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How to Properly Use Headhunters

Posted By Jim On 11/18/2009 @ 2:15 pm In Career | 9 Comments

Whenever you start posting your resume on job search websites [3], you will invariably be contacted by recruiters, affectionately called headhunters. Headhunters can be a valuable asset in the job hunting process because their goals are in line with yours.

The typical headhunter scenario works like this. An employer is looking to fill a specific job opening within a few weeks. They go to a headhunting company that looks in its database of candidates and tries to fill the role. If the job opening is filled, the headhunting company gets paid. Headhunters are constantly on the lookout for new talent to add to their database, so they often search job sites, as employers do, for strong candidates. The job seeker never pays for the headhunter’s services, the employers do. (in fact, if a headhunter wants to charge you a fee, run the other way)

This post will teach you how to properly use these wonderful (free) additions to your job hunting team.

This article is part of Bargaineering Career Week 2009 [4], a week-long series focused on your career – how to find a job, how to tailor your resume, how to find the job opportunities and how to nail the interview. This article is the third article of day three – on the hunt for a new job.

Beware Scams

There are a lot of scams perpetrated by supposed headhunters so you really need to be careful whenever you deal with someone claiming to be a headhunter. They should always have specifics about a job for you and they should never ask you for payment. Don’t send them your resume until you are absolutely certain the job they claim to have actually exists. Your natural fraud detector should be able to tell whether or not this person is just looking steal your identity or use you to get “in” with another company.

Headhunters will never need any personal information not normally included on a resume. Never give out your social security number, mother’s maiden name, bank information, names of family members or employees from your former company, or anything that seems strange.

You’re Not Married To One

There isn’t a rule that says you can only work with one headhunter at a time. If several contact you, take advantage of all of their services. The only thing that can beat having one headhunter working for you is having two, or three, or five. You probably won’t be contacted by five, it certainly doesn’t hurt to answer the phone to hear what they have to say.

Set Expectations

If you start working with a headhunter, be specific in setting expectations. You want them to understand the jobs you are interested, including salary requirements, location, travel, benefits, etc. You don’t want them to waste their time and yours on jobs that you’re unqualified for or not interested in. If you don’t set expectations and they bring you a bunch of leads you aren’t interested in, they may lose interest in you and then no one wins.

Interview, Resume Preparation

When it comes time to submit resumes, ask them to give yours a once over. They will have seen a lot of resumes in their time and they will have a good understanding of what are good techniques and what are not. Take advantage of their expertise by asking them for help. It’s in their best interests to have you put the best foot forward, so they’ll usually be willing to help.

The same goes for interviewing tips and coaching. They will have gone through the process so many times and it’s in their best interests for the employer to select you as a candidate, because then they get paid. They won’t have as much experience with interview tips but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Don’t Stop Looking

Headhunters won’t be looking for jobs for you, they’ll simply be trying to fit you to the pool of jobs they are currently recruiting for. You should in no way stop your own job search because it’s your job to find a job, not the headhunters. I’ve seen a lot of scenarios where people stop because a headhunter has a good job lead, only to have it fall through and the headhunter move on. Even if you have a job offer in hand, don’t stop looking until you’ve worked a day past the probationary period.

Have you worked with a headhunter? Do you have any suggestions on how to best utilize one?


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[4] Bargaineering Career Week 2009: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/bargaineering-career-week-2009.html

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