As you develop as a professional in your career, you’ll need to learn how to leverage headhunter relationships to make career moves; most experienced positions rely on headhunters for companies of all sizes within all industries to find specialized and senior talent.
Here are five tips on how to best leverage headhunters to get ahead in your career.
1. Interview a few headhunters for fit and experience in your space.
The market is teeming with recruiters at all stages of their careers. As you may have already experienced, many recruiters who reach out to you perhaps don’t sound knowledgeable, trustworthy or serious about their careers. That’s because the recruitment industry is high-turnover and very competitive. Many top performers also retire early in their careers, open up their own firms or move into management, so they’re no longer in hands-on production roles.
Therefore, every year or so, you need to keep tabs on all the up-and-coming headhunters in your niche field so you know how to leverage them when the time is right. Protect yourself by interviewing your recruiters to see whether you should allow them to represent you. Ask questions about their services on your behalf, their reach within the network and their advice for your career vertical to ultimately determine if the person on the other end of the line is worth your investment.
2. Understand how vast your headhunter’s network is and how to best utilize their services.
Have your recruiter walk you through their experience working with professionals like yourself. Ask questions around their advice on what the best process should be to ensure the most fruitful relationship. Once you understand their methodology, decide on a strategy you’ll both undertake and adhere to, and execute each step in tandem.
Tip: If at any point you feel like the process is not going as you planned or you’re unhappy with their service, this is when you can move forward to interview other headhunters to work with, advise your headhunter what they need to do better or sever ties amicably and explain why you’re no longer allowing them to represent you. You have the right to influence this process.
3. Work on becoming the strongest candidate headhunters can represent by keeping an open mind and a friendly, can-do attitude.
Not every single role you evaluate will work out. Your job as a candidate is to improve the way you present yourself, to learn about how to sell your skills and to land as many offers or intent-to-offers as possible. That means you need to practice interviewing, so don’t be too selective! If you have headhunters who give you access to their network for you to practice on, jump on that opportunity to sharpen your skills.
Furthermore, keep in mind your headhunter is also a human. If you treat them well and build a strong friendship with them, they will reciprocate with more support and stronger advocacy on your behalf.
Tip: Don’t just rely on one or two carefully selected roles. That’s not enough to ensure a strong selection of potential offers. Keep your parameters open. Once you have a certain volume of clients interested in you, the desire for your candidacy will increase due to the fact that you have many “suitors.” At this point, you can slim down your choices. If you are too selective, you may end up having very few options to leverage against each other.
4. Understand you can influence the process with your headhunter.
Your goal is to align offer speed timing. This means getting offers in the door around the same time frame so you don’t miss out on deadlines when offers expire. Know that you can delay and speed up interview processes by leveraging your other opportunities and schedule restrictions.
Many candidates mistakenly think they must not show their hand in terms of interviewing at other places. They think the employer may be offended if they know you’re interviewing at other firms. The opposite happens: Companies are more interested in you if you have many options with their competitors because they feel the fear of loss. They also recognize you may be a strong candidate if all of their competitors are interested in your background, making you look like a candidate of a higher value that is recognized in your industry.
Tip: Transparency is the name of the game here. The best processes start with utter clarity in terms of schedules, strategies and how fast companies are moving, in clear synchronization with your headhunter so they can game the system and speed up or slow down interview processes so you can receive offers around the same time frame. For the headhunters you trust, make sure they know exactly what is happening so they can help maneuver processes to your benefit. Disclose company names, compensation potential and interview stage so your headhunter can pressure their clients into moving to your speed.
5. Less is more. Don’t use too many recruiters to represent you.
In many markets, there are only a few recruiters that are reliable, ethical, effective and caring. Don’t give out your resume to just anyone. You can ask your colleagues, mentors or network or research online through LinkedIn to obtain names of good recruiters in your career niche.
Tip: Don’t work with more than three recruiters. Since recruiters are commission-driven, they will help their committed candidates more than those who are just window-shopping.
As a headhunter since I was 23 across highly specialized senior and executive positions, I’ve seen how the best headhunters absolutely shape and change entire industries, careers and markets for the better. Hopefully, every candidate can find an excellent opportunity and experience working with strong recruiters who will change their life and career for the better.