A lot of readers ask me how to find a recruiter to help them find a job. In general, my answer is: Forget it. Headhunters don’t work for people who need jobs. Headhunters work for people who have jobs to fill.
The way this works is the hiring manager has a specific type of person he needs to hire, and that person is hard to find. The hiring manager cannot spend all the time it will take to locate this person, so the hiring manager pays a recruiter to find this special person.
“Few headhunters are in the talent management business,” says Terry Gallagher, of the search firm Battalia Winston International. “Most executive search firms only represent their client’s interests and executive staffing needs.” This means, recruiters start with a specific position to fill, not a specific candidate to employ.
Recruiters are expensive. Often 20% of someone’s starting salary. This is not peanuts. So you can be sure that companies do not hire recruiters to find people with general qualifications. General qualifications are easy to fill. If you are a generalist, there are lots of people like you.
So look, if you are entry level or you are changing careers, you are not going to be attractive to a recruiter. Entry level people do not have any special skill that would make them fit a job that retained recruiters get hired to fill. And people changing careers do not have specific skills in their new career, they have specific skills (at best) in their old career.
Headhunters don’t work with career changers. Headhunters work with superstars. And maybe not always superstars, but the less star power you have, the more of a specialty you have to have. Are you the only person in the world who knows how to build an inventory system like Wal-Mart has? Call a recruiter. Are you the number-one salesperson in all of Yahoo? Call a recruiter.
But the thing is that those people don’t need to call recruiters. Recruiters call them all the time. Recruiters know who the amazingly talented are. It is no mystery. So if you want to get on recruiter radar, you need to focus on making yourself look amazingly talented — in a proven-track-record way, not in a my-mom-says-so way.
If you think you are at place in your career where a recruiter would be interested, Michael Keleman at Recruiting Animal says, “Do a search of recruiters on LinkedIn. There are zillions of them there and some might indicate that they are in your area. Contact them and ask if they work with candidates like you. You don’t have to contact them through LinkedIn, just call.”
If you’ve got great experience, you might get special treatment from the recruiter. Recruiter David Perry, for example, has been known to represent candidates like they are movie stars. But most of the time, Keleman says, “You resume will go into a database until a company hires the recruiter for a seach you’re suited for.”
So go ahead and try getting a recruiter’s attention. But focus more on networking on your own, and doing great work, because those are the keys to getting good job opportunities.