Working With a 'Headhunter': What's in it for YOU, How to Get in the 'Inner Circle'

Part 3 of 3

 by

Skip Freeman

Professional ‘Headhunter’

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: In Part 1 of this series, entitled, “Branding Yourself to be ‘Headhunted,'” by veteran professional “headhunter” and international best-selling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman, a number of misconceptions were dispelled about exactly what a “headhunter” can do for a job seekers, as well as what he or she cannot do for them. Then, in Part 2, Skip explained how a job seeker should go about branding himself/herself to actually be “headhunted.” In this, the third and final instalment of the series, Skip explains what a job seeker must do to be included in the “headhunter’s” “inner circle,” in order to be in a position to take advantage of future career opportunities in the “hidden” job market.

It may surprise you to learn that only 3% of all available jobs in the market today are filled by headhunters.” Yes, you read that correctly . . . a full 97% of all jobs today are filled through other means. That sort of begs the question, of course, as to why you would even want to take the time or make the effort to work with a “headhunter” to find your next job or career opportunity, doesn’t it?

In this blog I am going to first tell you why it can be extremely advantageous for you as a job seeker to have the opportunity to work with a good “headhunter.” Then, I am going to tell you how you can become a part of a “headhunter’s” “inner circle.” By being in that “inner circle,” you can find yourself in the unique position of being able to take advantage of both current and future career opportunities not generally available to the vast majority of your “competitors,” i.e., other job seekers.

Working with a Good ‘Headhunter’: What’s in it for YOU?

Contrary to what many, if not most, job seekers think, a “headhunter’s” professional services to them are absolutely, 100% FREE. There is never a fee of any kind whatsoever charged to the job candidate. The “headhunter’s” “client” is a hiring company, not the job candidate. (This is an important fact to keep in mind.) If, and only if, the “headhunter” successfully places a candidate with a hiring company, does he or she then earn a fee, usually somewhere in the neighbourhood of between 20% to 30% of the successful candidate’s first-year salary.

What kinds of “professional services” does a good “headhunter” offer you as a candidate? Here are just a few examples: Professional résumé advice and assistance. Informed coaching to significantly improve your performance—and chances!—during telephone and face-to-face interviews. And, if you are made an offer, assistance and advice on intelligently negotiating salary and/or benefits, based upon the realities of the current job market, not on “gut feel.” All very valuable services, I think you will agree—particularly if you’ve been “going it alone” in today’s awful job market.

One of the most valuable services a good “headhunter” offers a job seeker, though, is his or her knowledge/awareness of open positions that make up the so-called “hidden” job market, i.e., these jobs that are not advertised either online or at the hiring company’s Website. (By the way, nearly one-half of the jobs available today fall into this “hidden” or “unadvertised” market category!)

Here are some other important things to consider in this vein:

  • There are a number of career opportunities that are available only through “headhunters.”
  • If a “headhunter” has worked with a firm for a while, and has an established a good, solid relationship with it, he or she oftentimes has an “inside track” that can strongly benefit the job candidate.
  • If for some reason a “headhunter” is unable to place you for current career opportunities, having a solid relationship with a “headhunter” will significantly improve your odds, over time, of getting the “inside track” to some of the best jobs available in the future.

Let me give you some examples from our recruiting firm of what I’m talking about here:

  •  We have filled 4 positions this year with a Fortune 500 company that our recruiting firm had an exclusive on and, as a result of our exclusive, the positions were never posted—anywhere.
  • We are currently working on a confidential management position. The incumbent isn’t performing at the level required and they want to move him to another role in the company. (Obviously, the company needs to keep this quiet until it happens.)
  • And, with  another Fortune 500 company, we worked on 7 positions. In this case, all 7 positions were posted and one other recruiting firm was involved. However, we have worked with the client since 2003, so we know their culture, how they think and what they are looking for. We were able to coach our candidates to success and filled 5 of the 7 positions with our candidates.

 Getting on a Good ‘Headhunter’s’ ‘Radar’

Once job seekers fully understand and appreciate how tremendously beneficial a relationship with a good
“headhunter” can be, they usually have just one question: How can I get one interested in assisting me during my job search?! As I pointed out in Part 2 of this series, you must first be among “the best of the best” of job candidates, which normally is considered in the TOP 20% of all candidates, and then, among other things already mentioned in this series, you must be selectable. That is, you must convince the “headhunter” that it can benefit him or her (and you, of course!) to present you to hiring companies, either for current or future career opportunities.

A “headhunter” normally will make the determination of whether or not you are selectable during the initial telephone call to you. Bear in mind that the “headhunter” has already determined, at least for the time being, that you meet all or most of the other qualifying criteria or you wouldn’t be receiving a phone call in the first place. Because the “headhunter’s” call can literally have the power, potentially, to change your professional life for the better, you must make sure that you are at the very top of your game during the call—IF and WHEN that call comes. Handle yourself well and you significantly improve your chances of being invited into the “headhunter’s” “inner circle”; “blow it” and you may lose out on career opportunities of a lifetime!

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind if a “headhunter” does in fact call YOU:

  • Avoid the “shadows on the wall” syndrome

Make no mistake about it: ANY call from a “headhunter” is an INTERVIEW! So be on “high alert.” In “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!, we discuss the “shadows on the wall” syndrome in detail and provide numerous examples of how candidates can quickly remove themselves from further consideration by saying (or revealing) things that quickly and easily scare both recruiters and hiring managers away. For good!

  • Keep money “in check”

If “more money” is your number one motivator for seeking a new career opportunity, it’s very unlikely that a good “headhunter” will work with you. Clearly, any new opportunity must be competitive in terms of compensation, but experience proves that candidates who have money as their number one motivator for considering a career opportunity are far more likely to accept counteroffers from their current employer and end up not taking an offer from the hiring company, if it is made. If I, for one, (or a company I represent) even suspect that there is a possibility that a potential candidate will do that, I simply won’t work with them, and most other “headhunters” feel the same way.

  • Keep your focus on the career opportunity and why you might be interested

Be able to properly and clearly articulate why you would be open to considering an opportunity if it were clearly stronger than what you are doing today. Is it due to a desire for career growth? A desire to change geographic locales? The opportunity to move to a larger, more stable firm (or smaller, more entrepreneurial firm)? Do you feel the need to establish a better, more desirable work-life balance?

  • Be able to “translate” your skills

As the “headhunter” reveals the career opportunity to you, think on your feet and start “translating your skills.” In other words, be prepared to show how your skills, accomplishments and achievements logically translate into addressing the issues, solving the problems and successfully meeting the challenges inherent in the job that the headhunter is presenting.

Example: My recruiting firm is currently recruiting for a position for a chemical company that provides solutions to hospitals for reducing HAI (healthcare acquired infections). We were speaking with a potential candidate who currently is a medical device representative selling intravenous (IV) equipment and solutions. He immediately began to share with us how vitally important it is for healthcare providers to buy and use the correct IV supplies in order to prevent HAI. And just coincidentally, he currently calls on some of the same people in his present position that he would be calling upon if he were to be the successful candidate for the role we are trying to fill for our client company. In other words, he EFFECTIVELY and quite CLEARLY translated his skills, knowledge and experience into something IMMEDIATELY relevant to the job at hand!

  •  Do your “due diligence” on the “headhunter”

Be sure to get the contact information on the “headhunter.” Look up the recruiting firm on the Internet. How long have they been in business? Is the “headhunter” on LinkedIn AND does he or she have a complete profile? (If a “headhunter” isn’t on LinkedIn, or if they are but have a very sketchy profile, then you might still want to move forward but keep your “antenna” up all along the way.)

I am impressed by candidates who do their due diligence on our firm. That means that they will do their due diligence on the client going into an interview and be thoroughly prepared.

  • Follow up

If you are comfortable with the conversation you’ve had with a “headhunter,” and after having done your due diligence, be sure to follow up with him or her. A “Thank You” email and a LinkedIn invitation are key factors I look for in a candidate. How a candidate interacts with me suggests volumes regarding how they likely will interact with others in the hiring process.

  •  Brand yourself as “top of mind.”

If you are not the right candidate for the job that you are initially contacted about, don’t despair. You may still be perceived by the “headhunter” as a strong candidate for appropriate future opportunities. I know I certainly keep exceptional candidates in mind for appropriate opportunities as they come along. And the more a candidate can do to stay “top of mind,” the more likely I am to contact them for future opportunities. Sure, I keep them in my database, but if I don’t remember them or think of them as future opportunities arise, they will only “bubble to the surface” in a database search.

The object, of course, is to come IMMEDIATELY to the “headhunter’s” mind when an appropriate opportunity comes along. You do that not by just staying in touch, however. (Do NOT send a “keep me in mind” emails, though!) The candidates I tend to remember quite favourably, to keep “top of mind,” are those who provide me industry insight, appropriate referrals and information on companies.

Can this approach pay off? You bet! I recently placed a person 5 years after our first telephone conversation! During this time, this person was a strong source of industry information and referrals. Thus, he was the FIRST person I thought of when one of the “unadvertised” jobs I mentioned in this blog came open. End result? He was the candidate of choice for the position and his salary in the new role went from $75K per year to $95K per year!

In doing, as a minimum, the things I have mentioned in this blog, you can effectively brand yourself into a “headhunter’s” “inner circle.” You can significantly increase your chances of being the “top of mind” candidate of choice the next time a “headhunter” comes across an appropriate career opportunity. YOU could very well receive a call that will change YOUR life—for the better!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Skip Freeman, author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!, has successfully completed 400 executive search assignments in just eight years, consistently placing him in the Top 20% of all “headhunters” in the U.S. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals in industry, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

A distinguished graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, where he later was also an instructor, he is a lifelong student of leadership, people and the principles of success. While serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chemical Corps, he also earned a Master of Science degree in Organic Chemistry from The Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing from Long Island University.

Visit or contact Skip at his book website, http://www.headhunterhiringsecrets.com

 

 

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