At one time or another, nearly everyone has a need to use an executive recruiter. Strong recruiters are as discerning about the companies that they partner with as much as candidates they represent. So, why shouldn’t you be as selective in the headhunter you hire? Frankly, the short answer is, you should be. I often tell people working with the right executive recruiter is vital. Think about it: a recruiter needs to be one of the most important people in your life: your significant other, your children, your extended family, your doctor, your financial advisor/banker, your clergy, and your recruiter. After all, it only makes sense. You need to have someone you can truly depend on to give you career advice.
But, how do you decide which executive recruiter is right for you?
TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
If you’re a company looking to hire top talent, for whatever the role is, only work with a recruiter who specializes in your specific needs. I think you’d agree that doesn’t make sense to call a plumber to fix your cable TV, right? So, why would you hire a recruiter who specializes in legal to fill your marketing role? Today, there are plenty of ways to find one that fits your unique needs. The easiest way is determine which recruiter(s) served you well when you personally were looking for new job opportunities. If they were helpful to you when you were a candidate, they should be able to identify candidates that are a good fit for your company. Determine which ones presented you with various roles that were not only of interest to you but were representing companies that you have a genuine desire to work.
You can also find a slew of recruiters on social network sites like LinkedIN. Additionally, co-workers, friends, and family may also have a referral for you. I recommend you interview a few recruiters to identify the one or two recruiters you want to represent your firm. The chosen recruiter needs to have a solid understanding of your organization and culture. They need to know AND should know everything. From your management to your corporate philosophy to your clientele to the P&L to the long-term vision for your company to the job they’re asked to fill related to your needs. They must be so well-versed that they come across as an extension to your team.
…THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
If you’re a candidate looking for a new opportunity, you also need to do your homework. Before you agree to work with any recruiter, interview them. Yes, you interview them. If you’re entrusting them with you career, you want to make damn well sure you’re on the same page. You may even want to get a reference or two. A strong recruiter in your niche will be happy to share some names of other executives that they have worked with in the past. It’s important to keep in mind; this headhunter is representing you. You need to be feel completely comfortable with them and be willing to share everything about yourself with them. And, I mean, EVERYTHING—good and bad. It’s as important to tell them about your accomplishments as well as your blindspots. Don’t hide—or worse, lie–about the reason why you were laid off. A good recruiter will find out and when they find out that you were not completely honest, they may not want to work with you. Also, it’s imperative you work with a recruiter who truly has a proven track record in your specific niche. Even better, he/she should have spent time earlier in their career within the industry. Having an industry expert whose ‘walked the walk and talked the talk’ is invaluable. Finally, never pay a recruiter one cent. All recruiter fees are paid for by the hiring company, not the candidate.
As you’re deciding which headhunter to work with, do your due diligence. Don’t work with someone just because they agree with your every comment. You want someone who will challenge you as well as listen to you. Ask them about their search strategy as it relates to your hiring need specifically. What’s the latest trends in the industry? Who are some of the companies that they partner with? What type of roles have they successfully filled? Where do they envision you being a good fit? Also, it’s important to remember, no worthy headhunter can expect you to give them “exclusive representational rights”. Meaning, you have the right to work with as many recruiters at any given time as you wish. A recruiter who tells you not to work with other recruiters isn’t one you should want to work with. Reason being, every recruiter has a client base they partner with and other companies that they source from—meaning, companies where they lure the talent.
An ethical recruiter would NEVER recruit an employee away from an organization that they’re currently under contract with. I still recall the CEO of the first recruiting firm I ever worked firing the firm’s top producer when he found out she was placing people in the front door of a company while recruiting others out the backdoor…thereby creating her own openings to fill. As I often say, the only thing I have to offer is my honesty, ethics, and confidentiality…without those traits, my business is without merit. What do we recruiters expect in return from you as a hiring manager/candidate? Simple, just complete honesty and transparency.
Here’s to successful long-term partnerships and continued success.