Headhunters Reveal 11 Ways To Ruin Your Chances Of Getting A Job


It’s no secret that working with a headhunter or recruiter can be an effective way to advance your career.

Headhunters often have access to jobs that are not advertised elsewhere and can speed up the hiring process between an employer and potential candidate.

The trick, however, is understanding how a headhunter operates.

“As a career management coach, it is always surprising to me that even senior level job seekers often don’t know that ‘headhunters’ work for the companies, not the candidates,” says Bettina Seidman of SEIDBET Associates.

“Clients sometimes say: ‘I’ll just contact a headhunter who will get me a job.’ Headhunters aren’t career counselors…they’re motivated by earning the commission.”

To find out how to increase your chances of landing a job through a headhunter, we spoke with several executive recruiters and career coaches to get the low-down on the errors job seekers make.

Holding back information can make you look sneaky.

Providing a vague description of your accomplishments makes it harder for a headhunter to place you.

Don't assume that a headhunter will do all the work for you.

Not tailoring your resume to a specific job tells a recruiter that you are either lazy or the wrong candidate for the position.

Don't waste time by applying for jobs that you are not qualified for.

A poor online reputation will torpedo your chances of getting a phone call from a headhunter.

The best time to contact a headhunter is when you are employed.

'Headhunters don't typically work with job candidates that are unemployed,' says Terri Lee Ryan, a career coach and author.

'Companies don't pay them big money to present workers that aren't gainfully employed. In this market there are many good workers on the sidelines, yet companies still want to see candidates that are gainfully employed and on the 'top of their game.' This is why I tell workers to never quit their job until they have a new one.'

'These days, you never know if your job could disappear tomorrow,' says Erik M. Tomasi, Chief Operating Officer of DTG Consulting Solutions Inc. 'Anticipate the problem before it happens by networking and responding to headhunters, even when you're happy with your current job.'

It is not a headhunter's responsibility to tell you what you're good at.

'The biggest mistake most job hunters make when they approach a headhunter is not knowing what job they want,' says David Perry, an executive recruiter and co-founder of Perry-Martel International.

'It's not a headhunter's responsibility to tell you what they think you might be good at -- that's the job of a career counselor. The headhunter's job is to find that opportunity. When the job hunter says that they are 'open to new opportunities' a headhunter hears, 'I'm clueless.''

'They'll ask you to 'send us a résumé and you'll never hear back from them.'

Not revealing your compensation requirements or being inflexible is a huge turn-off.

Not personalizing your cover letter practically guarantees your letter will be recycled.

Don't harass the recruiter.

Following up with a thank you note or email to remind the recruiter of your skills is appreciated.

What is not appreciated are numerous phone calls or emails requesting an update on your status.

Being assertive is a good thing, but be careful of coming across as desperate, warns Ambrose. 'Being desperate or overly insistent can make a candidate seem insecure about their abilities,' he says.

'Even if you're unemployed, the secret to getting a job is acting as if you don't need one.'

Now that you know about these errors, don't make these mistakes either:

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