What You Don’t Know about Headhunters: 10 Tips

Understanding what makes recruiters tick is a vital but often overlooked component of the job hunt. In a shaky economy, it may be more crucial than ever.

• Poor returns. On the other hand, recruiters take a dim view of you not returning their calls. Aside from providing all information about your accomplishments and employment history, the single most important thing to do when making a career change is to return phone calls, according to Eldridge. “It’s simple, but the number of people who don’t return calls is unfortunately very high,” he says.

• It’s a cold world. Cold-calling not only can be an annoyance to recruiters, as indicated previously, it’s also not likely to land you a job in the short term because headhunters generally do very specific searches. The vast majority of positions they fill are the result of their own proactive searches. Even if you get through to the recruiter and ask what searches are in progress, finding a match is a longshot. “Our clients usually have precise requirements for what they want,” says Eldridge. “A lot of times people will try to ‘bend’ their résumé to fit the situation, but I have to tell them I can’t — the client was very clear.”

• Heavy hitters. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a recruiter is a lightweight go-between that you cursorily pass by on your way to the real interview. Retained recruiting firms play an enormous role in helping determine who gets hired. If you don’t ace your interview with the recruiter, you will never get to see the actual employer. And do not assume you can b.s. the recruiter because he or she knows little about finance. Hack, for instance, is a former CFO, and Eldridge had a long career at a Big Four accounting firm.

• Back-scratching. Among the best ways to build a relationship with recruiters is to help them succeed. If one calls you about a job that is not right for you, make every effort to refer him or her to someone else who might be more appropriate. “I don’t forget that, and I try to pay those little dividends back,” says Clothier.

• A wide net. Don’t limit your efforts to network with recruiters to E-mails and phone calls. “Getting to know recruiters through other means is smart,” says Clothier. There are professional conferences, finance-industry events, and networking organizations such as the Financial Executives Networking Group, where you can rub elbows with recruiters. “Those are great opportunities for getting to know somebody face-to-face in a 10-minute conversation that can be followed up on later,” he adds.

• On the record. Most major recruiting firms offer Websites where you can enter your profile and a résumé into a database that all of the firm’s search professionals can tap. The information can be updated at any time; if you are moving to Denver, say, make a note of it in your online profile, which typically will trigger E-mail alerts to the firm’s finance recruiters.

• The ship is already sinking. And, yes, do not wait until you are in trouble or transition to start calling recruiters. “It is extremely unfortunate that so many people don’t network or do it too late,” says Eldridge.

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