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Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.
Having worked both sides of the fence, I understand your concerns. The conflicts usually arise with HR because headhunters are paid to quickly close deals. So, naturally, they want to work only with the decision-maker—typically the hiring manager—to get nuanced feedback. If you are the company's recruiter, this can be offensive.
But now you are in a different role—you are considering a job change and need to work with a headhunter as a job seeker. If you work cooperatively with the headhunter, this will improve his or her productivity and help him or her guide you through the selection process.
Do's and Don'ts with Headhunters
The headhunter's customer is the company; headhunters don't find jobs for people, they find people for the jobs the company needs to fill.
If a recruiter is interested in representing you, you'll need a properly focused resume, and you must be objective and honest. Do not overstate your job duties, accomplishments or education. If there are employment gaps, explain them. Keep the headhunter informed about all changes in your status: salary, promotions, layoffs, etc.
Headhunters should follow up on every opening they learn about, so in a worst-case scenario, sharing your job leads could result in the headhunter lobbying for someone else for that position.
There are good and not-so-good people in every profession, so how do you find the best ones to work with? Involvement in professional associations is always a good sign, as it demonstrates commitment and an enhanced level of competence. The premier professional association that high-end contingency search firms (only paid on successful completion)—as well as some retained search firms—belong to is the
National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS).
True executive recruiters and headhunters work for retained search firms (in which they are paid a percentage of their fee upfront), and the Association of Executive Search Consultants is the premier association for this group. Typically, only executives and very hard-to-find individual contributors are sought for their clients by retained search companies. By definition of their responsibilities, most retained headhunters are extremely competent.
Accreditations demonstrate commitment and experience. The most widely recognized is the Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) designation, awarded by NAPS. The CPC designation typically represents seven-plus years of experience, signifying commitment, competence, reputation and connections. Full disclosure: I hold the only honorary CPC accreditation, awarded in recognition of my contributions to career management.
Headhunters who are connected to networks will almost always have a greater range of opportunities; for example, an independent headhunter network like
NPA has hundreds of member companies around the world. Another excellent resource is
Headhunters and Your Job Search
Headhunters and executive recruiters have primary loyalty to their clients, and none hold a monopoly on all the suitable opportunities for you. Consequently, it's a numbers game: The more reputable recruiters you get your resume seen by, the more opportunities you will hear about.
Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!
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