5 Tips for Recruiting a Headhunter

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By Arnie Fertig

"We are now in a job-rich, applicant-poor environment," according to David Schueneman, senior partner at CPS Inc., an Illinois-based recruiting company. He says the recruiting industry is thriving as 65 million baby boomers are in the midst of retiring and leaving the workforce, with Gen Xers anxious to take their places.

Even in the best of economic times, only a small percent of overall hires come about through headhunters. But the fact that they are in high demand, and that client companies are willing to pay their typical fees ranging from 20 to 33 percent of a placed candidate's first year salary, is a great sign for the economy as a whole and for individuals looking for career advancement.

Below, Schueneman offered insights about how recruiters find the candidates they want to work with, as well as advice for getting on a recruiter's radar and partnering with him or her.> Find a job in administration
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1. Work with recruiters who specialize in your role, industry and skill set. Most often, a recruiter will work only in a single discipline, such as human resources, finance, engineering and so on. Schueneman suggests that, in order to gain traction, "people need to find recruiters who specialize in their own aspect of the marketplace."

2. Build an open and transparent relationship. While it can sometimes be beneficial to work with multiple recruiters at the same time, you don't want to have more than one submitting your résumé to the same company.

Before submitting a candidate to a client company, a solid recruiter will take the time to do a careful interview. He or she will probe to learn your skill sets, why you want to leave a current position and what kind of role will make sense for you going forward.

"Take the time to interview a recruiter who wants to work with you," Schueneman says. Has this recruiter placed candidates with your background and experience level? What openings is his or her firm currently working to fill?

It is fair to ask a recruiter: "How much time do you think you need to place me? And after that, do you mind if I work with another recruiter?"

3. Understand how headhunters hunt, and make yourself findable. Every recruiting company's stock in trade is their proprietary internal database of connections they build and nurture over the years. When they take on a new search assignment, this the first place they go to find appropriate candidates.

When you learn about a recruiter you may want to work with, reach out directly to him or her. "I love a phone call, because it shows that a candidate is truly motivated," Schueneman says. "We can't want it more for them than they want it for themselves."

Beyond that, "LinkedIn is everything today," Schueneman says. Recruiters are constantly searching for good profiles and reaching out to candidates through InMail messages.

Recruiters also attend networking, alumni and professional events to meet both clients and potential candidates. If you want to be found, you need to show up!

Another key is what Schueneman calls the "family tree." If you are speaking with a recruiter and aren't the right fit or aren't interested in the position on the table, you are likely to be asked: "Who do you know at such and such level?" When you help a recruiter now, he or she is more than likely to show appreciation by considering you for future opportunities.

4. Your résumé is key. "Writing a standout résumé is an art," Schueneman says. "It is a skill." He counsels job seekers to consult with someone who can help in that regard.

On the one hand, your résumé must be limited in length and be able to be understood very quickly by any reader. Yet, on the other hand, the reader wants to see your whole story in a robust fashion. Recruiters will often help, to some degree, to pare down your résumé before submitting it to their clients.

The days of writing a single résumé and submitting it to a wide range of employers are long gone. It must continually change to meet the expectations of each hiring manager for every position to which you apply. At the same time, it must also be an entirely honest document.

5. Old red flags might not be so red if you deal with them up front. "Conventional wisdom is for recruiters to stay away from candidates with significant gaps in employment, but at this point, the candidate shortage is causing us to go back and re-evaluate that," Schueneman says. "If there is transparency between the recruiter and the applicant, we are better able to tell that story."

For example, if an individual has had a death in the family and has had to take off time surrounding that, it's understandable when appropriately explained. Left unexplained, it can be a big problem. But if you tell a recruiter the whole story, he or she will then be able to defuse the red flag on your behalf.

People often view recruiters as transactional, seeking quick turnover and fast profits. But success in recruiting is derived from building strong relationships with both client companies and a very large pool of potential candidates.

If you're the right kind of candidate, building bridges to recruiters in your field can make a big difference in your career advancement.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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