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Matchmakers of Search: Headhunters

Paul Freiberger who runs a resume writing service wrote this article.  This article describes various tactics that you can use to get your prospective employer's attention.

Resume writing services will create the document needed to appeal to your ideal employer. But there’s another professional service firm you may encounter on the way. Many of the companies you want to work for may retain an executive recruiting firm—a headhunter—to fill the most crucial jobs. These professionals act as both recruiters and hiring consultants, and they can get you a foot in the door at some top companies. So when they call, it’s usually worth chatting with them.

However, it’s generally not in your interest to spend time seeking them out. These recruiters are busy on specific searches, and if you call, they just won’t be able to focus on your concerns. Most have websites and make it easy to submit your resume. Until you receive a call from the search firm, that’s about as much effort as you should put in.

Companies retain executive search firms under contract to fill specific open positions—typically, ones paying at least six figures. Frequently, the search firm works on an exclusive basis and gets a designated consulting fee, whether a hire results or not.

Sometimes, companies reward headhunters instead with a contingency fee, usually in the case of less senior openings. In either case, companies spend between 20 to 40 percent of a job’s annual salary just to fill the position. Of course, they also defray travel costs of bringing in candidates from across the country for interviews. You can bet that these business relationships only last if some good hires result.

Headhunters are experienced talent scouts adept at discerning what the hiring firm is looking for. If retained repeatedly, they get to know a company and can identify not only the right person for a given job, but also a candidate with potential to be a long-term leader.

You probably have already received calls from headhunters, whether or not you are job hunting. It means you have achieved a certain status in your field, or perhaps someone has recommended you as a potential job match, or as a possible aid to identify a candidate. Follow the law of karma—good deeds get rewarded—and be as helpful as you can.

These calls will come unexpectedly, at work or at home. Brush off any surprise or annoyance and exploit the chance to build rapport. Recruiters work for their clients; nonetheless they also form professional relationships with candidates and may maintain them for years. Don’t react defensively by asking how the caller got your name. If the headhunter hasn’t already told you, you probably won’t find out. It also makes you sound surprised to get a recruiter’s call.

You are within your rights to get some information from the recruiter. Learn the name of the search firm. Ask if the call is part of a specifically retained search or just a general feeler for good job prospects. If the caller has found you at an inconvenient timeScience Articles, explain that you’d like to have the conversation but you need to reschedule it. Try to do so for the same day or the next. Rescheduling also gives you time to investigate the search firm and prepare for the phone interview.

When First Talking to a Headhunter: DO

Check their firm’s reputation at before having an extensive conversation.
Make the appointments so they don’t interfere with your present job.
Request confidentiality until you have authorized the recruiter to present your name and background.
Prepare as thoroughly you would for any job interview.
Make sure your resume is at its best.
Ask about the skills that the recruiter is looking for in this job search.
Ask about promotion opportunities at the firm.

When First Talking to a Headhunter: DON’T

Don’t exaggerate your resume or your work history during the conversation.
Don’t expect a quick job offer. This is a long process.
Don’t ask questions whose the answers you’d know if you had read the company’s corporate backgrounder.
Don’t ask personal questions of the recruiter.
Don’t bring up salary. There’s plenty of time for that.

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Paul Freiberger is President of Shimmering Resumes, a resume writing and career counseling service based in San Mateo, California. Paul is the author or several books and the winner of the Los Angeles Times book award. He can be reached at:, or, by phone at 1-877-796-9737. You can visit his website at

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