The SharpMan’s Guide to Headhunters

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • What is a headhunter?
  • Headhunting etiquette.
  • Where to find a headhunter.
The SharpMan’s Guide to Headhunters

Whether you’re changing jobs or hitting the market straight out of college, the job search can be nerve-racking. Sure, you know you’re the best man for the job, but you may not be able to find the best job for you.

Moving to a new, unknown city? Overworked by your current boss? You may want to leave, but not have the time or resources to make your exit happen.

Time to outsource.

Working with one or more headhunters or recruiters will help you research future employers, apply for the right positions, and negotiate the terms of your new job, all in the minimum amount of time. Check out these SharpWork tips for using a headhunter to your best advantage:

The Headhunter Explained

Headhunters are professional job hunters. They devote their energies, full-time, to placing qualified applicants with good companies. Good headhunters generally specialize in a limited number of industries. One may handle the Information Technology (IT) field while another may specialize in restaurant management.

These headhunters, also known as recruiters, are paid per successful job placement. Their fee is usually a percentage of the salary negotiated for a given position. This fee is paid by the employer, not by you. And since their fee is a percentage, it is in the headhunter’s best interest to find you the highest paying job within reach. Your headhunter may also offer to negotiate (or help negotiate) the salary for you.

Additionally, a headhunter is interested in placing you in a position that will satisfy you. Recruiters often work with the same companies over and over again. It enhances their reputation with an employer-client when the employees they’ve recruited turn out to be long-term assets.

The Benefits

In a nutshell, filtering through inappropriate jobs, finding additional opportunities, saving you time and providing addition validation to your qualifications are the primary advantages of working with a recruiter.

Separating the wheat from the chaff. When you walk into a headhunter’s office, he or she already has a file of hundreds of prospective employers. The advantage is that this file has already been sifted through. Companies that do not offer competitive compensation packages or those that do not often hire this particular recruiter’s recommendations have already been removed from the running.

As you detail your requirements for your next job, the headhunter actively narrows the list to better meet your location, salary, hours, and job description requirements. Thus, a headhunter will only steer you towards jobs that he or she believes will fit your criteria and ones that he or she believes you have a good chance of getting.

Broadening your horizons. Additionally, your recruiter is likely to know of job listings that are inaccessible to the average lay job hunter. Headhunters work to establish contacts with many different companies. Each company may work with one or more recruiters that it has found useful in the past. When one of these companies has a hiring need, it may turn to headhunters exclusively. For example, a company that is always on the lookout for middle-management candidates may not advertise for these positions, opting instead to receive a steady stream of resumes from several recruiters.

A vote of confidence. When you work with a recruiter, in addition to broadening your contact base, you also receive a strong recommendation for your resume. Most headhunters attach a cover letter to your materials, usually addressed to a specific person rather than the Human Resources department. This initial letter and any follow-up calls that the recruiter makes add his or her reputation and recommendation to the qualifications in your resume.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Because some companies only work with certain headhunters, you might need to work with more than one recruiter to gain access to the broadest possible cross-section of jobs in your field. A headhunter will often tell you — upfront — what companies he or she represents. If you are interested in working for a particular company, you may have to speak with several recruiters before finding one that represents that employer.

Working with multiple headhunters can be to your advantage, but be sure you have the time to work well with each one. Why? Each one of your headhunters will be actively setting up interviews and trying to contact you. If you are repeatedly unavailable for interviews at times you previously gave as open, you make both yourself and your recruiter seem unprofessional in the eyes of potential employers. In short, working with two headhunters is good, three is possible, more is a handicap.

Headhunting Manners

When working with a headhunter (and whenever looking for a job), it is extremely important to maintain a professional demeanor. This attitude should extend to the recruiter as well as the prospective employer. Remember, your headhunter will ultimately be paid by the employer, and thus is working for the employer, not you. Follow these headhunter etiquette guidelines:

Be prepared. Before you contact a recruiter, give some thought to the type of job you are looking for. Identify the type of employment environment you seek. Do you want a large or small company? Urban or rural? A "young" or more seasoned working environment? Answering these questions in advance will help your recruiter narrow your search and ensure that the interviews he or she schedules are appropriate to your interest. When you visit the recruiter, always have several copies of your resume with you. Make an effort to have your resume printed on high quality paper, and bring along additional blank sheets of this paper, in case the recruiter would like to print his or her cover letter on matching sheets.

Study your schedule. Make sure the availability you give your headhunter is accurate. If it changes, call to update it. Try to avoid canceling or rescheduling interviews set up on your behalf. If you must, let your recruiter know immediately.

If you are working with more than one recruiter, provide different available times for each one (thereby avoiding conflicting interview schedules).

Insist on active involvement. Some recruiters have overlap in the companies that they represent. For example, both of your headhunters may represent Microsoft.

A good recruiter will only send out your resume to companies that he or she has approved with you. However, don’t take this courtesy for granted. Insist on it. When an employer receives the same resume from two different headhunters, it looks extremely unprofessional.

Continue solo efforts. Most recruiters expect that you will also be searching for jobs on your own. This is normal since most recruiters only represent larger corporations and because smaller, independent companies do not normally work with headhunters. Of course, many good jobs are available in these smaller corporations, so complement your headhunter-assisted job search with ongoing perusals of the classifieds ads and other job postings. As noted above, to avoid overlap, avoid contacting any company that your recruiter represents.

Finding a Headhunter

Get a name. By far, the best method of selecting a headhunter is by referral. If someone you know found a job through a recruiter and is satisfied with the result, ask whom he or she used.

Finding ads. Otherwise, most headhunters advertise wherever jobs are posted. Usually, ads that list multiple positions with a range of salaries and don’t mention a specific company have been placed by recruiters. Often the ad will end with a business name that ends in "Associates," "Representatives," or "Group" and provide a contact telephone or fax number. You’ll find these ads on online job sites and in major newspaper classified sections.

Making the call. When contacting a recruiter for the first time, try to make a good impression. As noted above, try to be decisive about the type of job and working environment you seek. Great headhunters try to limit the number of candidates they represent to those whom they consider "serious" and worthy of the headhunters’ continued efforts.

Also, pay attention to your first impression of the headhunter. If he or she doesn’t seem organized and professional to you, it is unlikely that he will make a favorable impression on your prospective employers. The key is to work with someone who presents well and that you feel good about. After all, he or she will be the first impression employers have of you.

Being Your Own Headhunter. In a recent interview in Fast Company, headhunting aficionado Nick Corcodilos urged SharpMen to take the bull by the horns in their search for a headhunter. Corcodilos suggested that SharpMen who know what companies they want to work for should call up recruiting managers directly and ask for the names of the headhunters each company uses. The idea is that (a) you will be targeting headhunters with clients you want, and (b) you may be able to impress the recruiting manager enough to get an interview directly (thereby saving that manager the headhunter’s fee).

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
As you like 'The SharpMan’s Guide to Headhunters' you may also like following Sharp Dating articles . . .

Part-time Jobs for Holiday Spending

Most of us could use a little extra money around the holiday season. Whether you need to purchase additional gifts or are planning a getaway, extra income could come in handy

Cheap Road Trips Thru "Drive-Away" Companies

Been workin’ too hard? Haven’t been working at all? Maybe it’s time for a vacation. If you’ve ever awakened and said to yourself "Hey…I feel like jumping into a car and

Dealing with Work Burnout

You dread work. You go through your day feeling numb. You have no enthusiasm for your job and seem to constantly make mistakes — even in the simplest tasks. You do only the

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

"Should I stay or should I go?" has become a common anthem in today’s job-rich economy. For many SharpMen it may seem as though everyone they know is switching jobs,

How to Negotiate Your Salary

Let's face it: most SharpMen cringe when it comes to negotiating their salary. Once a job is offered and a compensation package is on the table, many of us nervously accept

How to Overcome Your Job Interview Fears

Most men aren't at their Sharpest when it comes to the job interview process. The coolest cat can become a bundle of nerves when meeting face-to-face with a potential

Handling Those Tough Interview Questions

Getting an interview is easy. Getting a job is difficult. The fact is, no matter how Sharp your resume and credentials, how you perform in the job interview will play a big

An Hour a Day: Seven Time-Saving Exercise Tips for Good Health

All too often we put our own personal health too far down on the priority list. It ends up getting overlooked because we’re rushing to work, heading off to our kid’s soccer