Should I Work With A Headhunter Exclusively?

Written by on August 18, 2013 in Blog, Headhunters with 2 Comments

Exclusive or Not?

I often have candidates ask me this question:
“If you can’t help me to locate a new position, can you recommend someone?”

My answer is always the same. “I might be able to help you, but your best bet is to find half a dozen or more headhunters you trust and see if they can help you also.”

Many of the candidates are shocked. “But I thought headhunters want a person to deal with just them?”

I’ve got news for you, they might want that, but don’t ever do it. There is no need for a person to be exclusive to one headhunter, not even if they’re actively working a position with them.

Think About It

The headhunter isn’t working exclusively with you. They have other clients, and even when they’re working with you on a position, they have other candidates they’re presenting to the client; in fact, it’s their job to present multiple candidates to a client. So why should you deal only with them?

If you’re looking for a position, or even just keeping your eyes open, your responsibility is to yourself—not them. If you’re actively looking, you should network with everyone you know, and deal with at least five or six headhunters that you trust. Another thing you need to do when dealing with headhunters is to have an understanding up front about a few key issues.

  • They will not send your resume to a client without asking you.
  • They will not change your resume without your knowledge.
  • They will not discuss your background with a client without your knowledge.
  • They will not share your resume with another headhunter without your knowledge.

Before you start working with a headhunter, get an understanding about these, and any other items you want to discuss. That way there will be no surprises.

Why Should I Work With More Than One Headhunter?

The answer lies in simple math. A headhunter is one person. Even if they work at one of the larger firms, the opportunities you get exposed to are limited. A retained headhunter might represent half a dozen clients at one time, and a contingency recruiter maybe twice that. Even if you triple that number, you can see that the number of companies you’re exposed to is insignificant compared to the opportunities available.

Bottom Line

If you’re starting an active job search, contact everyone in your private network, use LinkedIn and other social media to your advantage, and get recommendations on a half a dozen headhunters you would feel comfortable working with.

Please share if you enjoyed the post. And let me know what topics you’d like to see covered.

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About the Author

About the Author: When I’m not headhunting, or writing, I help my wife take care of our animal sanctuary. At last count we had 45 animals—11 dogs, 1 horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs. Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar named Dennis who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy. For information on my mystery/suspense books, go to .

2 Reader Comments

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  1. avatar Otto says:

    Great article!
    Here is a question that might lead to yet another great article 🙂
    How to I find a good recruiter?
    Being in a position where I am not necessarily actively looking for a new job, I would nevertheless like to keep my eyes open for possible upcoming opportunities. How do I select a good headhunter who keeps me posted? So far I haven’t come across someone who was willing to keep me in the back of their mind without wanting to actively push my resume. Does it even make sense to engage with a recruiter if I am not actively looking? Is scanning job sites the best way in this scenario?

    Thank you!

    • avatar giammatteo

      The best way to find a good headhunter is through referrals. If you know someone who has had a good experience with a headhunter, ask them. Or, if you get calls and one of them sounds professional, talk to them. As to your other question, the best time to engage a headhunter is when you are passively looking. You must have an understanding that they respect your wishes not to send out your resume or talk to clients without your permission. Most professional firms are more than happy to do this, as this is how they build a quality database. As to finding them, LinkedIn is probably the best way to get recommendations (aside from personal recommendations). Find some good groups on linked in, join in the conversations, and if you see someone you think can help you, make contact with them.

      Thanks for stopping by,


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