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Five Burning Questions About How to Work With Headhunters

How to Work with HeadhuntersThe unemployment numbers continue to rise. The pundits are predicting a slow—some say 'jobless'—recovery. If only you could get on some hot shot headhunter's radar, you'd be all set, right? Not necessarily, says a contrarian new book by Nick Corcodilos, aka the "Ask the Headhunter" dude.

In How to Work with Headhunters...and Make Headhunters Work for You (downloadable for $39.95), Corcodilos, a headhunter himself, debunks common fallacies about this breed, including the most common one: that headhunters find jobs for people. Not true! Headhunters, first and foremost, he says, are paid to find the best candidates for their clients—the companies doing the hiring—and often (cruelly!) the folks they're stalking are already employed. Which may explain why the bastards won't take your cold calls, or answer your emails. (So if some headhunter promises to find you a job, Corcodilos suggests you approach with caution.)

Corcodilos is brutally honest about the numbers in this game. While working with a reputable headhunter can open doors, relying primarily on headhunters to find you a job will likely result in disappointment. Only a paltry 3% of jobs are filled by headhunters.

That said, a good headhunter with an attractive offer, can change your life for the better, so it pays to know how to deal with them for best results. And that is what this book is all about.

In the engaging style that characterizes Corcodilos's column on the topic, he sets out to provide 62 "mythbusting answers" to the common questions most jobhunters have about this process. Here are some of the questions he addresses along with (abbreviated) answers:

Are online job boards a good way to meet headhunters?

Here's a simple rule of thumb: If a position is advertised on a job board by a "headhunter" it's probably not a headhunter. It's a recruiter in the mass resume and mass job posting business. If you insist on distributing your resume online, I suggest you go to companies' own Web sites and apply for jobs directly.

What's the secret to getting on a headhunter's list?

The best thing you can do when you meet a headhunter is to establish a sound relationship, regardless of how your first interaction turns out. Face it—the headhunter is not likely to place you. So make sure you get something else from the encounter: a valuable new contact. The odds of your getting placed grow with time and with the quality of your relationship. Help the headhunter complete her assignment (by sharing sources or industry insights) and you will make it onto her list.

How can I avoid having my resume tossed in the trash?

Don't send your resume unless they ask for it. Headhunters don't spend their time sorting through the unsolicited resumes of "people who come along." They actively pursue the people they want. Headhunters invest time in people referred to them by sources they trust. Those are the folks who end up in their databases.

How can I make myself the headhunter's #1 candidate? Should I just answer questions, or tell her what I can do for her client?

Test the waters. If you're good at what you do, you owe it to yourself to show it. Don't be arrogant, or dominate the interview. Learn to be compelling, but diplomatic. The more you can focus the meeting on the work you can do (versus reciting your work history), the greater edge you'll gain over your competition.

Should I tell a headhunter who else I'm interviewing with?

A legitimate headhunter will not ask this question. But that's a common ruse used by unprincipled recruiters who are looking for new clients and possible placements: they pry for confidential information, then potentially use that against you.

Should I divulge my salary to a headhunter?

Divulge your salary information only if you have evidence that the headhunter will use it only for your advantage. If a headhunter calls you, and wants to know your salary before continuing the discussion, Corcodilos suggests saying this: "Why don't you tell me what kind of compensation we're talking about, even if it's just a range. I'll tell you whether it fits my objectives, because I don't want to waste your time or mine."

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