I was a business development manager and sales manager for four major recruiters in BC, one was multinational. That is exactly how it works, 100% how it works in fact; I've even modified their business plans to work better for all three parties because I really don't like unethical business practices. Lower percentages, better fit for employees, but it's still the same goal. Chunk of first year's salary, most qualified candidate you can get without being TOO overqualified, and hope they leave in a year so you can fill the role again and get paid for another year.
Perhaps your consulting for a recruiter was a little different, perhaps that's why you don't do it now, I don't know. HR? That's a recruiter's target! I have trained dozens and dozens of recruiting sales staff on how to sell recruiting services to HR. HR departments rarely know the real story of recruiting, HR for the most part is a desk with a dunce cap on. A necessary evil so the management doesn't have to screen employees themselves.
I didn't say it was unethical, I explained a very common business model used by major recruiters. Recruiters are in business to make money, just like everyone else with the doors open. They aren't match makers, they are business owners.
On the whole though, the process I described is recruiting to a tee!
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