Should I Work With a Headhunter?

There are a lot of myths and assumptions about what Headhunters actually do, so before you seek out this path, here’s a quick overview to consider:

  • Headhunters fill about 3% of all open jobs each year. These are usually very senior level (C-Suite) roles or very specialized or difficult-to-fill positions. So, in essence, the ROI for this method is even lower than applying online (20%) for most.
  • Headhunters are paid by the company (on average, 30% of the hire’s base pay), which means their first priority is what the organization wants, not what the job seeker wants. They won’t be motivated to “sell” a candidate to their well-paying customer if you are not already a near-perfect fit. Think about how you’d feel if your Realtor showed you a one bedroom condo when you were looking for a split-level single family home.  So, it you’re a career changer, a Headhunter won’t likely be interested in working with you.  .
  • A company pays a Headhunter to find a specific type of candidate with a specific skill set, which the company was unable to find themselves.  If you don’t have deep expertise in the industry and function they’re looking for, chances are a Headhunter won’t likely have an interest in speaking with you. However, if you have a strong background in another area they recruit for or have great contacts who might align with their future search needs, this could be a foot in the door for you to start a relationship with the Headhunter that can lead to possible job opportunities later.
  • With Linked In being such a powerful search tool now, Headhunters are able to find the candidates they want pretty easily these days. They build their candidate pipeline with executives who have a history of the skills that their clients typically look for. If your Linked In Profile is aligned to what a Headhunter is searching for, they will no doubt find YOU.
  • Headhunters are Sales experts, not career coaches. They don’t have time (or likely expertise or interest) to help you figure out what you should or could do in your career. This isn’t something you’ll want to delegate to a third party anyhow. Your career is a big deal and while getting advice and insight can be helpful, no one can tell you what the right path is for you.

What Headhunters are looking for are executives with deep expertise in the field they’re recruiting for, a solid reputation in their industry, and great connections that could add to the Headhunter’s Rolodex. If you fit this mold, seek out a Headhunter for your job search and be selective. Headhunters who are legitimate will take the time to build a relationship with a qualified candidate and this will benefit you down the road.

Even though they’ll have the company’s best interests in mind as the one paying the bills, savvy Headhunters will recognize the value in making the job search a win-win for both companies and their solid candidates, since YOU, as the newly hired executive, may engage them in a future search of your own.

Happy hunting!

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