Recruitment firms do not help professionals to make big changes in their careers, such as switching to a completely different industry or function, reveals new research by emlyon business school, Wharton School and London Business School.

The research, conducted by Professor Kira Choi of emlyon business school, with Professor Matthew Bidwell of Wharton School and Professor Isabel Fernandez-Mateo of London Business School, analysed the role of recruitment firms in managerial career mobility.

They found that hiring a recruiter will not work if you’re wishing to make a big career change, as recruitment firms look to provide employers with candidates coming from similar roles or industries.

The researchers says that recruitment firms are best utilized if individuals wish to enter jobs in a similar industry but want a job with a higher pay or rank.

‘Recruitment firms work well for promotions within an existing area of expertise or specialism. People looking to make a more radical shift – into a new function or industry – might be better off using other means; chief among them, their own network’

The research also revealed that there no is evidence to suggest that individuals placed through recruitment firms are a better fit for their roles than those who find their jobs by other means, such as social media, job sites or through their own networks.

In fact, the research revealed that recruitment firms find people who are easier to sell to their client, rather than someone who is a better fit for the role.

‘Search firms act as gatekeepers for the most prestigious or well-paid roles out there. However, their incentives to complete searches quickly and capability to source candidates with a specific profile will lead them to disproportionately propose candidates who closely fit the jobs being filled’

The researchers used data from a career survey of over 2,000 MBA graduates where they asked participants to provide details about all of their employment history since graduating from the program.

It included questions about the company, industry, location, job title, function, number, number of promotions obtained, and compensations.

It turns out that executives who heard about their job through a search firm were significantly less likely to move into lateral-type opportunities (11% less likely to successfully change function, and 7% less likely to change industry) as compared to those who heard about opportunities through other means. 

 The study was published in the Journal the IRL Review.