Dealing With Headhunters
I’ve been doing this headhunting business for more than 30 years. I’ve even managed to pick up a few bits of wisdom that I can pass on to you. Most of it is common sense, but for some reason many people forget about common sense when it comes to their careers.
If you’re looking for a job, or need to know how to deal with a headhunter for any reason, it’s imperative that you understand what that relationship should be. Let’s start by defining the different headhunters. There are two basic headhunter services: contingency and retained. Contingency means the headhunter only gets paid if they fill the position. Retained firms get paid regardless. I’m not going into all the details because the important thing is this…
Headhunters Are Gatekeepers Too
Yes, you heard me right. Headhunters work for the company. Their mission is to fill the position with the best person they can find. Let’s look at that statement again:
“Fill the position with the best person they can find.”
Nowhere does it mention you. If you want to be on that short list to get interviewed, you have to convince the headhunter why you should be. The way to do that is to build a trusting relationship with the person you’re working with. The key word in the last statement was trusting.
A headhunter won’t rule you out because you tell him/her that you don’t fit all the requirements of the job description, but they will rule you out if they find out you’ve exaggerated or overstated your qualifications. And they will—or should—rule you out if you lie to them.
Most headhunters have no trouble going to bat for you and “selling” your skills—if they believe in you. What they can’t afford is to present candidates to their clients as being qualified, only to have the clients discover the candidate misrepresented their skills or experience.
Like most things in life, you’re better off being honest. If you have a weakness that affects the requirements—tell them. If you have a potential problem with a reference—tell them. If you think you might have a tough time “selling” the move to your family—tell them, and do it before you get an offer.