Clients often ask me about using executive recruiters in their job search. My first response frequently addresses a key misconception about what recruiters do and don’t do, followed by a few cautionary pieces of advice. If you’re considering recruiters as part of your job search strategy, you might want to take note of this.
The most common mistaken idea is that recruiters will help you find a new job. Retained search consultants have a contract to fill a position for their client company. If you’re on their radar, they might contact you. Often, they’ll search for potential candidates–people who aren’t necessarily even actively looking for a new position.
Contingency recruiters are a different story. While there might be some good ones in this category, it’s important to note that they don’t look for jobs for you either. They’re hoping they can put someone into an open position and earn a hefty commission. In some cases, they might amass a database of job seekers and include you in it, but they don’t focus on producing a benefit for you.
Nick Corcodillos (Ask The Headhunter) recently published a blog post titled “Recruiters: Raise your standards or get out!” It merits careful reading. Briefly, though, here are his tests for the kind of recruiters you would want to work with:
First of all, I’m not sure there’s a magic bullet for connecting with good recruiters. However, with the proviso that you’re not expecting a recruiter to get you a job, you can certainly look for ways to become known by and visible to recruiters who know their stuff. Just remember that this is a long-haul program, not a quick-fix for your urgent job search.
It helps if you’re great at what you do and have a reputation for being in demand because of that. Also, you need to have a fairly straight-line goal in mind. Recruiters typically aren’t looking for candidates who want to change careers–especially if those individuals aren’t sure where they want to go next.
They’re also not interested in people who have skills and experience that are all over the map but can’t demonstrate value in a key area. Versatility is fine in some situations, but the “jack of all trades, master of none” designation is not one you want to have hung around your neck when you’re starting a job search and hoping to work with a recruiter.
What it boils down to, really, is that you can’t place too much reliance on any one job search method or tool–and that includes the use of recruiters. The more resources you have in your job search toolkit (as long as they offer a reasonable prospect for being helpful), the better. By all means develop long-term relationships with key recruiters when you can (and that means making yourself a resource for them, as well), but don’t put all your faith in them. It’s still your job search.
When all’s said and done, here’s where you want to end up–with at least one desirable job offer in your hands.