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Who Will Do A Better Job For You – A Recruiter Or A Coach?

Written by: Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


He walked into my conference room two hours before his interview. I was there to prepare him for an interview with a client for a C-level role. His shoes were scuffed, his outfit rumpled, and sweat marks were all over his shirt.

woman interviewing man in the office

“Tough day,” I asked.

“I was in until 2 AM working on an issue and didn’t get to sleep until 3:30.”

I peeked at my watch. It was 9:30. He was wearing the fact that it was 90 degrees out already and, knowing him as I did,” he was not ready to deliver an elite performance.

“I’m going to reschedule your interview for tomorrow. You’re in no shape to walk in and impress them today. Let’s use our time now to allow me to prepare you for what to expect.”

“Have you worked with them before?”

“Yes, for about 5 years. I understand what they want to see. You won’t give it to them today.”

As someone who worked in search for many years, I developed relationships with many of my clients who opened up to me about the nuances of a position they wanted to fill or the qualities in a person they wanted to experience in an interview. Six years ago, I transitioned to coaching globally. People hire me for no BS coaching and career advice related to job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading better, and more.

I understand the difference between the role of both a recruiter/search professional and a career coach. Each can be a powerful ally for you if you understand their strengths.

The Advantages of a Recruiter

Recruiters have access to actual job opportunities. They have been hired by an employer to locate someone to fill a particular position.

You don’t pay for a recruiter to work for you. That’s both good news and bad news. They are trying to fill a position with an institutional customer. They are not trying to find a job for you.

They have actual connections and relationships with their clients. Experienced search professionals and recruiters do. They will know the subtleties of a position, a hiring manager, and many of the others you’ll meet with. This helps them prepare you for the specific interview they schedule you for.

PRO TIP: The more a recruiter offers hype about “a great team of people doing exciting work for a wonderful manager at a great company,” the less experienced they usually are OR the less they really know about the position.

Recruiters can provide targeted guidance for you. A very experienced recruiter who has done work with a client for several years. You learn a lot from your clients in the casual conversations that occur over time. You hear how they think. You learn about their non-work interests. Very experienced recruiters will translate that information into suggestions for how to connect with an interviewer so that you don’t have to figure it out. After all, too often, people arrive at interviews and spend time “feeling out” an interviewer instead of being themselves and putting on a good performance. Targeted guidance from a recruiter who knows their client will help you project more self-confidence and personality, connect with an interviewer faster, as well show that you care about doing great work because you have an accurate feel for whom you’re meeting with.

Recruiters understand the hiring process with this specific company and manager. They’ll know questions that you may be asked, have a sense of their timeline for making a decision, as well as practical advice to prepare you for a first, second, third, or ninth interview with their client while managing your expectations.

Recruiters can conduct mock interviews geared toward the specific role you’re interviewing for. Career coaches can conduct mock interviews but will rarely be able to mirror the specific questions you might be asked for a role. The questions a coach might ask will usually be more general and not targeted to this specific job.

Both recruiters and coaches can and will provide objective feedback. However, recruiters can provide specific feedback related to the job you are interviewing for because they are trying to fill that position and earn a commission.

The Advantages of Working with a Coach

Interview Coaching prepares you for interviews. Recruiters can prepare you for specific interviews. Having worked in both fields, I see how my work doing interview coaching helps people be ready for when a recruiter schedules and prepares them for interviews. Since you won’t have much time prior to the interview to prepare, interview coaching will help you get ready with a methodology and practice environment to work in. Most recruiters will then give you specific things to execute and deliver in your interview. In effect, recruiters tweak what you’ve learned from an interview coach.

Coaches Work for You. Recruiters Work for Their Corporate Clients. “Follow the money” is a famous quote from a 20th-century American political scandal. It applies here, too. When you work with a recruiter, ESPECIALLY when they are advising you about salary discussions and negotiation strategies, their advice and opinions may be influenced by the fact they are trying to get paid (if they are a contingency recruiter) or receive their final payment if they do retained search. In contrast, you pay the coach and they work for you. A good coach may be able to offer strategies that will help you get what you want.

PRO TIP: Not all search professionals or recruiters have your interest at heart. Not all coaches are capable of offering strategies and tactics that will convert into more money or better compensation.

Coaches Make an Investment in Your Overall Career Success. Recruiters Are Working to Fill a Position. Yes, I know there are recruiters who will look bigger picture and help someone lay a foundation for their career. That would almost be a bonus for you. Few recruiters will ever utter the words, “I think you should turn down my client’s offer. You told me you were looking for a position where you can lay a foundation for the phase of your career after this went you step into C suite leadership. This position won’t do that.” It isn’t just about earning their total fee from their employer. It is because they have the habit of wanting to win. Winning means closing their client’s position. A coach is working for you and your interests.

Coaches may help you with skill development, long-term planning, and accountability support. In contrast, recruiters are hired by companies to locate someone to fill a specific position who will pay them if someone works for their client for a certain period of time.

Both recruiters and coaches can be valuable assets for someone during their career. Each has benefits for you that will help you advance in your career. It is important to develop relationships with both so they know how to help you when you need support.

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Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, is a career and leadership coach who helps people with their careers, including job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading, and resolving workplace-related issues while being the person they want to be in life. He has written 9 books and guides to job search and hiring, including "The Ultimate Job Interview Framework" and "The Right Answers to Tough Interview Questions." He is the host of No BS Job Search Advice Radio, the #1 podcast in Apple Podcasts for job search with more than 2100 episodes, as well as on YouTube, Amazon, Roku, Apple TV, and 90+ smart sets. Jeff works with clients worldwide and is a popular speaker.


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