DerrJones Recruiting Solutions

Job Headhunters:
Working with Contingency Recruiters

Knowing how job headhunters work can mean the difference between success and frustration in using the executive search community in your job search. I often speak to executives in transition about working with contingency recruiters and others in the search community. There is significant confusion around types of recruiters and the services we provide. DerrJones is going to take the mystery out of this relationship once and for all!

Job Headhunters

Contingency Job Headhunters: What to Expect

Picture're in your office, busy with that month end report that's due tomorrow. The phone answer. You find a pleasant sounding voice on the other end of the phone describing an opportunity that's perfect for your background. What now??

As a candidate working with a contingency recruiter, here's what to expect:

  • The contingency recruiter will ask you some pre-screening questions to confirm that you're a good fit from their perspective. Let's review that again...a good fit from their perspective. Candidates always think they're right for a job that represents a big jump in salary - or a big step up in opportunity. If it's too big a jump, you'll be screened out.
  • If you look like a fit, you'll need to give the recruiter a current resume. If you haven't updated your resume lately, don't just add a couple bullet points to the old version. Spend some time to polish your resume. Check out our tips in How to Write a Resume before you send yours off!
  • When job headhunters get your paperwork, they'll review your resume and decide if you are still a promising candidate for this opportunity. If you are, then the recruiter will want to spend more time with you; if you're not a good fit, you may or may not hear from the recruiter again, depending on how good the recruiter is.
  • The contingency recruiter's knowledge of their client's organization and the specific requirements of the job you're applying to may be superficial. Depending on the quality of the job order (recruiters classify them as A, B or C level assignments), the recruiter may not be in touch directly with the hiring manager.
  • Your interview is likely to be by phone; sometimes it will be by questionnaire.
  • Contingency job headhunters will be reluctant to tell you who their client is. Since they only get paid if they make a referral directly, they are always concerned that an over-zealous candidate might go around them and apply to the company directly. Do this, and the recruiter will not earn a fee.

A word of caution...going around a headhunter is risky business.
Both recruiters and clients think this behavior is unethical.

So, two things can happen - first, if the recruiter has a good relationship with the client, they are likely to talk about your action. Chances are, if the hiring company knows that you've tried to circumvent the recruiter, they won't hire you. Not only is your behavior questionable, they do not want to get into a fee dispute down the road with the headhunter.

Secondly, you may get the interview, but you'll burn the bridge with the recruiter forever - and maybe the recruiter's friends.

Do you know that many independent recruiting firms belong to networks? And on those networks, there are discussion boards? And what happens when your name gets posted as a "watch out for this guy/gal"???

A few things to watch out for...

  • You may find that your resume gets sent to companies without your knowledge. Make sure that any job headhunters you're working with know that your resume should only be shared with permission.
  • You might find that your resume gets shared with a network of recruiters, again without your permission. If you have any objections to this type of exposure, make your feelings known to the headhunter you're working with.
  • Candidates may be presented who only marginally meet the client's requirements.
  • The feedback loop may be disappointing. Contingency recruiters have a reputation of keeping in touch only with their "hot" candidates - i.e. those where a client has expressed interest. If you didn't make the cut, you might never hear from the recruiter again.

If you missed our overview on contingency vs. retained recruiters, you can read a quick comparison at Working with Headhunters: The Inside Story.

Knowing what to expect is a good first step in managing these important relationships.

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