Ever wonder how to get a headhunter to yes on your resume in the hundreds of resumes on their desk? Here’s ten tips to talk to job search consultants, including ways to please that job recruiter and their client organization, who seek to hire you.
If you are one of the lucky ones, who gets tapped on the shoulder by a headhunter or job recruiter, hopefully these ten tips followed by the 2014 executive search industry brief outlook by the Association for Executive Search Consultants (AESC) will help you to be better prepared to have a productive talk with someone who can change your life hopefully for the better.
I have had the pleasure of talking with dozens of search consultants throughout my professional career. Along the way, I have done some things right and I have done some things wrong too. So, I have come away from these experiences with a few practical takeaways I would like to share with you.
What is a headhunter?
First of all, the term “Headhunter” is generally used to describe recruiters. However, “executive recruiters” or “executive search consultants” tend to accept and acknowledge this somewhat dubious terminology in the marketplace. The professional practices of executive search firms are accredited by the AESC. Such executive search firms adhere to the standards, norms, and values of the search industry’s AESC trade association.
Executive search vs. Contingency firms.
Another distinction that needs to be made here is that there is a big difference between executive search firms and contingency firms.
Executive search firms are retained by their clients and serve as trusted advisers on key recruitment assignments. Their fees are paid regardless of whether or not their efforts result in a hire. Obviously they cannot stay in business, if they don’t produce results. The key distinction is that they are truly consultants, working on behalf of their clients, and in most cases, exclusively represent their client on a specific search.
Contingency firms, on the other hand, get paid once a candidate is hired. So, it is to their advantage to “throw as many resumes at the client as possible to see what sticks up on the finalist wall.” Nothing to lose, right? They are driven by speed and volume. The more resumes they can get in front of the client, as quickly as possible, the better chance one of the contingency firm’s candidates might get hired.
Many hiring companies specifically note in their job open position ads “no agencies please” to specifically let such contingency firms know that they do not want to receive stacks of unsolicited resumes. Client organizations typically use contingency firms to fill open positions at lower-levels, that may draw in high-volumes of applications and resumes.
Why do we change jobs?
Success in a job change is about deciding what you want and going after it. People change jobs, because they landed in the wrong job in the first place. You must go after what job you want, not just what job comes along.
You have to ask yourself – What am I going to be doing at this company next year? – If it’s the same as last year, it’s time to jump. There ain’t no such thing anymore as ‘cradle-to-grave’ executives.” – Dale Winston of Battalia Winston International
In the same way, headhunters do not automatically consider anyone who comes along for the job. Rather, headhunters take who the client organization wants for the job, and what the client or hiring manager wants in the job. This is the essence of the headhunter’s position description for the job. Headhunters decide who they want and they go out and get them. In similar fashion, you as the job-seeker, must decide what you want and go out and get it.
Three rules to remember in taking time to talk with headhunters.
First, never say never to talking with headhunters.
Take government, for instance, it’s like politicians always looking for that next jump. They never say never to putting their hat in that rang, don’t they? Likewise, business is so dynamic as well as uncertain and the job you have today may be gone tomorrow without notice. So, for you, adopt a hard and fast rule of mobile job marketing. Inasmuch as, it’s always time to talk.
Second, keep your resume updated and ready to be placed inside the search firm’s database.
That way, the headhunters and their client organizations will always know you are out there producing and making a difference in your industry.
Third, become an active manager of your career.
You have heard of Me, Inc. There is sound truth to this common speak in this super-fast, millennial digital-age of job-seeking and professional career development.
You can no longer count on your employer to take an interest in developing your professional life and taking good care of your career for you anymore these days. Employers are way too busy staying afloat taking care of Their Business, Inc. You are, after all for the most part, a substantial 70 percent of the cost of your employer doing their business.
So, don’t get too cozy in that job.
Always be ready to move. Always be ready to talk with that headhunter or job recruiter. You never know when a phone call or interview meeting will change your life for the better, especially in this rough and tough economy.
Everybody has to think of himself [or herself] as sort of a mobile business.” – Hobson Brown, chief of Russell Reynolds
“All this means is that smart, talented people no longer can play hard to get,” say many smart job recruiter experts on the subject.
Headhunters are intermediaries between their clients and job applicants.
By way of style, headhunters are selective in how they spend their time. So, when you have a headhunter’s attention, be sure to use it to your advantage. You are already on a preferred list, when a headhunter calls. Mainly because, they have significantly narrowed down their list of candidates (before they make their calls) to about 30-50 extremely good people, having the proper fit for their client organizations.
To justify the fees headhunters charge to client organizations, which are typically a third of the total compensation package of the candidate hired by the client organization, headhunters tend to focus on filling high-level executive and managerial positions in the six-figure compensation levels, ranging from $150,000-$350,000 annually.
The secret behind the top-tier global retained executive search firms and their consultants is that they primarily serve elite clients interested in filling top-level C-suite and board service positions, having typically mid-to-high six-figure onward to seven-figure compensation packages.
Client organizations retain headhunters to help them fill their most senior positions. Job recruiters typically are filling multiple entry-level to mid-level positions in the five-figure compensation packages, ranging from $35,000-$150,000 annually.
When it’s Time to Talk, here’s ten tips for YOU to get that job!
The aim here is to help you profit from such deliberate talks with headhunters. That means having these helpful ten tips I have learned throughout my professional life and career on how headhunters and job recruiters operate and how to work with them.
1. You have to ‘make your case‘ for the job.
To be short-listed, you have to be in the position where you have run something, whereby you are in charge of people, money, space, and resources, and whereas you can show demonstrable results by you making a real difference for your organization.
Gary Knisely of Johnson Smith and Knisely Accord recommends spreading your wings broadly across your industry, better makes your case for that new job both inside and outside your industry.
It’s all about your social capital, first established by The Late Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, my professor at the Chicago Booth School of Business. Social capital is the basis of all social media marketing nowadays, driving the economics behind the business and finance of social mediums, like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google-Plus.
Knisely says build a list of 25 competitors, suppliers, brokers, stock analysts, financial intermediaries, management consultants, business strategists, university administrators, philanthropists, and government officials. He says be sure to stay in touch with them regularly about every three or four months or so often to discuss professional issues and challenges we all face in this economy.
Being involved in numerous professional associations and social media groups is a huge way for making your case for that new job. Headhunters say their clients are looking for generalists, as well as, specialists in their industry. Client organizations are looking for people, who are aware of the trends and choices facing their industries along with the risks and uncertainties that challenge growth and future markets for their industries.
Jack Clarey of Andrews and Clarey recalls, while searching for a general counsel of a health care firm, he began surveying for prospects inside the conference attendees lists of the National Health Lawyers Association.
On another noteworthy point on making your case, Clarey counsels don’t get stuck too long in a position. The executive search industry term today is “broad-banding” your career development by getting different looks at your industry through the lens of different positions and job assignments with demonstrable results. Clarey says “three years in a position is too little, five years is too much, and four years is just about right.”
On the downside, becoming active in charities and community affairs does not count for much these days anymore. Businesses, universities, and other philanthropic stakeholder fundraising organizations are way too focused on the bottom-line nowadays to just keep the doors open in this rough and tough economy.
No client has ever told me – I want a good community person.” – Recruiter Pendleton James
Please do not have a spouse, significant other, career coach or some other ‘third-party person’ contact the executive search consultant or job recruiter on your behalf and try to sell you.
If, by any chance, you miss your flight, train, bus or cab to your interview, then call the headhunter directly and let them know right away. This is because the executive search consultant or job recruiter is trying to manage an intricate dance of shuffling in candidates in and out of the interview venue in strict confidence.
Besides this, the headhunter is attempting to execute an extremely delicate talent recruitment process for a nervous client or hiring manager. They need to know everything that is going on during the process to properly inform their client or hiring manager, who wishes to hire you.
Business needs people who can read, write, listen, and speak well, not only in front of their brand, but also behind it inside their back offices. So, expect a question like, “How do you write your letters or memos?” Do not say, “I get my woman in here to take a letter.” Needless to say, that’s not politically-correct these days.
Many times a headhunter’s lighthearted closing question to end a good talk with you is “What do you do for fun?“
“D grade” response: “I like to watch soccer on TV.”
“B-minus grade” response: “I like to take my kids to the soccer games.”
“A-plus grade” response: “I like to play soccer as often as I can for great running exercise.“
2. Don’t ‘name-drop‘ to try to get to the front of the job talent pool line.
It is not about who you know. Rather, it is about what you have done in the past. What you can do now. What you will do going forward. Most of all, what you are becoming. Using your network, might get you in the mix.
But, at the end of the day, you are the one that not only needs to deliver in making your case during the interview process, but also needs to deliver on the job should you be hired.
3. Be answerable to your actions.
Stop constantly playing the blame game and not taking accountability for your screw ups. Executive search consultants and job recruiters understand that we all make mistakes.
They love to hear about ‘how you handled a difficult situation‘ – ‘what you learned about yourself’ and ‘how has that situation shaped you as a human being‘.
Self-awareness is very important, while going through the job search process. Inasmuch as it is best to be ‘trustworthy not just trusting’ to search consultants and job recruiters. This is because headhunters, first and foremost, as the intermediaries, are attempting to get the best candidates in front of their client organizations for consideration by the search committee or hiring team.
4. Don’t be vague or evasive.
This is not the same thing as talking untruths here. But rather, “selectively withholding” aspects of your background that you would rather not go into with the headhunter.
Think of your dealings with a search consultant or job recruiter, as if you were dealing with your doctor – you have got to tell the doctor what is going on with your body, your health, your lifestyle, and your habits. So, they can devise the best healthcare options for you.
Same with talking with a search consultant or job recruiter – they will respect your honesty and truthfulness.
5. Never lie to a headhunter.
Please do not lie to a search consultant or job recruiter about your accomplishments, credentials, compensation, or reason for leaving your last job. The executive search consultant or job recruiter will uncover the truth eventually, and you will be immediately eliminated upon any untruths being revealed.
6. Respect the headhunter’s advice.
Executive search consultants and job recruiters have the direct ear of the client, who seeks to hire you. They know what the client wants. So, even though you think you can ‘walk on water‘, the headhunters might see other candidates, as being more closely aligned with what the client is seeking at this point in time.
Please do not try to circumvent the process and go directly to the client or hiring manager. Nothing annoys an executive search consultant or job recruiter more than an ‘obstinate, bull-headed, know-it-all’, who refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer.
7. Be responsive and flexible.
Scheduling is one of the most difficult parts of the search process – especially when executive search consultants and job recruiters are dealing with client schedules, and juggling multiple candidates for the executive position or job opening to be filled, as well as, handling multiple client assignments.
Please do not put unnecessary demands on the headhunters and their staff, when they are trying to get you scheduled for multiple interviews and meetings with their clients or hiring managers. Many times they have to comply with strict client or hiring manager policies, regarding travel and expenses and other expenditures associated with managing the search process.
So, just try to go with the flow. This is not the time to be a ‘prima-donna’, or being high maintenance for the headhunter’s staff and assistants, trying to schedule you, as a candidate, for an executive search committee interview, or for a specific meeting with the headhunter’s client or job recruiter’s hiring manager.
8. Don’t be rude to the headhunter’s staff or assistants.
This is a ‘big red flag’ to the search consultant, as well as, to their client, who seeks to hire you.
9. Try to help a headhunter out, when they call upon you.
Be helpful if an executive search consultant or job recruiter calls you seeking suggestions of individuals for a position they are working on. Executive search consultants and job recruiters depend upon the community of workers to find good workers. Their talent pool comes from the pool of talent in which you reside. Use the call as an opportunities to network with headhunters, demonstrating your knowledge and connections in your industry or functional discipline.
If you are happy in your current job, be sure to tell the headhunter or job recruiter. They will appreciate your honesty and integrity. Offer the headhunter or job recruiter other candidates you think they should talk with, who might be a better fit and interested in the open position.
Keeping the lines of communication open with the headhunter, he or she might call you back with another position that you want, when you want it.
Please do not go overboard in trying to be too helpful. Rather, just help the search consultant and job recruiter out, if you can. And, please be cordial. Trust me they will remember you. They always do, especially if you are not cordial.
However, do not talk to a headhunter to just get a pay hike. This will burn bridges, not only to the search consultant or job recruiter, but also to your boss, who will find out. They always do.
10. Take the bad news graciously, when you don’t get the job.
Executive search consultants and job recruiters do not enjoy having to reject people. So, anything you can do to ease this unpleasant process will go a long way towards having them be more inclined to call you again, when they have another opportunity.
Thank the headhunter or job recruiter for their consideration, acknowledge your disappointment, and respect the fact that someone else was a better match with the headhunter’s client for this particular position.
A job declination does not make you a bad person, so try not to take it personally. Although, I know from first-hand experience that it’s tough to get through the disappointment of a job recruiter’s declination email or an executive search consultant’s declination letter.
Bottom-Line: Outlook Among Executive Search Consultants Reaches 42-Month High
As I mentioned in my recent article, “Now Is the Time to Ask Your Boss for a Raise!,” featured on LinkedIn Pulse Careers: The Next Level and Economy Channels, there are signs that the U.S. economy is turning around. With that the overall job market is beginning to show some promising light.
The Association for Executive Search Consultants (AESC) has a 15-page report that explains, as an executive search industry trade association, what their overall volume in the search industry is expected to be this year. AESC member executive search firms project their executive search business sector to increase 10-19 percent. As a result, headhunters are going to be busier and they will have more job search assignments to complete.
For your convenience now, here’s an executive summary of the full AESC 15-page report readily available here through hyperlink given below:
The 2014 Executive Search Industry Global Outlook Report was conducted in December 2013 and received 169 responses from AESC members worldwide, including 43% from the Americas, 34% from Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and 23% from Asia Pacific.
The 2014 Executive Search Industry Global Outlook Report, by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), shows that retained search consultants feel more optimistic than they have since July 2011.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents feel positive about the industry for the first six months of 2014, compared to 29% this time last year and 35% in July 2013. One third of respondents (33%) have a neutral outlook for the first half of 2014, meaning that only 3% do not feel positive about the next six months – the lowest percentage of negative responses, since the AESC started surveying members’ outlook in 2008.
This industry-wide optimism is even higher when respondents consider the fortunes of their own firms, with 68% holding a positive outlook and 29% with a neutral outlook. Indeed, 63% of those surveyed expect to see an increase in annual revenue for 2014, while only 4% expect their revenue to fall. The remaining 33% expect their revenue to remain consistent. Of those members who anticipate an increase in revenue, almost half (48%) believe that the increase will be between 10-19%.
This confidence is likely to affect retained search firms’ hiring plans, as more respondents said they plan to hire more consultants (39%) and researchers (24%) than to maintain the same number of consultants (20%) and researchers (12%).
Peter Felix, AESC President, commented: “The results of our Outlook survey are most encouraging and indicate that, in spite of continuing volatility in some regions and sectors, nevertheless there is real evidence of organizations thinking more strategically and looking ahead with a positive mindset. Senior management appointments are one of the key focal points as boards and top management evaluate the future and consider whether they have the right people in the right jobs.”
“Globalization, digital transformation and industry restructuring are among those strategic forces that are changing the corporate landscape and are presenting new challenges on a continuing basis. Combined with an increasingly mobile executive market with executives anxious to find new opportunities after five years of moribund compensation growth and cost cutting pressures it is likely that a new phase in the War for Talent will now develop,” says Felix.
He goes on to further comment: “Not least of all this will be fed by the mega-trends of the demand from new markets around the world, the major demographic shifts now biting to an unprecedented extent as the Baby Boomers finally want, and can afford, to retire and the desire by many corporations to feed their succession pipelines. This new wave of optimism by our members firms in the level of client demand for senior executives is a leading indicator of renewed confidence, especially in North America, but also in other parts of the global economy.”
Senior Executive Talent Shortage
Similar to the results of the mid-year outlook survey in 2013, the top three regions that are expected to experience the greatest talent shortage are China, Brazil and Africa, while the USA crept up from seventh to fourth. The functions that are expected to see the greatest shortage of talent are General Management/CEO/COO, Business Development and Board of Directors.The expectation that candidates will be willing to move has increased by 6% since July 2013 to 35%. A further 31% believe that candidates will move position if there is sufficient professional and financial security offered in the new position. Only 2% of respondents think that candidates will be less willing to move in the next six months.
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