As a potential executive search candidate, you need to learn some of the new rules for dealing with executive recruitment agencies. If you understand the way they operate, you will have realistic expectations and gain more control over the entire search process. Following is a brief overview:
Learn How Recruiters Work
There are two types of recruiters: contingency and retainer.
When a contingency firm is used, the hiring company:
- Is offering a salary less than $100,000
- Wants to screen many qualified candidates for a few open positions
- Is filling multiple vacancies with similar candidates
- Wants more involvement in screening, interviewing and selection
- Pays the search firm only when the candidate is hired
When a retainer firm is used, the hiring company:
- Is offering a salary greater than $100,000
- Needs unique or specialized candidates
- Desires a third party to screen and interview candidates
- Wants to persuade an executive to leave an organization and needs assistance
- Pays the search firm regardless of the search results
In both types, the hiring companies pay the executive recruitment agencies. The fee is usually equal to one-third of the job’s first year compensation. Remember that recruitment agencies do not work for you; they work for their paying clients. Therefore, do not expect the firms to be overly responsive if you contact them. In fact, this practice should be avoided unless you personally know the recruiter.
Here are some things to keep in mind with dealing with recruitment agencies:
Work with multiple recruitment agencies. If you currently work for a company that has hired a specific search firm to help them fill positions during the last year or two, you will be “off-limits” for any positions it may have, no matter what your qualifications. Why? recruitment agencies will not raid talent from companies that previously hired them to fill positions. Therefore, make sure multiple recruitment agencies know you.
Some recruiters may promise you the moon. In a tight job market, recruiters, or the companies they represent, sometimes paint a rosier picture of a given job than is actually the case. This can lead to a very bad career decision on your part. Think of the search process as if you are buying a car: You wouldn’t take the salesperson’s word. Use your own due diligence to compare the information with what the recruiter tells you.
Most recruiters work on a national level, so don’t limit your search by geography. At lower salary levels, companies are reluctant to consider out-of-town executives because of the interviewing and relocation expense. In these instances, recruitment agencies may focus on local candidates. However, they will look nationally, or even internationally, for many executive appointments. Learn to know the recruitment agencies that fill positions in your industry, function and salary level.
Don’t take it personally. Of 200 “potential candidates” uncovered in initial research, perhaps 50 will make the first cut, five will be finalists, and one will get the job. Don’t take it personally. The search process aims for a perfect fit. However, one way to improve your present and future standing are to tell the recruiter everything up-front — no surprises.
Be Visible. If you are seeking an employment move, the simplest way to get discovered by executive recruiters is to be visible. Try to move up in trade associations, accept speaking engagements, get quoted in magazine articles, and network at industry luncheons. Moreover, scrutinize industry contacts for individuals who could make references to recruiters.
Do not expect recruitment agencies to tip you off about a possible merger or downsizing. Even if they know, recruiters won’t tell you because they are legally required to stay silent. It’s not the recruiter’s responsibility to point out a company’s problems. After all, they work for the company, not for you.
Keep it short, but always send a cover letter with your resume. A well-crafted cover letter can explain the type of position you are seeking, the area of the country in which you would like to live and what your future career goals are. The cover letter is your opportunity to seem more human, personal and genuine. Above all, avoid sending “To Whom It May Concern” type letters.
When sending your resume by e-mail, it is best to copy and paste it as plain text added to the body of your e-mail. Many job seekers try to attach their resume to e-mail messages as MS Word or WordPerfect documents. While they may look better, many recruiters will be unable to download them in those formats. Further, many recruiters are reluctant to download attachments due to a fear of computer viruses. So, you should simply copy and paste your resume into the e-mail itself. Recruiters also often ask for resumes by fax, which is okay.
It is best to mail resumes and cover letters, following your faxed or e-mail copies. They look and copy better, and leave a more positive lasting impression with the recruiter. A follow-up package sends the message that you are a true professional.
Distribute your resume discreetly. Since contingency firms are paid only if they actually place a candidate, they may be tempted to shotgun your name across hundreds of companies and hope somebody bites. You should know where your resume is going and for what position. Therefore, explicitly ask the nature of the assignment before giving your permission to any recruiter to distribute your resume. If an agency is reluctant to provide you with that information, regard it as a warning sign. And If multiple agencies are sending in your resume, a company might not want to get involved in a nasty fee dispute between competing headhunters pitching the same person — even if you’re the perfect candidate.
If you change jobs, keep recruiters informed of your new situation. Once you make initial contact with a search firm, keep them informed of status, location or job changes. If your information should change, send the recruiters an update letter, revised resume or postcard. Do this immediately after every job change.
Remember these tips when dealing with an executive recruitment agency. Now you are ready to take control and find your perfect job.
Good luck and good job hunting!