As a job seeker you are probably getting calls or emails from different types of recruiters offering you jobs with all kinds of companies. They may confuse you by introducing themselves as a certain type of recruiter that you never heard of. Here's a layman language definitions of the different types of recruiters you may encounter in your job search.
Internal, Inhouse or Corporate Recruiter
An Internal, Inhouse or Corporate recruiter is the most common type of recruiter that you will probably encounter. Internal recruiters are employees or often contractors of the company and they only source and recruit for full-time employee positions for the company. They are paid a salary and benefits just like any other employee. They are less aggresive as they have to represent the company well and don't rely on commissions for pay. These jobs are relatively stable, longer term and not as high pressure. They are not very interested in building relationships with candidates unless they feel you are a good fit for the company.
Example: Recruiters at companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, US Bank, Bank of America, Caterpillar that hire full-time employees for their companies
A Contingency Recruiting Agency is an outsourced provider that helps companies find fulltime employees. They are paid only if they find a candidate and not for spending time on the search. The contingency recruiter is responsible to do the initial recruiting, screening and interviewing and arranging interviews with the candidates for the client company.
Companies use these kinds of recruiters to meet unexpected high demand if their inhouse recruiters can't keep up with the hiring demand. The client company pays either a flat fee or a percentage of the first year’s salary usually 10-35% depending on the difficulty. Job seekers do not have to pay a fee. A lot of staffing companies also offer contingency services. They typically advertise these jobs as ‘Direct Hire’ or ‘Contract to hire’ to indicate they are different than the more common contract positions.
Example: Robert Half, Spherion, Matrix-FA
A Retained Agency is similar to a contingency recruiter with the main difference that the client company pays a retainer (fixed upfront amount) fee to have that company perform a dedicated search. A portion of the search fee is paid upfront and the remainder is due upon a successful hire. The initial retainer fee is paid irrespective of whether a placement is made. This is more typical for higher level positions to incentivize the recruiter to spend time on a low probability of placement (It is harder to find and convince a CEO or CFO as opposed to a software developer). Such firms may also call themselves Executive Search firms to distinguish the kind of talent they acquire which is usually passive and highly skilled people for fulltime positions.
Example: Korn Ferry, Witt Kiefer
PS: Both Contingent and Retained Search companies and their recruiters are also commonly called “Headhunters”. (A term many recruiters don’t like and avoid using).
An Outplacement Agency provides job seeking assistance to downsized, displaced or riffed employees. Often the employer will hire an outplacement company to help their recently downsized workforce find jobs as a matter of goodwill. Outplacement services provide resume and interviewing assistance, career counseling, etc. Several of these companies are divisions of larger staffing companies.
Example: Right Management (Manpower), Lee Hecht Harrison (Adecco), Challenger, Gray & Christmas
Staffing Agency Recruiter (Temp Agency)
This is another common type of recruiter you will encounter if you post your resume on a job board. A Temporary Agency (Temp Agency) hires temporary employees (contractors) to work for a short duration at client company. The contractor works at the client site but is employed by the staffing agency who pays all wages, employer taxes, medical insurance and benefits. For all legal purposes the individual is an employee of the staffing company but their daily work is directed by the client where they work.
Recruiters at staffing agencies are usually the most junior and inexperienced as staffing agencies are under intense cost and competitive pressure. They often hire new recruiters and groom them to keep their costs low. There is also high churn as the more experienced recruiters move on to start and independent recruiting business or corporate recruiters for more money. Many staffing companies have also outsourced a lot of their initial sourcing to low cost countries like India, so many of these recruiters call you from India.
IT Consulting Company Recruiter
A number of Consulting companies follow a similar model to staffing companies but they typically provide higher skilled professionals like software engineers, finance and marketing professionals. The smaller consulting companies operate more like staffing companies in that their employment contract is only valid until the project they are working on is ongoing.
Examples: Top-Tier Consulting companies like Accenture, Cap Gemini, McKinsey differentiate themselves in that they don’t terminate employees when their consulting engagement is over. They either find them different projects or work on internal projects but continue to pay them even as these consultants are on the ‘bench’ and not billing a client, at least for a few months till they find them their next project. Hence the higher hourly rates charged by these companies.