across employment agencies vary. Some staffing agencies do not disclose the name of the employer for the position they are listing. However, career centers typically require an employment agency to disclose this information in order to post a job listing through the campus job site. This requirement is intended to ensure transparency and proper disclosure. If you have questions about a specific employment/staffing agency, contact your career center for any additional information that will guide your engagement with the staffing agency.

Some staffing agencies may require the applicant to sign a broad “Right to Represent” agreement that gives the agency exclusive rights to represent you to an organization as a job candidate. It is recommended that any such agreement be reviewed by legal counsel or with career center staff, especially if it portends to be an “exclusive” agreement, which may prohibit a candidate from seeking alternatives services or charge a fee for placement. Be aware, however, that signing multiple “Right to Represent” agreements may affect your job search negatively. Many large companies do not like to receive the same resume for the same job from multiple agencies.

While there are differences between staffing agencies, many of these companies will hire candidates on a “temp-to-hire” or “contract-to-hire” basis. If you are hired under one of these conditions, it often means that your paychecks will come from the staffing agency for a set amount of time, after which the company you were hired to work for may have the option to bring you on as a permanent employee. It is important to understand the terms of any temp-to-hire/contract-to-hire position, including what (if any) benefits will be offered. Be prepared to discuss these details with the recruiter and make sure that the details regarding pay and benefits are included in your written job offer or contract. You should also be mindful that you may be required to adhere to the policies of both the staffing agency and the company you are working for. In these situations, there may be a “joint employment” arrangement which may impact your benefits.

A company hires an executive search firm to find and screen qualified candidates to fill specific positions. The company (the client in this case) pays a fee to the search firm in exchange for its services, and the search firm may have exclusive rights to recruit for the position. Search firms generally specialize in a particular industry and/or a specific geographic area (region or country).

Companies typically hire search firms to source candidates for senior, executive, or other highly specialized positions. Working with a search firm is usually more appropriate for candidates with an extensive or highly specialized employment history.

Companies may elect to use an outside executive search firm to preserve the privacy of the organization as well as that of the candidates. Sometimes companies may use a search firm because they lack the internal research resources, networks, or evaluative skills to recruit an adequate candidate pool. Search firms are unlikely to work with career centers to identify candidates, with the exception of conducting outreach to alumni. It is important to note that search firms work for companies and typically do not represent individual job candidates.

Unless the search is particularly sensitive in nature, search firm representatives will usually identify the company that they represent.

Companies hire contract recruiters to represent them in the recruiting and hiring functions.

Contract recruitment representatives may act on behalf of an employer at recruiting events, on-campus information sessions, and interviews. They will often make no distinction that they are contracted HR representatives.

The company hires the contract recruiter for a fee. Generally speaking, you should never sign a contract in which you agree to pay for services of a contract recruiter or recruitment firm, at least until after it has been reviewed by legal counsel or the career center.

A resume referral firm collects information on job seekers—typically in the form of resumes or LinkedIn profiles—and forwards it to prospective employers. The company, job seeker, or both may pay fees for this service. If you are asked to enter into a contract, it is recommended that any such agreement be reviewed by legal counsel or with career center staff before you do so.

In order for the firm to pass your resume on to employers, the firm must have your written permission to do so. If you wish to give permission, your permission should include a statement that expressly states to whom and for what purpose the resume referral firm can use the information. You should request information on what companies your resume may or will be sent to as a result of the agreement.

In fact, your career center is a type of resume referral service that works directly with hiring employers. If you upload a resume that is part of a career center database, the career center staff may share it with employers authorized to access the career center site. Check with your career center for more information regarding its specific resume referral policies and the policies of any platforms used as part of the resume referral process. (Platforms used by many career centers, such as Symplicity and Handshake, enable students to complete a profile in the system, upload their resume, and make their profile public to be accessed by interested employers. Read their policies carefully.)

Many online job boards also function as a resume referral site. When you upload a resume to an online job board be sure to review the privacy statements and policies. You should consider limiting your personal contact information on any resume you provide and understand the implications of listing your personal information on a public forum. If you have any questions about privacy and job boards, talk with your career center.