The job seeking world is metamorphosing right now and many job seekers are struggling to adapt to our new reality.  In many respects finding a job now, is more complicated and challenging than any time since the Great Depression.  From strategy to etiquette, what used to work and be acceptable, even as little as one year ago, seemingly is outdated.  In some cases what was down is now up and what was up has now been replaced.

The job market is experiencing a rise in job seekers who are frustrated.  They are struggling to figure this out and place inordinate amount of that blame at the feet of recruiters.  One of the core issues is that people are simply unaware what a recruiter really does.  When many think they need a recruiter, they really need of a career coach; they just don’t realize it.

Rising Frustration

I speak with people daily who tell me about their frustrations, including those with recruiters.  When digging to get below the surface, so I can help, I discover a similar pattern.  The common frustration with recruiters for job seekers is that the recruiter isn’t performing like they think a recruiter should.  Really the job they want to recruiter to do is what career coach do, not recruiters.  Confusion has a large part to blame in the frustration and anger that job seekers feel. 

To help, I want to shed light on the issue and get people the help they truly need. My aim is to highlight the differences between career coaches and recruiters.  Even though they both interact with job seekers, their functions are completely different.  Knowing how to use the resources at our disposal will help us get the desired results faster, with less frustration. 

Recruiter Role:

Who they work for: Recruiters typically work for a large company and try to fill openings for the organization. Some are independent and work for several employers, typically medium to smaller companies, who are still looking to fill very specific roles.  In either case, the recruiter is hired to find a specific type of qualified worker, to fill an existing opening at a company.

Work Description: Recruiters help with writing job ads, posting the ads in media and social media and then perform pre-screening of potential candidates.  A recruiter’s goal is to find the best candidate to fill the specific needs set forth by the firm.  Recruiters are like professional shoppers looking for specific goods/services were job seekers are the products on the shelf. 

How they are paid: Recruiters get paid by the company who hired them, after the candidate they have found is successfully hired.  The pay varies but is usually a percentage of the first year’s salary for the candidate they placed in the opening they were recruiting for.  This is important because a person goes to work to make a living.  They are the client of the person paying for the service.

Career Coach Role:

Who they work for:Career Coaches typically work for individuals, most commonly job seekers and not corporations.  There are exceptions to this rule but normally job seekers will look for guidance on what career path to set out on.  Career coaches also help with niche or a la carte services, like resume writing, interview prep and more.  You can find all kinds of career coaches out there and many specialize by location and vertical market.  If you work in: tech, sales, marketing, engineering or management, you would likely consider a different coach for each.   You would hire them to work for you, to help you achieve your individual goals.

Work Description:  The coach typically will have one on one sessions where they learn about you and your history. After they get a feel for who you are and what you need, they begin the process of teaching.  Almost all have a structured lesson plan to help you learn the information you need to improve.  Some coaches take advantage of team or group settings to help offer lower prices.  Some coaches prefer to do all the meeting and training in person and others offer everything via the internet or an app.  There are a lot of variations to how coaches deliver instructions and help their clients.  The delivery method is just one of the variables a job seeker must consider when deciding which coach to hire.

How they are paid: Coaches are paid by the individual that hires them, typically before they get the new job.  This is the single biggest reason most job seekers are still not utilizing the advantages a career coach offers them.  A job seeker who hasn’t budgeted for help from a coach often struggles with the thought of paying a professional to help them when they don’t have an income.  This can be short sighted though as many people are aided by the coach to get a better job, find one faster, or both.  A career coach often helps make sure the career path is something that will ultimately fulfill the job seeker too, meaning you could have a better job sooner, and not want to leave it.

Recruiter vs. Career Coach?

There really is no conflict between recruiters and career coaches.  They both have a very important job to fill.  The recruiters take an undeserved bad wrap, as they are not evil. 


Recruiters are hired by companies to do a specific job, and that’s find qualified people to fill their role.  They are hired to find the best possible fit by the employer who hires them.  If they don’t fill the opening well, they could easily be cast out and replaced.  They are not paid to communicate with and guide job seekers.  They are not paid to give applicants who don’t make the grade any positive feedback. I know job seekers don’t like this as they feel they are owed a response.  Job seekers need to understand what is happening and adjust their thinking to the new reality.  Recruiters are paid to sort through a lot of applicants and weed out all the candidates who don’t fit the employers request.  Recruiters put candidates in front of employers for consideration, they don’t hire anyone.  They submit the candidates for consideration and the employer completes the interview and hiring process.

Career Coaches:

Career coaches pay more attention to job seekers, because they are paid to do so.  A career coach isn’t taking advantage of someone down on their luck.  People shouldn’t get irritated or jaded when they find out the career coach requires a fee for their service.  When you go to work, you expect to get paid for it.  Very few professionals can commit to working without any form of compensation.  I cringe when I hear job seekers complain about the fees career coaches request for their services.  Certainly, supply and demand are in play to help set prices, as with any fair market system.  If you feel a coach is charging too much, you are free of course to choose another coach, or go without. 

A career coach deserves to earn a living just as much as a job seeker does when they begin their job.  Remember a good career coach can normally help you find a good job, one that will make you happy, in less time than you can find on your own.  The career coach won’t ghost you or leave you without the help and advice you need.  You are paying them, and they will take care of you.

The Take Away

Remember recruiters work for companies and career coaches work for job seekers.  The service you get from each will be determined by who is paying their fee and what they are getting paid to do.  Ultimately, each person is just trying their best to do their job.  Knowing what their job is, will help you get the most out of them.