Technical and Executive Recruiters

Executive Recruiters: Your Job-Search Commandos

By Bill Radin

©1998 Innovative Consulting, Inc.
Career Development Reports

Executive recruiters (also known as headhunters or search consultants) have firmly established themselves as a visible and highly valued fixture in today’s employment landscape.

No one knows exactly what the business world would be like without the influence of headhunters, but one thing’s for sure: sometime in your career, you’ll either receive a call from a headhunter, or initiate contact yourself. In either case, you should learn how to work with them effectively, and take full advantage of the many benefits their service provides. Here’s what you get from establishing a relationship with an executive recruiter:

  • Greater exposure. Headhunters not only maintain a myriad of existing contacts within your field, they can also scout out new companies you never heard of.
  • Personalized public relations. Employers generally look more favorably towards a candidate who’s professionally recommended. Headhunters stake their reputations on the quality of their candidates, and will always present you in the best possible light.
  • Confidential representation. Some job search situations require a great deal of discretion. In such an instance, a headhunter can present your background confidentially, thereby protecting your identity, and eliminating (or at least minimizing) your risk of exposure.
  • Authoritative career consulting. Headhunters can help you determine the job or career track that’s right for you, based on current market conditions and your own values and abilities. They’re also in a unique position to walk you through (and monitor) each step in your job changing process.
  • Private training. Headhunters can give you practical, time-tested suggestions on how to strengthen your resume and improve your interviewing technique. In many ways, a headhunter acts as a personal coach.
  • Third-party representation. As experienced brokers, headhunters find ways to put favorable deals together, and iron out differences you and the hiring company may have regarding your salary, benefits, and relocation package.

In addition, working through a headhunter can actually improve your chances for success once you’ve been placed. That’s because the search fee the hiring company paid the recruiter represents a sizable financial investment in your future success — an investment worth protecting.


HEADHUNTERS: THE MISSING LINK
DON’T GET LOST IN THE SHUFFLE

Even though headhunters can’t guarantee you a new job, you have much to gain from working with them. And vice-versa, since you represent an addition to their continuously perishable inventory. While it’s true that headhunters owe their allegiance to their client companies (who pay the fees), without candidates to fuel the fire, headhunters simply wouldn’t exist.

Always look for a headhunter who takes an interest in your background, or who specializes in your industry. The last thing you need is top in your hopes on someone who’s not in a position to help you. Be prepared for mixed reviews when you talk to recruiters. You might very well receive a brush-off like, “I’ll call you in a week to 10 days”; or bad advice, such as “You’ll never find the job you want with the background you have”; or discouragement like, “Nobody’s hiring now.” Just keep plugging away at your job search — and never take “No”from a headhunter.

Of course, even the most qualified candidacy is subject to the whims of a supply and demand job market. In many cases, a headhunter simply won’t know what your chances of getting another job might be until he or she puts out feelers or sends you out on an interview. To work most efficiently, invest your time with a recruiter who really wants to help you.

SOME COMMON SENSE GROUND RULES

Let’s talk turkey for a minute about what to expect from headhunters, and how to establish some common sense ground rules. Here are seven issues you’ll want to discuss before you set any relationship in stone:

  1. Compatibility — Make sure you feel comfortable with the style, personality, intensity level, and integrity of the headhunter. As in any other business relationship, you want the other person to understand your needs and act accordingly.
  2. Confidentiality — Make sure your resume isn’t going to get plastered all over town without your knowledge. An inept (or anxious) recruiter can overexpose your candidacy; or worse, reveal your intention to change jobs to your own company.
  3. Good Judgment — Make sure you’re being sent to interviews that match your background and interests with the needs of the recruiter’s client company. The most common complaint from both candidates and employers is that recruiters “throw candidates against the wall to see what sticks.”
  4. Honesty — Make sure there’s either a bona fide job opening or an upgrade possibility where you’re being sent to interview. Otherwise, you’ll be spending your valuable time on one wild goose chase after another.
  5. Tempo — Make sure to let the recruiter know at what pace you want to proceed in your search for a new position. If you’re not ready to make a change until a later date, or simply want to explore the market, don’t let the recruiter waste your time by sending you on an interview.
  6. Arm-twisting — Don’t be pressured into accepting a position or a compensation package simply to please the recruiter.
  7. Exclusivity — It’s fine to work with a recruiter on an exclusive basis, as long as you feel comfortable with the arrangement, and the recruiter has earned the right of sole representation. On the other hand, you might not want to limit your options. Despite what you may be told, no recruiter has the exclusive “ownership” of your candidacy.

By the same token, you must be fair with headhunters. For example, if you’re pursuing a job search on your own or through another party,keep the headhunter aware of your activity, so you don’t cross paths. A recruiter’s time and reputation are his most valuable commodities;he or she deserves better than to be manipulated or left in the lurch.

It makes good sense to build a solid relationship with a competent headhunter.