Headhunting a headhunter can help boost your career

THE recruitment profession has acquired a bad name over the past few years – a consequence of the commoditisation of the process, a decline in the quality of customer service and a shrinking of the jobs market. Committing to give a portion of your salary to a recruitment agency may be a hard pill to swallow but it is not without its advantages. Going through a recruiter gives you an ambassador in the marketplace: someone who will “scrutinise your CV, prepare you for interviews, provide inside information and help get you the best package”, says James Holland, head of global markets at Alexander Black Recruitment.

The slow nature of the current jobs market means the right roles come around more sporadically, so if you want to be kept in mind for potential opportunities that may arise, it’s important to have a good relationship with a recruiter, according to Aoife Crawford, director at Cutting Hedge Recruitment. You want to be top of the pile when a suitable role becomes live and keep your finger on the pulse with what’s happening in terms of market trends.

Scrolling through an agency’s website should give you a decent flavour of the types of job they have, but a word of caution: most websites will say they do everything, however this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a lot of jobs to offer. The recruiter awards can be a good way to find some of the best recruitment agencies. But ultimately, your best friend in the job market is another jobseeker, which is why your first step should be asking trusted colleagues, people in the same industry as you outside of your company, and your peer group who they’ve had success with in the past.

Depending on your level of seniority, you may well have an existing relationship with an individual headhunter or two, so they should be your first port of call. “If your requirements fall outside their sector, they may have recommendations too”, says James Beale, director at Christopher Beale Associates. “Always meet your agent in person”, advises Peter Milne, director at Robert Walters. If they are going to provide a good representation of you, they need to know more than your CV, skills and qualifications. As with other industries, there is a broad range of talent and ability among recruiters. Don’t spray your CV across too many internet job boards, but similarly, don’t be afraid to get in touch with a handful of agencies. It’s a particularly tough market and you need to get your name out. It is inadvisable to limit yourself to relying on the strength of one recruiter.

That said, in some circumstances offering exclusivity can be the right way to go, particularly if you have a specified skill set that is in high demand. Giving a consultant a period of exclusivity – one to two weeks – enables them to take a more targeted approach working solely for you.

Gauging the level and extent of their client relationships, as well as the current opportunities they are dealing with, is necessary to determine whether you should be exclusive to one, says Beale. You don’t want to tie yourself down to the wrong agency for two weeks, so make sure you’re happy with their brand in the market. Bear in mind that you need to take 100 per cent responsibility and control of your CV and job search. “It’s up to you to ensure you keep track of job market developments and the roles for which your CV is being presented”, says Crawford.

Focus is key, which is why Paul Chapman, managing director of Hornby Chapman, recommends always using either a specialist firm or a specialist team or individual within a larger firm.

Identifying some of the bigger firms as well as some niche agencies within your particular field will give you a balanced representation of the markets. But don’t place too much importance on the size of firms, says Beale.

The emphasis should be on ensuring that your headhunter comprehensively understands what the key drivers are for you, what it is you want from your next role, and why it is you are looking to move. “It is your career – if your headhunter is trying to push you down a certain path which you are not comfortable with, you are probably working with the wrong person”, warns Colin Webster, chief financial officer at recruitment specialists Bruin Financial.