Do's and Don'ts of Working with a Headhunter

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Building relationships is one of the most important leadership traits. The ability to work together, collaboratively (even if you aren’t always in agreement), is essential to forward/upward mobility. With that in mind, we thought we’d share some tips on building relationships with headhunters/recruiters.

Here are our Do’s and Don’ts.

The Do’s:

Take calls from headhunters. If you don’t, we can’t get you a job! You should also expect the same when you call a headhunter; you should get a call back. Create a relationship with a headhunter before you need one. Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that a headhunter will be working on a job you’re right for when you’re looking for a job. If you’re already in their network, that’s a plus. You’ll also be first on that list if you already have a relationship and if you’ve been helpful to them.

Make it easy for a headhunter to find you. Update your LinkedIn profile, join industry groups and discussions, publish articles, speak publicly in relevant forums, get quoted. Be memorable and don’t forget to check your messages, it may be the first step to landing your dream job!

Keep in mind that most headhunters are specialized. If a headhunter is unable to help you, it typically means they don’t work within the same area of expertise that you do. For example, a headhunter might work in banking and specialize in sales. If you work for banks in marketing or operations, it’s likely that headhunter cannot help you find a job.

Understand that headhunters work for a company, not for you. Our job is to help clients find the best possible person for their team. We advocate on their behalf. The final decision in any hiring process is always up to our client.

Refer members of your network to headhunters. We may be able to get your friend a job. If not, we always appreciate referrals and will reciprocate the favor if we are hiring a role YOU are right for.

Update your resume when a headhunter asks for it. Companies hire headhunters because they are looking for very specific skills. One of the benefits of working with a headhunter is having insight into what those requirements are. Not catering your resume to those skills will ultimately be a disservice to you and may result in not being considered for a role.

If you’re asked about compensation (where it’s legal to do so) or about your compensation expectations, please share them. We are familiar with your industry, and probably, your role so we likely know already how you’re compensated. Asking about it means we’re serious about you as a candidate; our client may be serious about you. Know, too, that we work within strict guidelines from our clients and it’s important to have an accurate idea of your compensation/expectations so we can ultimately negotiate on your behalf.

Update headhunters with your promotions and key accomplishments. Tell us when you’ve been promoted, mentioned in a professional article, or received an award. Keeping a headhunter up to date on the accretive aspects of your career will keep you at the front of their minds. Update your resume while you’re at it.

Be transparent with headhunters about your career aspirations and current situation. One of the worst things a candidate can do is withhold information, accurate information, that is immediately relevant to job hunting. It’s a deal breaker.

Be prepared to talk about periods of unemployment or redundancy. 40% of you have/will have/have had gaps in employment. We will ask about them and you should be prepared to talk about them. We can help you craft the right narrative, but we need to understand the whole story.

Ask questions. We want you to be confident heading into an interview process. Part of our job is being an expert in the roles we fill. If we don’t know the answer, we can get it for you! And, asking questions shows intellectual curiosity, an important leadership trait.

Ask for feedback. You have the right to ask for feedback from any interview, and that feedback should be timely. Equally, share your feedback.

The Don’ts:

Don’t contact a headhunter’s client directly unless you’re sending a Thank You note. While you are engaged with a headhunter, and in an active interview process, go through the headhunter if you want to contact a client (hiring manager). We want you to succeed and this kind of outreach can backfire.

Don’t take it personally if a headhunter does not have a role for you. Headhunters are highly specialized and if you don’t have the exact skills that clients need, in that moment, the headhunter may not have time to speak. If a headhunter says they don’t have anything for you right now, they aren’t lying.

Don’t treat a headhunter like a career coach. Headhunters can offer you advice, but ultimately that is not our area of expertise.

Don’t expect a headhunter to get you a job. According to statistics published by LinkedIn, most hiring is done through referrals from your network, not through headhunters. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing your network.

Don’t be vague. What makes a great headhunter is specificity and attention to detail. If we are unable to get to know you and your professional abilities, we may not be able to represent you to our clients to the best of our abilities.

Don’t exaggerate your current responsibilities—we are smarter than you think! Understanding our clients, their businesses and market trends are our bread and butter. If you’re honest with us, we are better equipped to make you look great!

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