10 tips toward working successfully with executive recruiters

John O'Hanlon
- Leadership - Mar 06, 2015

Let's make one thing clear right from the start, says career coach and author Ford R Myers - executive search firms, recruiters and employment agencies are not in business to help you land a job. These firms work for the employers, not for you - and they are merely channels through which you may secure an employment opportunity.
Placement agencies that charge a fee should be avoided completely. Contingency-fee recruiters are paid a percentage of the candidate's salary - but only if they actually place a new employee.  Retained executive search firms are the classic ‘headhunters,’ who are granted an exclusive right to conduct a search on behalf of their client company and are paid their consulting fee (or at least some of it) even if the search is unsuccessful.
"When working with any type of executive search firm or recruiter, you must maintain control of them and their activities. In fact, even though the search firm is not working for you, I tell my clients to 'supervise' the work of recruiters as though they were managing a group of employees," adds Ford R Myers. This means following some important guidelines:
1.      Be careful and selective in choosing which recruiters you want to work with, and politely decline to work with those who don't appeal to you or are inappropriate for your situation.
2.      When speaking with external search firms (not ‘recruiters’ who work inside the human resource departments of the companies where you want to work), be totally honest and direct about your job objectives, past compensation, desired salary, geographical preferences and other details.
3.      Never pay any sort of ‘registration fee’ or any other money - for anything in the whole recruiting process! All the search firm's fees should be paid by the employer.
4.      When interviewing, make sure that the job is exactly what the recruiter described. Confirm (and re-confirm, if necessary) the salient job details, responsibilities and compensation.
5.      Remember that you are the source of the recruiter's income (indirectly). You are entitled to courtesy and respect, as well as honest and prompt answers to your questions.
6.      Do not sign any contract or make any agreement that obligates you to work exclusively with one search agency. Have all forms from the search firms reviewed by an employment attorney (not a general attorney).
7.      Ask that your resume and other information not be forwarded to any prospective employer without your prior approval.
8.      Be sure that the recruiter does not edit your resume or any other documents without your permission.
9.      At the point of negotiating your compensation for a new position, do not rely on the recruiter. You must either conduct the negotiations yourself, or at least be actively involved in the negotiation process.
10.     Focus only five to ten percent of your job-search energies on recruiters. You must not 'absolve yourself of responsibility' and rely on recruiters to find you a job. Remember that most of your job-search time should be spent on more productive activities, such as professional networking.
"Some executive search consultants will also provide vital information about such things as industry conditions and local business trends, as well as insightful feedback about your campaign strategy, your compensation level, etc.” adds Myers. “However, never confuse executive search consultants with career coaches - they play very different roles." 

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