Tips On Using A Headhunter or Job Recruiter

by Tisha K. on 2012-04-1813

I’ve had my fair share of job hunting escapades and know the frustration that goes along with the search. You know what your skills are, but if you are not effectively communicating those skills through a resume, you could find yourself out of luck and out of a potentially good job.

For a brief period in my life, I worked as a headhunter. Not in the aboriginal sense ;) — mostly I found jobs for professional people. I specialized in placing candidates in manufacturing jobs and surprisingly, I was quite good at it, having made several placements in an unusually short period of time. I learned a lot during the little time I worked at this profession on an all-commission basis. One thing this experience taught me was that it could actually be quite useful and worthwhile to work with a professional to locate that right job for you.


If you’re a professional or if you’ve got management experience and find a need to change your job, it may be in your best interest to contact a professional placement agency to send them your past job information. Most agencies charge the clients (i.e. the hiring company) any fees that are associated in the placement. You, as a candidate, have the opportunity to discuss your qualifications and experience with an actual person, who can then assist you in creating a resume that is up to par with your actual abilities.

professional recruiter, headhunter

In the past, people would typically find jobs through classified ads, through word-of-mouth or via referrals. However, with time, we now find ourselves using the internet for our job searches. For certain industries, it’s pretty much inevitable that resumes are fielded by recruiters and headhunters. Nevertheless, we can still take a look at how headhunters may add value to our job hunt, thereby making us more keenly aware of ways to leverage their expertise to our benefit.

Tips on Using a Job Placement Agent (or Headhunter)

#1 Check if a headhunter can actually help you.

You may want to find out if a dedicated headhunter is someone who can help support your job search. With the proliferation of independent job sites that are available online, doing your own research through these sites may be enough to help you secure a job. In general, headhunters work to place professional, managerial and skilled positions and may be useful for those seeking upper level positions. There are those agents who represent a job placement agency that may or may not work on contingency, and there are those who work full time as a dedicated representative for a particular company. You may want to find out if your job search will benefit from a professional who works on your behalf.

#2 Leverage the job recruiter’s experience and network to get yourself the best placement.

In general, these recruiters (as they are quite commonly called) will help you communicate more effectively with your potential employers in areas such as salary, benefits, and relocation assistance. Because professional placement agents have dealt with many companies and candidates, they often know how to barter a better deal than you could on your own. They can be your mouthpiece who speaks on your behalf, and advisor who can also coach you on how to deal with employees and interviewers from hiring companies.

#3 Be aware of those recruiters who charge applicants a fee.

As mentioned, most job placement professionals who will only charge the hiring company a fee, but there are others who seek payment from job candidates. I’ve known job seekers who have paid thousands to get a good cover letter and resume together with help from a third party. Is it worth it? You’ll have to determine if you’re comfortable with doing things on your own vs using free services online that can help you polish your interview skills and resume, or help you find a job match. Know what you’re paying for! My rule of thumb is this: if you have skills that are in high demand (or live in an area with strong employment opportunities), then you may have less need for additional support in your job search.

#4 Save time and energy with your job search.

If you’ve signed up with an agency, then another convenience is that you no longer have to hit the pavement looking for a prime opportunity. The headhunter will present it to you. If you’re interested, they will submit your information to their client companies and if any company finds you a good match, the process will move forward. Surprisingly, some recruiters end up wasting your time and energy anyway, say if they become way too overzealous about wanting to place you somewhere, even if you’re not a good fit. They may be overly motivated by profit and may push for your placement regardless of the job requirements and your skill set. If so, then you’d obviously be wasting your time. Secondly, they may decide to “shop you around” just to see if they get a “hit”. Some companies may not even have openings but may be willing to meet with you, just to get your information on file for their future use.

#5 Make yourself stand out: get yourself past first base with your job hunt.

Many companies don’t even hire directly anymore but rather rely on the expertise of a good headhunter. They may have a good working relationship with an agency and the only way you’ll get through the door of the company is through the placement agency. While you may not have to do as much legwork looking for a job as you would on your own, you’ll still need to impress the placement agent — not just through a well put together resume, but also through a favorable screening interview. Consider headhunters as a “dry run” for getting yourself noticed for certain job placements. Headhunters receive a ton of resumes every day so it’s important that you stand out in some way. After all, they’ll need to notice you first before they can decide if they’d like to work with you going forward. Ah, the competition!

#6 Keep your expectations in check.

Just because you have a recruiter on your side doesn’t necessarily mean that they can move mountains for you. Some of these agents may tend to overpromise on both sides (to both the employer and candidate). They could try to entice you with an exaggerated picture of the company, or they could sell you as the perfect candidate for a job you may not have the right experience for. Watch out for those professionals who make something sound too good to be true. I personally value those who are honest enough to tell it like it is.

#7 Consider the quality of the placement agency you’re working with and keep in touch!

If you’re starting to get the itch for a new job, consider researching good placement agencies. Not all of them are highly reputable so make sure you check them out carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and stay on top of things as much as possible. Remember that your recruiter is a bridge to a potential employer, and you’ll want to start your job on the right foot. Be especially careful if you are using multiple agencies, since you don’t want your resume and information to be submitted to the same employer multiple times. Redundant submissions can lead to confusion and conflict over placement fees, which can discourage a company from wanting to hire you at all.

Finally, make sure you always keep your contact information updated because you never know when opportunity will come knocking!

Created March 13, 2008. Updated April 18, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron@TheWisdomJournal March 13, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Interesting. I found my current job through a headhunter and have considered getting into the business myself after seeing how much money can be made from one placement. I know the company paid well over $30,000 for me!

I’m interested in getting back into the job market again. Any suggestions for a good headhunter?? :D

fathersez March 13, 2008 at 11:35 pm

I, too, found my present job through a headhunter friend.

Now that I am planning to quit the rat race, this all commission job hunter thing seems interesting.

Perhaps you can tell tell us how you got into this job of headhunting.

The Financial Blogger March 14, 2008 at 2:44 am

I once had an interview with a head hunter and it went pretty well. Just keep in mind that the head hunter is working for his client (which is NOT you!).

He is compensated when he finds the right person for the right job, not the right job for the right person ;-)

However, it is always a good thing to have in your network when you are looking for a new job.

David March 14, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Very useful..if you are one of those people who have a “job”…right Digerati? ;-)

It’s much better not needing one of them!

Female Shopper March 15, 2008 at 5:07 am

I was headhunted as well for my last job. Looking for something new at the moment so fingers crossed someone finds me again.

Lazy Man March 15, 2008 at 5:07 am

I read this post a couple of times and thought, wow, SVB doesn’t seem to be the Headhunter type. And then I noticed the author… I almost missed it.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 15, 2008 at 5:55 am

Just to let everyone know — I’m not the headhunter here, but my contributing writer (Tisha K) is! :) Lazy Man really knows me fairly well I guess…

I’d be interested to know how to find a top-notch headhunter myself (who knows when you’ll need one?).

GH December 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm

I know how frustrating finding suitable jobs can be. Personally, I enjoy the freedom of making money on the internet. There are lots of sites for money making ideas; you can also make money just by giving your opinion.

Huey Harden April 14, 2010 at 1:23 am

The funny thing about jobs is that there are a lot of jobs going around. Only that there’s not a lot of people skilled enough to fill them at the price people are willing to work for.

Maxine James December 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Like you guys, I was headhunted for one of my previous jobs, then decided i did not like what was going on within the job. Remember the headhunter will get paid regardless.

The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Nick April 19, 2012 at 3:10 am

As a contractor, it drives me insane when a headhunter or recruiter blindly calls me without having done his/her research about me first. You can smell the desperation as they look for any warm body to fill a job. I call these folks “Vampires”. They were the subject of yesterday’s blog post.

Silicon Valley Blogger April 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm

@Nick, Thanks for the additional insight on the recruiting industry. I agree that there are some bad apples here, enough so that they earn their own label. Over here in Silicon Valley, we have a term for recruiting firms that has its own interesting connotation: we call them “body shops”.

Funny enough, a friend of mine has achieved great success in this field. He told me that during the big tech boom of the 90s, he managed to build a net worth of $4 million by supplying “bodies” (er… employees) to tech firms. A lot of the employees had the H-1 (work) status as they came in with work visas to meet the massive demand that the tech boom brought forth. Unfortunately, when things imploded in the early 00s, his business also suffered. These days though, he’s once more on top of things with the tech industry on its feet again.

Harold - CA@SPWCA April 25, 2012 at 3:48 am

I would like to note something for Job seekers here: Hiring managers have even lost their jobs because they become adamant about a candidate based on looks or personality and end up paying too much for what should cost all too little.

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