There is no shortage of those who have positive and negative opinions about working with search firms or headhunters, either as an employer or as a candidate. In your job search, there are resources that can help you and those that are not so helpful, and using a search firm is no exception. Key to job search success is to know how you want to manage your time and how a search firm can play a role in helping to match you with your next role. By asking the right questions of yourself and of the recruiter your considering, you can direct your search appropriately.
I – Know Your Recruiter
Some of us get calls from recruiters on a regular basis. They got our name from a colleague, have been doing some research in our industry, or reached us via cold call. Whether you’ve been contacted by a recruiter out of the blue or contacted them yourself, before you agree to work together, it’s important to make sure you understand what kind of arrangement or relationship you’ll have with the recruiter right from the start. How will they share your resume with potential employers? Will you always know when they do? Will they present your resume as you’ve written it, or rewrite it to fit their own format? Do they have any live jobs they would consider you for, or will you be on standby for a while?
Ask the recruiter these questions to be sure you understand how he or she plans to help you in your job search. Recognize that to some recruiters you represent little more than a resume to be added to their candidate database, but to others you are unique talent and they will want to learn as much about you as possible in order to truly understand the sort of environment where you’ll fit in best. Determine which one of these recruiters you’re working with by taking the time to ask questions and get knowledgeable about the way they conduct their searches.
II – Be Patient
The sound of silence. Sometimes that is all you’ll hear, even if the recruiter or recruiters you’re working with are keeping an eye out for job opportunities for you. This could mean that they have been actively discussing your background with potential employers, or that there is something about your background or resume that is not attracting potential employers to you, or it could mean that no opportunities exist at the moment. Either way, find out. Ask the recruiter for a status update via phone or email every few weeks, to stay on their radar and get feedback. This will not only help you to be patient as the recruiter continues to work on your behalf, but the recruiter might also be able to give you some clues to explain why the interview requests aren’t rolling in.
III – Remember Who Works for Whom…
Check the homepage on websites for many search firms, and you’ll see separate links for ‘Employers’ and for ‘Candidates’. Even though there may not be a link for ‘Clients’, understand that in all cases a search firm’s clients are the employers. The employers pay the search firm, and determine with the recruiter working on their open position what kind of candidate profiles to select, where to select them from, and how to determine their suitability for the open position. Given this, job seekers should understand that they are the talent and not the client, and while the recruiter you’re working with may really be in your corner to help you get that dream job, in the end their client is the employer, and that’s the party they ultimately want to satisfy.
At the same time, as the candidate, it’s also important to remember who your main target is – an employer, not a gaggle of recruiters. Remember this when you are deciding how to spend your valuable job search time, and don’t let too much of it be gobbled up by going on more search firm screening interviews than you can manage. A friend of mine interviewed with several recruiters in the same search firm for four hours, on two separate occasions, and never once was referred for an actual job with an employer. He was annoyed that he’d spent so much time being pre-qualified by the search firm and wondered if he was right to spend such a big bulk of his job search on interviews that weren’t with actual potential employers. In this case, he felt like going nowhere in his job search, despite the fact that he had spent quite a bit of time interviewing.
IV – Who Do You Know?…
Finally, as a candidate, you want to do everything you can to help your own job search, and should carefully guard your references. If you are being seriously considered for one ore more positions, then it’s commonplace to be asked for references so that the recruiter and any potential employers can be sure you’re who you say you are. But if in the first conversation with the recruiter, before you’ve even decided you want to work with them on your job search, you’re being asked for the full download on all your references, then decide if this is OK with you. Maybe the recruiter truly wants to get to know you more by speaking with your references up front, or maybe they just want to get more names in their database that they can use for the same or other searches. Before handing them over, ask how your references will be contacted and when. By doing this, not only will you better understand how your references will be checked, but then you can also give your references the heads up that they’ll be getting a call.
by Melanie Haniph