Got your eye on working with a headhunter/recruiter?
Below we have broken down this in-depth online guide into various “chewable” parts so you can go to the section you need the most help with.
Here’s a breakdown of what we cover:
- Intro to Finding/Working With Headhunters/Recruiters
- Definition & Difference Between Headhunters, Recruiters & Sourcers
- How Do They Get Their Clients?
- How Do They Get Paid?
- Who Does the Headhunter Work For?
- What Does It Mean When They Say They’ll Keep My Resume on File?
- What Do They Look For In Job Seekers?
- Fundamentals of Working With Headhunters/Recruiters
- How to Find One Who Will Work Best For You
- 8 Sites to SEARCH for Headhunters
- How To Do a Background Check on Headhunters
- What You Should Be Wary of
- How To WORK BEST With Headhunters
We as job seekers should always be open to new possibilities in our search for the next job.
Whether it’s turning to a new networking resource or writing our resume or going back to school, we should continually be looking for some new asset, some new tool that will not only make us more effective in our job search but will make us more desirable as candidates in this highly competitive market.
And in casting our eye from one possibility to another, our interest may happen at one point to rest on the idea of getting another person to help us in our search for a new job; someone who is more familiar with the job market and, who, ideally, has insider access to hiring companies and their managers. In short, at one point or another, we may consider the idea of working with a headhunter to help us land a new job.
Of course, that’s when the questions come rushing in, especially if we’ve never worked with one before.
Where should I go to find a good one?
When I do find a headhunter, how do I know if they’re any good?
And what’s the likelihood that they’ll actually find me a job?
Indeed, the very idea of presenting personal information to a stranger in the hopes that person will find you a new job can be a very strange one to some people, and even daunting.
But, as this guide will demonstrate, using a third-party, such as a recruiter or headhunter, to help you find a new job can hold a lot of potential and is an avenue that should definitely be explored; that is, as long as you understand how these individuals work within the employment world and as long as you can manage your expectations.
So then, why don’t we kick off our discussion on headhunters by first explaining who exactly a headhunter is, what he or she does and how a headhunter compares to the role of a recruiter.
Before we even discuss how to find and work with a headhunter, an understanding needs to be reached about who exactly this person is and what role he or she plays in the greater landscape of the employment world.
Headhunter Vs. Recruiter
Some distinguishment also needs to be made between a headhunter vs. a recruiter, two roles that are oftentimes mistaken as the same.
So, what is a headhunter, and what do they do?
Well, the common definition is that a headhunter is an individual who operates as an independent contractor and who is hired by a company to find a suitable candidate to fill a particular job within that company.
As opposed to other members of the employment world, a headhunter takes an active role in their search for candidates.
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What that means is that instead of waiting for job seekers and other potential candidates to approach them, headhunters use networking resources like LinkedIn and job fairs to go out and contact potential candidates for the jobs they are representing.
Traditionally, a headhunter is only involved in the initial phase of the hiring process.
Meaning that once a headhunter finds a candidate or, more likely, candidates, who may be suitable for their client’s open job, a headhunter will only be involved with introducing the candidate to the hiring company and perhaps scheduling the first interview.
All the hiring steps that follow, such as salary negotiations, second interviews, etc., will not include the headhunter.
Understanding how a headhunter works with their client, i.e. the hiring company they are representing, is incredibly important since it will help you as a job seeker better manage your expectations of what the headhunter can and will be willing to do for you in your search for a new opportunity.
Furthermore, it will help you understand where the headhunter’s motivation lies in relation to you getting a new job, which is something that is also extremely important.
Who are Recruiters?
So, if we now know a little more about who headhunters are and what they do, who then are recruiters?
And how do they function in the employment world in comparison?
Well, the common distinction between headhunters and recruiters is headhunters act as independent contractors for the company that is looking to hire, recruiters are usually part of the company itself – more specifically, they are usually part of the company’s human resources team.
This distinction is pretty important.
After all, if you have one person working on commission, i.e., a headhunter, and another person working on direct salary from the company itself, i.e., the recruiter, this makes an enormous difference in how the individuals function in their respective roles.
And, makes a difference too in their order of priorities and in the kind of pressure they face.
There are recruiters out there who are active in finding candidates for their company; but, generally, if a recruiter is part of the company’s staff, they are more passive in searching for candidates than headhunters.
However, once a recruiter does find a candidate (or candidates) who they would like to interview with their company, the recruiter is far more involved in the interviewing and hiring process than their headhunter counterparts.
They typically will be involved in some shape or form from the first interview all the way to the candidate’s first day on the job, if the candidate is fortunate enough to be hired on.
Who are Sourcers?
Okay, so now that you understand who recruiters and headhunters are and how they function in the hiring world, who in the world are sourcers then?
Well, sourcers are people solely tasked by companies to locate or “source” particular individuals. As a group, sourcers are much more marginal in the recruiting and headhunting world and, typically, the individuals they are tasked to find are only very in-demand, high-income executives.
When meeting with a headhunter, the headhunter will ask you, the job seeker, to provide a detailed description of things such as your professional history, your education, your interests, and much more.
Why is that?
Because headhunters need this information from you to see if you’ll be a suitable fit for any of the jobs they are currently representing.
But, in divulging all that information on your part, it’s natural that you would want some sort of reciprocation. It’s natural that you would want to know a little more about the headhunter in return. Indeed, as you sit down with a headhunter for the first time, questions general to the headhunting business may be circling in your head.
Questions like how does a headhunter go about building a working relationship with their list of clients?
Or how do most headhunters end up in the headhunting field to begin with?
And how do I know if the headhunter I’m meeting with truly has a working relationship with the clients he or she is trying to introduce me with?
These are all very good questions and knowing answers to some or all of them will certainly give you more confidence as you consider using a third-party to help you find a new job.
So, why don’t we see if we can get some answers?
First off, know this: headhunters are not a cookie-cutter group of professionals with identical educational histories and identical ways with which they built their client relationships. As a professional group, they are incredibly varied as far as their personal and professional backgrounds.
Part of the reason why the headhunting profession has such a varied background among its members is that there is no traditional headhunting school; similarly, there are no headhunting certificates that headhunters can earn, nor are there even headhunting trade schools.
Instead of learning the profession by earning an academic degree from a university or a specialized trade school, headhunters gain the skills, experience, and client contacts needed to become a headhunter solely by working in the actual headhunting profession.
But, how do they get into the business to begin with?
Well, it turns out that also varies. For example, many headhunters begin their careers as human resource professionals and then branch out to develop their own headhunting business after gaining the needed skills and client contacts.
Other headhunters begin at headhunting firms in entry-level jobs and gradually work their way up.
Still, others enter the business through simply knowing enough client contacts to open up shop.
So, the way in which headhunters enter the headhunting profession is pretty varied.
But, that should not take away from one cardinal rule of the headhunting business – that, a headhunter’s reputation in the employment world and, particularly, their reputation and relationship with their clients has a dramatic effect on their ability to place you in a new job.
Like most things in life, there are good people and there are people whose moral compass and motivations are, well, a little more suspect.
The same goes for headhunters.
There are good headhunters and there are headhunters who are less trustworthy and who do not have your best interests as a job seeker in mind.
So, what fits a headhunter in the latter group?
Well, this is a topic that will be explored in greater depth in a later section of the article, but, in part, it has to do with the quality of the headhunter’s relationship with its clients.
It’s important to know that there are some headhunters and independent-working recruiters out there who will do almost anything to place a candidate with a company and earn that commission, even if it means acting dishonestly or in poor judgment. These are headhunters who may submit your resume to clients who they have absolutely no working relationship with. These are headhunters who most certainly have poor reputations not only in the headhunting world but in their chosen industry of representation as well.
And these are the type of headhunters that you as a job seeker must spot and try to avoid. Because their poor reputation will corrupt your reputation as a job seeker.
First off, let’s clear up this potential misconception right away: ► headhunters DO NOT work for you, the job seeker.
They are not in any way, shape, or form career counselors and your need and desire to find a new job is not the first priority on their list.
Need to know the difference between a headhunter, recruiter, and sourcer? Here’s a quick article to help.
This may sound harsh and it may be deflating news. But, without question, it is important for you to know as a job seeker who’s beginning to consider working with a headhunter.
So, who then do headhunters work for?
Well, simply put – headhunters work for no one else but their clients, which, as we explained earlier, is the company that’s searching to have one or more of their jobs filled.
The agreement between the headhunter and the hiring company goes something like this: the company hires a headhunter to find a suitable candidate for their open job (or jobs), and, in a traditional agreement between the headhunter and the hiring company, the headhunter only gets paid if and when the headhunter finds and successfully places a suitable candidate with that company.
As a job seeker, it’s in your best interest to understand this agreement, as well as its implications. After all, knowing that your desire to find a job comes only after the need for the headhunter to serve his or her client will help manage your expectations of what your headhunter can and will be willing to do for you.
It sounds callous and insensitive, but you must understand that ► you as a job seeker and a potential placement candidate are a commodity in the eyes of the headhunter.
If the headhunter considers you a possible match for the client they are representing, then you will be a focus of their attention in as much as they will try to prepare you for interviewing with their client.
And you will remain a focus of their attention as long as they consider you a viable candidate for at least one of the clients they represent.
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On the other hand, if the headhunter does not or no longer considers you a match for any of their clients, then you are no longer a viable means through which they can earn a commission.
This means, as harsh as it sounds, ► that you will fall very quickly out of that headhunter’s radar and the likelihood that you will hear from them again will be very low.
Yes, it’s harsh, but, as they say, that’s the nature of the beast, and that’s the nature of the headhunting world.
But, having heard all that, you may still be wondering about one thing: dollar amount. How much do recruiters make per placement?
Do recruiters get paid per interview?
Recruiters are paid only upon a successful placement.
The amount paid depends on the particular headhunter and the particular hiring company, as well as the type of agreement they have with each other.
For instance, there exist what are called “retained recruiters” who work on very specialized high-end jobs and who get paid a flat fee for producing a certain number of qualified candidates. There are also headhunters and recruiters out there who work on short-term contracts with their clients and get paid by a separate model.
How much do recruiters make? What is a typical headhunter salary?
How much a recruiter makes per placement depends on the successful placement of a candidate with the hiring company. The industry average in this agreement is to have these headhunters paid somewhere between 15% to 25% of the candidate’s total first annual salary.
However, in some cases, headhunters can be paid a much higher rate.
For example, if the headhunter finds a person to fill a very specialized niche job, a commission of up to 50% of the candidate’s first annual salary is typical.
… the industry average in this agreement is to have headhunters paid somewhere between 15% to 25% of the candidate’s total first annual salary.
Okay, so assuming a headhunter successfully finds and places a candidate with one of their clients, what happens if it turns out that the candidate is not a successful match with the hiring company? So, being a headhunter can be pretty lucrative, and that’s certainly one of the reasons why they can be aggressive in their search for candidates.
What happens if the candidate leaves the company the headhunter placed him within say a week or a month?
Does the headhunter still get their fee?
That’s a good question.
Typically, there are agreement stipulations in place between the headhunter and the company they represent safeguarding the company from those not too uncommon scenarios. For example, the company may instruct that the placed candidate is on their staff for at least 3 to 6 months before the headhunter can receive their well-earned commission.
You now have a better understanding of how competitive and even unsympathetic the world of headhunting can be.
With this understanding, you hopefully now know that because headhunters operate in an extremely competitive market and because they only get paid on commission, their focus will always be directed on those candidates who can earn them money.
But, headhunters are human and the majority of them do know the stakes involved when they are working with their candidates.
So, if it happens that the headhunter no longer sees you as a fit for any of the companies they represent – whether that’s because you interviewed with one of their companies and it didn’t work out, or for some other reason – many headhunters will say that they will keep you and your resume in mind for future jobs or future clients they represent.
But, what exactly does that mean?
And is there any truth to their words?
Unfortunately, the answer to this last question is, in most cases, no.
Unless you have a very close relationship with the headhunter, their promise to keep you in mind for future jobs is really just a softening-the-blow technique.
Here are a couple of somewhat sobering statistics to give you an insight into what’s going on behind the scenes when you work with a headhunter: when looking to fill a company job, a headhunter typically will consider 10 job candidates.
Of those 10 candidates, the headhunter will select 3 to actually send to an interview with the hiring company.
Of course, of those 3, only 1 candidate in most scenarios will be selected for the job.
Thus, because headhunters typically send more than one candidate to interview at an open job, on average, your chance of getting hired in that job is only 25% to 33%.
These are real statistics and you have to keep these in mind as a job seeker in order to manage your expectations.
So, as you can tell, headhunters have a lot of job candidates that they won’t be able to help. Furthermore, it’s part of their job to continually meet a steady stream of new candidates.
Therefore, yes, the headhunter may keep your resume in their directory list.
However, the chance that they will go back and scour through that contact list at a later point in time or the likelihood that they will remember your resume in the hundreds of resumes and job seekers that they encounter is very slim.
As just mentioned, headhunters meet and are approached by a lot of potential candidates on a weekly and even daily basis.
A good portion of these candidates, the headhunters choose not to represent either because they do not have the time to do so or because the candidates do not have skills that match the jobs the headhunters are currently searching for.
All to say, it’s usually not as easy as simply calling up a headhunter or e-mailing them and asking if they can find you a job.
So then, how do you go about attracting a headhunter’s attention?
How do you make them not just willing, but eager to represent you?
And what type of profiles and skills are headhunters generally looking for?
Well, let’s try and answer some of these very critical questions now. But, before we do, we first must delve a little deeper into how headhunters work and how they are organized as a professional group.
Here’s something that’s key to know – like a lot of professions in this day and age, headhunters operate in a very specified manner. What that means is that they are a very industry-specific group of people.
There are IT headhunters; there are attorney headhunters; there
are entertainment industry headhunters. And all of these headhunters only represent jobs within their respective industries and, naturally, all of these headhunters are only open to meeting candidates with skills and experience in these industries.
Indeed, some headhunters are so specified in their representation that they limit themselves to representing subsets within a specified industry. For example, some IT headhunters will limit themselves to only representing .NET programmer jobs or only JAVA development jobs.
You need to be directed in what kind of new job you’re searching for and when you’re able to meet with a headhunter, you need to communicate this direction to him or her.
What does this mean for you as the jobseeker?
What it means is that it’s critical for you to have your “story” straight when trying to attract a headhunter’s attention.
More to the point: you cannot approach a headhunter with an “I’m open to any kind of job” mindset.
You need to be directed in what kind of new job opportunity you’re searching for and if and when you’re able to meet with a headhunter, you need to communicate this directly to him or her.
Communicating your career direction begins with your resume.
In fact, it is highly likely that your resume will be the first thing that attracts a headhunter’s attention.
As we’ll see later in the article, with the introduction of online candidate profiles hosted by the likes of Twitter, BranchOut, and, arguably most importantly, LinkedIn, headhunters do much of their headhunting by searching through resumes that are posted online.
That means that your resume may very well be the first thing about you that the headhunter sees.
And its quality may be the only factor that the headhunter uses in his or her decision in whether or not you’re worth the time to work with.
Therefore, it is extremely critical that your resume communicates focus and direction. Further, it’s incredibly important that your resume is directed toward some sort of specific industry, both as far as your past work experience and as far as what you’re looking for in your next career move.
So, having industry-specific direction and focus as a job seeker is quality #1 in attracting a headhunter’s attention.
But, what else do headhunters look for?
Well, earlier this year, Business Insider asked this very same question to the country’s top-performing headhunters and recruiters.
And many of these headhunters replied with a common response.
The response was: it was not the flashy candidates with elaborate means of attracting the headhunter’s attention who were the most successful candidates.
Rather, it was the candidates who were able to nail down the “basics” who most often won the headhunters over and were the candidates who were most frequently introduced to the hiring companies by the headhunters.
Good to know.
But, what exactly are these “basics”?
Well, as we’ll see, the “basics” have a lot in common with the basics of good interviewing skills, something which job seekers should already know a thing or two about.
So, here’s the run-down of what these highly prized “basics” are, as described by the headhunters in the Business Insider article.
Keep in mind – as a job seeker who is considering trying to arrange a meeting with a headhunter, these are not just suggestions, but are fundamentals to working with a headhunter or recruiter:
1. Treat Your Meeting with the Headhunter Professionally
Simply put, do not make the mistake that so many other candidates have made in the past when meeting with a headhunter.
What mistake is that?
It’s the mistake of treating your meeting with the headhunter overly casually.
Here’s the thing – just because you’re meeting with a headhunter as opposed to the actual hiring manager does not mean that this meeting is in any way less important. [Be sure to also read: Tips on How to Work With a Headhunter in the Most Effective Way]
So treat it like any other interview.
Dress appropriately; appear well-groomed; and come to the meeting with a smiling, personable attitude and a firm handshake.
Even if you’re sitting down with the headhunter over coffee at a neighborhood Starbucks, treat it with the significance that it deserves.
Think of it this way – in meeting with the headhunter, he or she is looking to see if you are presentable enough, both in appearance and qualifications, to introduce to his or her client.
Come off with a poor first impression and even if your skills and experience are a good fit for the job, that headhunter may not want to risk introducing you to their client.
Which means no first interview.
Which means no job.
2. Come Prepared to Articulate Your “Story” in a Thoughtful and Coherent Manner
Along the same lines as the item above and along the same lines as having focus and direction as a job seeker, appearing at your meeting with the headhunter prepared to tell your “story” in a thoughtful and organized way is essential to making the meeting a successful one.
Like most relationships, working with a headhunter is a two-way street.
In order for them to represent you effectively and in order for them to know if you will truly be a strong match for the jobs they have been hired to fill, headhunters need to gain a real understanding of your experience and your capability in your chosen industry.
So, in order to really connect with the headhunter, be prepared to communicate a thorough summary of your work history and qualifications in a personable manner.
3. Follow Up with the Headhunter and Work to Build a Relationship with Them
With all the candidates that headhunters meet on a regular basis, coming across as a candidate who cares – not only about their own career but about forming a genuine relationship with the headhunter – stands out in the eyes of the headhunter.
In another article [see: You Found a Headhunter — How Do I Do Some Background Research?], we discuss how important it is to research your headhunter before contacting and meeting with them.
But, as a preview, gaining background information on the headhunter is one of the ways that you can demonstrate that you are engaged and care about the quality of your relationship with the headhunter.
When sitting down with your headhunter or recruiter, not only should you come prepared to articulate your story, it also immensely helps if you can arrive with some knowledge about the headhunter’s background.
If you can find out information like the headhunter’s professional history, what their client list is like and how long he or she has been in the profession prior to your meeting and communicate this knowledge in some form during it, it will go a long way to showing that you’re seeking a real relationship with the headhunter.
Also, keep in mind the long-term aspect of finding a new career opportunity.
Clients can be a very fickle bunch and sometimes the jobs that the headhunter was looking to line you up with fall away.
Have patience in the headhunter and keep in mind that connecting a candidate with a job opportunity does not usually happen overnight.
After your initial meeting with your headhunter, make sure you check in with him or her on a regular basis, and if the headhunter communicated that they were looking to connect you with a particular company, make sure you inquire about this opportunity in your check-ins.
Okay, so now you have a better understanding of how you should prepare and act when you meet with a headhunter.
But, knowing how to act in a meeting with a headhunter takes for granted one very important thing – namely, that you know how to go about finding a headhunter; and not just any old headhunter, but one who will have the best chance of getting you to that new job in your career.
And there’s no doubt about it – finding a suitable headhunter is a skill in and of itself. But, take comfort – there are resources you can use and steps you can take to improve your chances.
Why don’t we get into some of these now?
First for some good news – if you’re one of those candidates who are currently working and, better yet if you’re visible online by having an account and a resume posted on a site such as LinkedIn, there’s a good chance that you’re already on a headhunter’s radar.
And if you happen to be one of these candidates and if you happen to be contacted by a headhunter, there’s no doubt that you’re in a much more advantageous position as a job seeker than those who have to reach out to get a headhunter’s attention.
But, even if you’re not one of these candidates, and further, even if you’re not currently working, there are resources you can refer to and steps you can take to track down a headhunter who will be suitable for you.
But, first let’s return to that #1 quality of job seekers that headhunters are continually looking for – that is, focus on a specific industry and direction. As it turns out, having focus and direction as a job seeker will not only exponentially improve your first impression with the headhunter, it’s also a first step in searching for a headhunter.
As you recall, headhunters as a professional group are divided based on industry. Therefore, assuming you are directed in your job search, you can narrow your search for a headhunter based upon those headhunters who work in your chosen industry.
Where do you go to find these headhunters? Are there publicly offered directories? And if so, where can these directories be found?
Are there publicly offered directories? And if so, where can these directories be found? Also, for paid databases, are they worth the money?
Well, you’ll be glad to know that, yes, there are many directories of headhunters and recruiters that are published to the public which you can easily access, sometimes for free, other times for a fee.
It’s in your best interest to do a Google search to see if there are any headhunter directories specific to your particular industry.
Be sure to also check out reviews on these services as well.
With that being said, we can go over several big Google headhunter resources right now, resources which span across dozens of different industries.
Find a Headhunter — Here are 8+ Headhunter Directories to Help
Founded in 1994, Riley Guide has grown to be a primary resource for job seekers looking to connect with headhunters. Riley Guide is a free online job search resource site that provides links to recruiter and headhunter directories.
Just go to the site’s ‘Directories of Recruiters’ page (http://www.rileyguide.com/recruiters.html) and you will find a list of recruiter directories, such as Oya’s Directory of Recruiters (2) and findarecuiter.com (3), complete with a link to each directory’s website.
Conveniently enough, Riley Guide’s directory list divides itself between those directories that are free and those that require an access fee.
Feel free to first browse around the free directories before moving onto the ones that require some money.
But, just know that those directory sites that require an access fee are generally more up-to-date and more comprehensive.
Either way, taking a look at what Riley Guide has to offer is certainly worth your time.
REVIEW: As of the date of this article, I was unable to find any substantial Riley Guide reviews worth checking out.
The importance of LinkedIn as a way of connecting with headhunters and recruiters cannot be overstated.
As an active job seeker, having a LinkedIn profile that is complete and up-to-date in this day and age is almost non-negotiable.
Some headhunters go so far as to consider an active job seeker without a LinkedIn profile as a red flag. Still, others will consider not even representing a candidate if they do not come to the table with a complete LinkedIn profile.
But, besides its cache with headhunters, LinkedIn also serves as a rich search resource for you the job seeker.
That’s because LinkedIn has about 90,000 recruiter profiles on its site, and, conveniently enough, many of these LinkedIn recruiter profiles list the specific industry that the headhunters work in.
To find recruiters on LinkedIn who are in your industry, simply click on LinkedIn’s Advance Search tool, which can be found on the site’s homepage, to the right of the upper search bar.
This will take you to an Advanced People Search page. Here, in the Keywords field, type in a keyword for what you’re looking for (i.e. if you’re looking for a recruiter in the technology field, a suggested keyword would be something like “technology recruiter”; if you’re on the hunt for a headhunter or recruiter in the legal industry, a keyword you could use would be “legal recruiter”).
[Related Resource: Legal Secretary Cover Letter Sample – Tips For Writing a Better Cover Letter]
Once you enter in a fitting keyword, you will be taken to a list of all recruiters and headhunters on LinkedIn who fit your search query and, ideally, dozens of recruiters and headhunters who work in your specific industry.
LinkedIn holds such a powerful and extensive database of professionals that it takes a little practice to word your search terms appropriately.
But, as you gain more experience in using LinkedIn’s search engine, you’ll be better able to refine your terms to hone in on suitable headhunters.
Now despite LinkedIn and Riley Guide’s significance in the third party search world, they aren’t the only guys offering directories of working headhunters and recruiters.
Two other sites that you may want to look into are searchfirm.com (5) and onlinerecruitersdirectory.com (6). Both of these are free sites that offer their own list of recruiters and headhunters.
Paid Membership Alternatives: RecruiterRedBook.com & BlueSteps.com
And if you don’t mind spending some cash on your search for a suitable headhunter, there are two more sites that may be worth investigating: namely, RecruiterRedbook.com (7) and BlueSteps.com (8).
BlueSteps.com is a site built by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) that includes a database of more than 4,000 recruiters and that’s geared particularly toward executives.
How much does BlueSteps cost?
Membership cost and access to the database is priced at a one-time fee of $289 with a possible requirement of annual renewals.
You might be wondering, does BlueSteps work?There are some that don’t believe in BlueSteps, including AskTheHeadhunter.
REVIEW: Few negative BlueSteps.com executive search reviews were found at the time this article was published. There are some in the recruitment space who feel BlueSteps isn’t worth the investment. For example, Nick Corcodilos from AskTheHeadhunter.com states, “BlueSteps — an operation of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). It’s doing what LinkedIn does: tapping job seekers for fees. It’s a racket.”
To read a more in-depth analysis of BlueSteps, be sure to check out this “BlueSteps Review To Help You Answer “Should You Join?”
Meanwhile, RecruiterRedbook.com is an online version of “The Directory of Executive Recruiters.” (9)
How much does RecruiterRedbook cost?
Published since 1971, this directory is essentially the Kelly Blue Book of the recruiting world and access to its list of more than 16,500 recruiters comes in at an online price of $59.95.
As you can see, there are plenty of online resources that you can refer to in order to search for a suitable headhunter in your field of expertise and in your geographical location.
But, besides looking up headhunter names in a directory, which admittedly feels somewhat distant and not very personable, you may be wondering if there’s another way of finding an appropriate headhunter, one that ideally feels a little less like cold calling.
Well, this is where your creative networking and resourcefulness come into play. This is where you should think about the network you have in your particular industry and consider the ways in which your industry and your network can connect you with a suitable headhunter.
For example, as you go about searching for a headhunter, see what your immediate network of industry contacts has to offer.
Do you have a lot of friends and colleagues in your industry?
Even if you have a few, don’t be afraid to ask them if they know of good recruiters who work in the industry or, better yet, if they’ve worked with any recruiters which they could recommend.
But, there are still other resources that you can refer to.
Does your industry have any mass printed and distributed newsletters or other similar news media?
If so, oftentimes headhunters and recruiters who work in your industry are quoted in these media outlets.
Keep an eye on these newsletters and magazines; subscribe to them if they are free or if they charge a nominal membership fee; and if you come across any names of headhunters or recruiters that show promise, look them up on Google or LinkedIn.
The great thing about discovering a headhunter through this last method is that it gives you an easy way to begin a conversation with that headhunter. Everyone enjoys a compliment. So, assuming you’re able to find the headhunter’s contact info when you do contact him or her, start off by complimenting them on their quote in the industry magazine and go from there.
In this day and age, sites like LinkedIn, Google (10), and Glassdoor (11) (www.glassdoor.com) give you so many more ways to find a headhunter who can help you in your job search. But, even with all this modern access, never forget that there is, and always will be, a human element to finding a new career position. So, stay connected in your industry, be creative in your networking and do not be intimidated in contacting a headhunter you’ve never spoken to before.
Finally, one last important note to mention: no rule states that you can’t work with more than one headhunter or recruiter at a time. We’ll discuss this situation in more detail later in the article, but having as many people working for you in your job search, and getting your name out to as many people as possible, is always in your best interest as a job seeker. So, even if you do find a suitable headhunter, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a second headhunter to work with as well.
If you’ve discovered a headhunter who may be a suitable match for your particular industry and skill set, great job.
But, now a second, equally as important the step must be made – namely, researching as much information about that headhunter as possible prior to making contact with him or her.
2 Reasons to Research Headhunters Before Working With Them
First, as a job seeker, your time and energy are precious, and doing some background research on the headhunter prior to reaching out to them could help you conserve those two important assets.
After all, after doing some brief research, you may discover that it’s in fact not in your best interest to meet with this headhunter. You may discover that the headhunter has too little years of experience or focuses on a different industry than you originally thought.
To be clear – trying to arrange a meeting with a headhunter can take time and energy, and it even can be a momentary distraction from your primary job search. Therefore, all that energy and time you would have exerted in trying to arrange a meeting with the headhunter would be saved from the outset with a little bit of research.
But, there are two other reasons why doing some research will help you – one, as we’ll discuss later in this article, there do exist bad headhunters out there who do not have your best interest in mind. And brushing up on a headhunter prior to contacting the may help you spot these bad egg headhunters before it’s too late.
Second, knowing a little about the headhunter – about his or her background, his or her professional interests, even some of the clients that he or she has represented in the past – can help you immensely in gaining a meeting with that headhunter. Finally, all that background information will help you more closely connect with the headhunter when you do sit down with him or her in a meeting.
So, research is pretty important. And thanks to online resources, doing a quick investigation on the headhunter is now pretty easy. If you discovered your headhunter of interest through an industry connection, such as a colleague, then Google the name of that headhunter and peruse through the search results.
Are there any potential red flags?
And if the Google search for some reason comes up with nothing, that may be a red flag in and of itself; after all, all headhunters should have some sort of online presence.
But, what if you discovered the headhunter online, through a resource like Glassdoor or LinkedIn?
Well, a lot of these sites not only provide directories of headhunters, they also provide background information on the professional life of these headhunters.
Again, because of its importance in the job world and because it hosts profiles of more than 95% of all headhunters and recruiters nationwide, let’s focus on LinkedIn and give a couple major tips on how to check up on a headhunter on this site.
As mentioned, LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful resource and deserves an extensive exploration by all job seekers. But, as far as researching a headhunter is concerned, assuming you can find their profile on LinkedIn, first check out their public recommendations.
Recommendations on a headhunter’s LinkedIn profile are essentially public endorsements of his or her level of service and expertise. If the headhunter has several public recommendations from clients of theirs, that’s a good sign that the headhunter values lasting relationships and would be worth the effort to contact and meet.
Next, take a look at the headhunter’s LinkedIn network.
If their network includes a solid number of HR managers, senior execs, and directors, then that’s a sign that people are willing to connect with that manager.
This, once again, speaks positively toward the headhunter’s reputation and care of service.
[Related Resource: Here are 100+ Inspirational Quotes For Jobseekers]
Finally, check to see what kind of LinkedIn industry groups the headhunter is a member of. Being a member of industry groups on LinkedIn is a demonstration of their level of connection with the leaders of that industry.
Certainly, if you see a headhunter that is not a member of any LinkedIn group, that’s not the best of signs and may even be considered a red flag. But, assuming they are a member of one or a number of groups, check to see what these groups are.
Furthermore, check to see how frequently the headhunter communicates in these groups and what their communication is like.
This is a great way to get a feel for the headhunter’s personality prior to contacting and trying to arrange a meeting with them.
First off, one very important point needs to be mentioned that hasn’t been touched on yet – regardless of whether the headhunter you meet with is a good one or an incompetent one, being represented by a headhunter makes you a more expensive candidate in the eyes of whatever hiring company the headhunter introduces you to.
A common figure is that you will become 25% more expensive in the eyes of a hiring company when a headhunter or independent recruiter represents you.
… regardless of whether the headhunter you meet with is a good one or an incompetent one, being represented by a headhunter makes you a more expensive candidate in the eyes of whatever hiring company the headhunter introduces you to.
As discussed earlier, based on the traditional headhunter-hiring company agreement, if the company that the headhunter represents hires you, that company must not only pay your salary, it also must pay the commission to the headhunter.
So, in comparison to a candidate who is not represented by a headhunter, you are a more expensive candidate. This, unfortunately, can hurt you in several ways: one, it can hurt your chance of getting the job; two, it can affect your chance of negotiating a higher salary if you do get the job.
But, as they say, that’s the nature of the beast and in order to manage your expectations, it’s in your best interest to keep this fact in mind as you work with a headhunter and as you go out on interviews with companies that he or she introduces you to.
Here’s the thing – even if you do due diligence and research the headhunter prior to meeting with them, research can only tell you so much.
And the question of whether the headhunter is a good one or a bad egg may still be nagging at you, particularly if you happened to discover this headhunter through some route other than through a colleague or other network connection.
And, as we already mentioned, like in all fields, the headhunting industry is not without its bad eggs.
Make no mistake about it – there are headhunters out there who are dishonest and who carry a low reputation in the employment world.
And that’s bad news for you if you happen to connect with one of these bad eggs. Because, as already touched on, their poor reputation will quickly rub off onto your reputation as a job seeker.
But, be glad because there are some fairly easily distinguishable signs that can help you tell whether the headhunter you connected with is a trustworthy, good one or a bad egg. Let’s take a look at the major red flags now.
- The headhunter asks you for a fee in order to connect you with his or her client.
** As we mentioned several times already, in most agreements between the headhunter and the hiring company, the headhunter only gets paid when he or she successfully fill a job with a candidate. In this agreement, the only party who pays the headhunter, or should pay the headhunter, is the hiring company. This is a real and nearly universal rule of the headhunting world.
Therefore, any headhunter who requests a representation fee from you the job seeker should be looked at with suspicion and the decision for them to represent you should immediately be called into question.
- The headhunter indicates in some way that he or she has never placed a candidate with the client he or she is representing.
** If a headhunter contacts you about a particular job, the first question that you should pose to him or her is “How many people have you placed with this employer, the one you are contacting me about, in the past 12 months?” If the headhunter fumbles for words or says that this will be their first time placing a candidate with the employer, this is not a good sign and you want to really consider whether it’s worth your time to work with this headhunter.
There are headhunters out there who do what is called “candidate flashes”. That is they collect resumes from a host of candidates and then send these resumes out to numerous hiring companies, even to companies that the headhunters do not know or have working relationships with. This is a desperate approach taken on the part of a desperate headhunter that has a number of detrimental effects: first, it annoys the hiring companies; second, it further damages the headhunter’s already poor reputation in the employment world; and third, if your resume is included in this batch of candidate flashes, it essentially eliminates your candidacy for that job in the hiring company and may even eliminate your candidacy as an applicant in the company as a whole.
Here’s the thing – if the company decides to hire you, even if they discover you and hire you outside your relationship with the headhunter because you were included in this candidate flash, the company may still have to pay the headhunter a search fee or potentially face messy litigation. Companies obviously want to stay far away from any thought of litigation, so, therefore, they will stay far, far away from you.
Ideally, you want a headhunter who has a close relationship with the hiring manager at the hiring company. Better yet, you want the headhunter to have known and worked with the managers and the hiring company for a number of years. Therefore, when you meet with a headhunter, never be afraid to ask him or her detailed questions about their relationship with the client, or clients, he or she represents.
- The headhunter asks that you sign an “exclusive representation” form.
** If you sign an “exclusive representation” form, it means that you are giving up your right to work with another headhunter besides your current one. Do not sign a form like this. And if the headhunter you meet with requests that you do, consider this as another red flag and, once again, think carefully about whether you want this person to represent you.
As mentioned earlier, you have all the right in the world to work with more than one headhunter at a time. All headhunters working in the search business should know and understand this. Therefore, there’s no reason for you to sign an exclusive representation document and definitely no reason why you should be threatened.
As one point to add, if you do decide to work with more than one headhunter at a time, consider these few suggestions: first, working with more than two headhunters may strike some as a sign of desperation, so perhaps keep to only working with two headhunters; second, transparency in your relationship with the headhunter always makes for a better outcome. Therefore, it is in your best interest to inform each headhunter that you’re working with more than one search party.
If you’ve never worked with a headhunter before, working with one as you search for a new career position may be unlike any other professional relationship that you’ve had. Your foremost goal as a job seeker is to put yourself in the best position possible to find a new job. But, here’s the kicker – in knowing that a headhunter could potentially fulfill this goal for you, you may be lead to take certain actions or make certain decisions that, unbeknownst to you, could ultimately be detrimental to your burgeoning relationship with the headhunter. For instance, you could be tempted to enhance your salary history or hold back certain information about your employment history.
But, as we’ll see, actions of this kind will do nothing but make the headhunter’s chance of placing you with a company that much more difficult and could ultimately jeopardize your relationship with the headhunter.
So, what are some of these actions that are a definite no-no when working with a headhunter? Well, here are the biggies.
- Holding back information about yourself as a job seeker.
** Transparency is the name of the game when working with any headhunter or recruiter. Why? Because at the heart of the headhunter-job candidate relationship, headhunters need to know whether or not you’ll be a good fit for any of the jobs they are representing. Once they know that, depending on the headhunter, they then may need to know how to market you to the hiring company. Both these steps require your information as a job candidate.
So, when meeting with a headhunter and in building your relationship with him or her, headhunters will want to know detailed information about such things as your employment history, your industry strengths and knowledge, and a detailed idea of what you’re seeking in your next job, among other information points. They need this information and they do not need a false variation of this information. That will do no good and if you’re hired as a result of working with the headhunter, doing something like holding back important information points or telling a variation of the truth could lead to serious future complications.
So, be as transparent as possible when working with a headhunter.
- “Running around” a headhunter that you’re working with.
** What does “running around” a headhunter mean? It’s a term that describes the following scenario: a headhunter tells a job seeker of an open job at a company and instead of waiting to be introduced to the company by the headhunter, the job seeker directly contacts the company himself or herself.
This is a big no-no in the headhunting world. After all, not only is running around your headhunter highly unethical, it will also seriously damage the trust the headhunter has in you and may very well terminate your relationship with him or her.
Another cardinal rule of the headhunting world: if a headhunter tells you of an open job at a company, you must wait to see if your headhunter chooses to introduce you to that company. If the headhunter decides not to, then there’s probably a good reason why and, unfortunately, all you can do is swallow the bitter pill and wait for another opportunity to come your way.
- Being vague or downright dishonest about your salary history and expectations.
** We all want to earn a higher salary. That’s a given. And, because of this, when beginning to work with a third party like a headhunter, there may be a temptation to artificially inflate your salary history to give you a better chance of earning a higher compensation at your next job.
But, do not do this. Not only is it dishonest; but, once again, if you do get hired by the company the headhunter introduced you to, it may lead to complications at a later point in time or, worse, it may be cause for your termination.
- Harassing your headhunter.
** We mentioned earlier in this article how important it is to keep in touch with your headhunter during your job search. Keeping in touch with your headhunter, say by email or phone call once a week to remind them of your availability is one thing; but, harassing the headhunter by calling or emailing them numerously will only reflect poorly on you. Above all, it will make you seem desperate, which is definitely what you do not want as a job seeker. And if you harass the headhunter enough, they might just decide to end their relationship with you.
So, keep the number of times you contact your headhunter to a reasonable level.
- Expecting the headhunter to do everything and save the day.
** One of the major points that this article hopefully communicates is that your expectations as a job seeker as you begin working with a headhunter must be appropriately managed.
The percentage mentioned earlier bears repeating: the likelihood that you’ll find a job through a third party like a headhunter or recruiter is between 25% and 33%. That means that the numbers are not stacked in your favor. This means that you cannot give in to the temptation of feeling safe and secure in being represented by a headhunter or of feeling like, now that you are represented, you will undoubtedly find that perfect, well-paying career position through the headhunter.
The most important cardinal rule of all is that you must be mindful of is this: even if you gain representation by a headhunter, you still must be as vigilant as ever in your job search and continue with your search independently in the same way as before you gained representation.
This last point just mentioned, although it’s a little sobering, is a good one to end this series on.
As you begin to research and connect with members of the third-party search world, it’s vital for your well being and confidence as a job seeker to keep in mind that headhunters do not have some magical key to automatically get you that new perfect job.
Yes, they may have industry contacts that you otherwise may not have had a chance to connect with, but working with a headhunter is not a guarantee that you will get a new job through them.
So, don’t step to the sidelines if and when you gain representation with a headhunter.
Be as proactive as possible in your job search. Connect with other network contacts, work to meet with hiring managers on your own, and above all, if you don’t have a complete LinkedIn profile yet, hurry up and log into LinkedIn and complete a full profile that includes a professional, clear profile photo.