Ten tips for executives about dealing with headhunters:
"If you are hunting for a red deer then ignore the hares"
1. Bigger isnt always better
Generally the bigger the firm, the less pro-active they will be. The big international firms receive hundreds of unsolicited CV's a week and tend not to spare the resources to examine them all in detail. Try instead to identify boutique firms that specialise in your industry - or who specialise in your field of experience. Most firms publish this kind if information. You can find out about firms via the internet or through specialist publications such as the Executive Grapevine, available in most public libraries.
2. Quality not Quantity
Recruitment is a competitive business. Most like candidates who are relatively exclusive so don't saturate the industry with your CV. Better to identify one or two firms that you feel confident you can work with and stick with them to start with, if nothing happens then open up the field slowly and carefully.
3. There are no favours in the search industry
Don't rely only on recruiters who you have used to fill vacancies for you as a client. No matter how much you have worked together in the past if you don't fit the client brief no amount of personal understanding is going to help. Also you may find that the recruiters you use don't operate at your (more senior) level.
4. Don't look desperate
Be careful and selective about how you search for a new role and take special care if you use online services - CV Databases and job boards for example. Even at high seniority levels repeated applications or two CV's from the same candidate ring alarm bells in recruiters minds. We mentally downgrade applications we get via ouplacements firms, too. I have seen brilliant senior executives marooned for months simply because they infested the internet with their CV in the first few days following redundancy.
5. Remember, remember...
Generally headhunters remember people for a long time after they have met. Think back to those you have interviewed with before, they will probably be more interested to help you. If you were in the running for a position through them at some point they will know were a strong candidate.
6. Be open to advice
Recruiters work with the job change process daily, most candidates change jobs a few times in a lifetime. Any advice given is given with the best intention; recruiters want you to succeed - what is good for you is good for us, too. So take our advice!
7. Make friends and influence people
It's a good idea to make personal contact with someone at the firm(s) you identify before you submit a CV. Do some research and find out who specialises in your type of industry background. Try phoning - it's much more personal than an email!
8. Be realistic
Do not over estimate what a recruiter can do with regard to your candidature. Recruiters are not rewarded for taking a flier on an outsider, they will want to get as close to the brief as possible. If they have assignments for which you are relevant they are sure to put you in the frame without any prompting. If you miss the brief, even by a little, most will leave you out.
9. Be patient
Remember (especially if you have recently been made redundant) that the normal time scale for a senior executive with itchy feet to the first day in a new job can be more than 18 months. So be patient; the more senior the job role the less frequently openings crop up. And do not take a holiday break before starting your job search - you will have plenty of (paid) holiday to come.
10. Speculate to accumilate
Try and establish from the outset whether your recruiter has been retained by his client for an urgent need to fill a role or whether you are being sent out for a more speculative role. When faced with an interesting or rare skill set many large firms now like to meet candidates for a "hypothetical" job opening. It can pay off to agree to go to a speculative meeting like this but make sure the recruiter tells you first. In our experience "there is no smoke without fire" - and many of these meetings open up interesting career opportunities for candidates who leave a strong impression.