Has Your Head Been Hunted Lately? Working with Recruiters in Your Job Search

My clients often ask me for referrals to a good “headhunter.” After a little Q&A on the subject, I often find that my clients often think of recruiters as “jobs dispensers” or in other words, a magical shortcut around the plain old hard, boring, and frightening work of a job search.

Connecting with a headhunter is simply not an easy way out. Here’s how it doesn’t work: You find a great headhunter, they present your resume to the dozens of open job requisitions they have, and a few smooth interviews later, you are hired. Wouldn’t that be nice? Who wouldn’t want to work with a headhunter? I know I would! Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way for the vast majority of people.

After working with recruiters for years, and working as one for the past few years, here is what I know about recruiters:

1. The term headhunter (which still makes me shudder) probably came about from the practice of recruiting talent away from a competitor’s company. Not only is it not really a nice term, in my opinion, but it is incorrect to call a recruiter a headhunter when a job hunter is the party initiating the contact.

2. Reputable recruiters are ALWAYS paid by the employer, typically at a rate of 15-25% of your first year’s salary. Companies utilize recruiters to source, prepare, and present not just any candidate, but the PERFECT candidate while minimizing the impacts to productivity that a search can cause. This means that unless you have exactly the specific industry background and qualifications for a given position, most reputable recruiters are not going to present you to their clients. To do so would be to damage their reputation with the client.

3. Executive Recruiters sometimes refer to their businesses as executive search firms because they search for executives on behalf of their clients. Outplacement companies also like to refer to themselves as executive search firms, but they search instead for a large fee to handle an individual’s job search. Whether it is you or your former employer paying the large fee, this is the type of executive search firm that does not represent a great value. More concerning that the large fee paid is the many many months of unemployment that can follow if you are not actively managing your job search campaign. Ask around in any job forum, or read the section on this matter in any given edition of What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles.

4. Most recruiters work on a small handful of placements at any given point in time, so the odds are, at any given moment, that a recruiter you approach will have nothing for you. Most recruiters work on a contingency or commission basis, and often in competition with other recruiting resources. Therefore, if you are not a near-perfect match for the hot job placement that a recruiter is working on, it is unlikely that they can help you with your search. In some cases, a candidate with rare skills and top industry credentials will be marketed proactively to the recruiter’s client list, but this is the exceptional situation. In a down economy in which an employer feels they have excellent candidates knocking at their door, recruiters have fewer engagements.

5. Given the fact that each recruiter is working on so few jobs at any point in time, if you choose to “work with a recruiter,” then work with several, and contact them every two weeks to stay at the top of their minds.

6. Since only a small fraction of jobs are filled through recruiters, getting your resume to recruiters is only a small fraction of a smart, well-rounded search campaign.

In summary, while recruiters may be able to provide you with assistance in your search, or ultimately connect you with your dream job, they cannot take over your job search for you. What to do? Take charge of your search, network well, hire job search services as needed, initiate a lot, follow it all up, and you will be successful!


Many thanks to Tracy Laswell Williams for this article.
Tracy's Website- http://www.career-magic.com/