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Hunting the Headhunters

By Lin Grensing-Pophal  8/25/2011
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Recruiters, often called “headhunters,” can be a job seeker’s best friend and ally during the job search process. But, candidates need to know how to effectively connect with, interest and maintain a positive relationship with recruiters that can help find the best match between a company and a candidate.

Beverly Morgan is partner and manager, human resources division at Winter, Wyman & Company, a staffing firm with headquarters in Waltham, Mass. Establishing a relationship with a reputable HR headhunter can be vital to opening doors to job opportunities, said Morgan. “An astute HR headhunter can provide firsthand knowledge as to your marketability, suggestions about highly desired certifications and how to position your career moving forward,” she said.

One of the best ways to get on the radar of an executive recruiter is to have a buttoned-down LinkedIn profile, said Justin Hirsch, president and HR executive search lead, with JobPlex, Inc., a DHR International Company based in Chicago. “Key words, a demonstration of career progression and obviously solid titles, companies and education will catch our eyes,” he said. “Also, by being well-networked you can get referred to us direct and, at the same time, we can find you.”

Importantly, candidates must be able to “sell themselves” to the recruiters they connect with. “Appreciate that the language of business is numbers,” said Sussannah Kelly, an executive vice president with DHR International, based in Toronto. Make it easy for recruiters to discern your contributions and impact on the organizations you’ve worked for, she said. “Include numbers that reflect the size of the organization, the revenue of the company, numbers of subordinates in your portfolio, percentage changes you affected in terms of turnover, engagement surveys, cost savings, incentives, performance indicators, etc.”

The best time to establish a relationship with a recruiter is before you are actually looking for a job, said Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner of Cornerstone Search Group, LLC, in Parsippany, N.J. “Stay on the radar screen, develop a rapport and relationship with an executive recruiter that you trust and has a deep network within the industry you are targeting.”

For example, said Raz, if you want to stay in pharma stay close to an executive recruiter that works within the pharma space. Target recruiters that are either industry-focused in your space or HR-specific recruiters that may focus on multiple industries.

HR job seekers should “make deposits before asking for withdrawals,” said Raz. In other words, offer your assistance or help with searches the recruiter is working on before you ask for help on a job search of your own.

Steve Watson, managing director of the Stanton Chase International Dallas office, agreed. “Offer me some knowledge. Executive search people are always in need of knowledge—industry, company and people—and help with introductions and referrals. In return, I will assist the HR person in transition however I can.

“Many people in transition only want something from us to help them land a job and do not, or are not willing to, go out of their way to help us,” said Watson.

When working with recruiters, balance is critical said Morgan. Neither checking in daily nor never checking in at all are advised practices. Instead, she said: “Both of you should inform each other as to how to communicate. E-mailing as a check-in is a great way to keep in touch.” In addition, she said: “If you see a position posted that you think you may be qualified for, feel free to reach out.”

Communication and transparency are the keys to establishing effective and productive relationships with recruiters, stressed Raz. “Keep the lines of communication open, be transparent and develop a long-term relationship,” he advised. “If you do this, the jobs will find you!”

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