Can headhunters get in your way?
I get a lot of clients who are job hunting and looking for work saying, ‘I want to get a job but don’t want to go to agencies because I have not found them very helpful.’
OK let’s be clear the agency /executive search firm does not make its money from you, it makes it from the company where it places you. You, the candidate, are only useful when they have found a company who wants what you have to offer. So don’t take it personally when they don’t make a fuss of you! Just make sure that your CV is in the database and that it has all those crucial keywords so that they will find you when they need you.
And that’s the crunch, the recruitment agency or executive search firm will be using a keyword search or CV comparison tool to look at your CV and those things have not got real intelligence! So the chances of you coming out of their search will be slim unless you are a close match.
But just because they are not very helpful to you and don’t make a fuss of you does not mean you can ignore them. Some employers never go to the market directly, they always use an intermediary. They may only ever communicate with the intermediary electronically. So the requirements are fixed in the paperwork.
In the same way the Executive Search firm earn their fees by bringing the best people in the market place to the interview table. Those people need to have a track record of quantifiable achievements and verifiable skills. The consultant needs to be able to justify why they are putting forward someone who does not fit the bill, exactly. Some headhunters will not put forward any candidate who is unemployed .. on the basis that if they are out of a job then they won’t be seen as any good. So headhunters focus less on transferable skills and more on demonstrated skills and relevant experience.
There are exceptions; some headhunters have such good long term relations with their clients that they can say ‘ trust me you need to see this person.. they will be a star…’ but they can only say that confidently if they have met you. And they won’t waste their time meeting you unless you meet some of their criteria in a spectacular way. So you’re back to the fact that you need to be a real near match to their specification or have a stunning achievement in at least one part of the specification.
So yes, agencies and headhunters can get in your way if you are in career transition... but they work well for people with a solid track record in the field they want to pursue. And you can maximise your chances of having a fruitful relationship with an agency or headhunter. Firstly recognise that they operate in niche markets; in the private sector firms are ‘boutique’ not department store. So pick the firms that you approach judiciously. Secondly, find out what information they want from you and how they like it presented. Make sure that your CV has the right key words and is packed full of what you have achieved. Thirdly, be patient.. when they have something they need you for, they will come back to you. I had an agency come back to me recently.. I had heard nothing from them for over 2 years!
If you want to change sectors, change careers, If you are gifted and lack experience, if you have a real desire to shift direction, to expand your skill set by acquiring experience in a new environment; a headhunter or recruitment agency may not be the best way to find a new job and you would be better to focus your efforts on other job search tools and techniques.