Readers’ Forum: I need a headhunter who will market me!

 A reader asks:

I realize that headhunters work for the employer, but my past experience has been that a good one will pick up an individual with good qualifications and do some marketing to achieve a match. They don’t seem to work this way any more. How can I find a headhunter who will really market me?

Discussion: July 6, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

In the newsletter, I explain that good headhunters don’t market individuals and they never have. Good headhunters focus on filling positions for which they’ve been assigned a “search” by a corporate client. I also offer a tip about how to find a good headhunter — it’s one of the 62 answers for fearless job hunters that’s included in How to Work with Headhunters.

The fact that some “headhunters” waste your time doesn’t mean all headhunters are bad, any more than all HR folks are. The best headhunters will recruit you and, if you’re the right candidate, negotiate a deal that will make you happy enough to refer your buddies the next time the headhunter comes looking…

It’s easy to turn up nasty stories about experiences with headhunters, and I’ve printed many over the years. Do you have a story about a good experience with a headhunter? Please post it. What did a headhunter do that made a difference in your job search?

(And if you’re really burned up about headhunters, well, I’m not going to delete your rants if you post those, too…)


Readers’ Forum: Headhunters who get it (Are there any?)

Discussion: March 8, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A (What? You don’t get the newsletter? So you don’t know the story? Sign up now — don’t miss the next one!) a reader complains about headhunters who can’t get past the gaps in his resume. They don’t see how he can help their clients. As I point out in the newsletter, most headhunters simply won’t look past the resume. But some do, especially if you nudge them in the right direction.

Try this: “Look, I know it’s more difficult to make a match from my resume because I’ve been doing consulting since my last traditional job. I don’t expect you to recruit me if I can’t show you what the fit is. During 20 years building a start-up, I was fortunate to learn almost every aspect of growing a business, and that doesn’t all fit into a resume. Let me suggest something. If you can outline one or two specific challenges your client is facing, I’ll show you — step by step — how I’d tackle them. And I’d be glad to walk your client through it.If I can’t show you how it would pay off, you shouldn’t recruit me.”

Some headhunters get that, if you take the time to try and explain it.

We routinely rag on headhunters here — but there are certainly some good ones out there. If you’ve worked with a good headhunter, tell us about the experience. How did you get their attention? Were you able to turn around an interview that was going nowhere?


Puppy-dog headhunters

Is the job market picking up? If headhunter activity is any measure (and I’m not sure it is), then maybe hiring activity is on the upswing…

A reader asks:

A recruiter I know (but have never met in person) called me about a position. I told him I was interested based on the description, reporting chain, location and salary range. After our conversation, he talked to his client about me. Before asking for my resume, the client asked him what my previous salary had been, which was about $30K more than this position’s upper limit.

Without asking me and without having received my permission previously, the recruiter divulged my salary, and the client would not proceed further based on the fact that I was “too expensive.”

Again, I knew the range of the position and had told the recruiter specifically that I was fine with that salary range. As far as I am concerned, the recruiter had no right whatsoever to divulge my salary, which I consider confidential.  I believe this was a breach of ethics.  What do you say?

This is very common. Once a headhunter gets your “permission” (translation: interest) regarding a position, he’s likely to discuss you in detail with his client, and any info you provided is fair game.

Remember that the headhunter’s fiduciary duty is to his client, not to you. That said, headhunters are dopes when they do what this one did. He could easily have told his client that he needed to confirm your salary history and call back with the information — and in the meantime discussed the position with you as well as how to handle your salary history with your permission. But this headhunter seems to be the client’s puppy — eager to please, loathe to take time to be a good advisor to his client. Puppy-dog headhunters are such pushovers that they do a disservice to their clients. You might have been an outstanding hire, but the client will never get a chance to find out. And that costs the headhunter, too.

He should have asked your permission before divulging your salary. But like most HR people, headhunters consider salary info no big deal. Worse, they quickly use it to decide whether a candidate is “a fit.”

And that’s stupid.

Next time, be explicit about what info you want kept confidential when you talk to a headhunter. So, yah, I think it’s an ethical breach, but it’s “industry standard” with too many headhunters.

If you want to know more about the in’s and out’s of dealing with headhunters, check out How to Work with Headhunters.


How to Say It: Can I dispense with the headhunter?

Discussion: December 15, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A a reader is worried that she can’t apply for a job on her own, at a company where a headhunter was not able to get her a job offer.

Her concern might be justified. (Please see my response in today’s newsletter — I don’t normally archive the newsletter, but today’s is online!) But regardless, no headhunter has a permanent claim on you. If he can’t get you an interview at a company after a reasonable effort and window of time, you should close the window. First, send him a written request: Does his client intend to interview you? If the answer is no, then send a certified notice by mail.

(The How to Say It below is reprinted from page 119 of How to Work with Headhunters.)

How to Say It (in writing): “Since you have not scheduled an interview with your client, I conclude that you have not been able to generate interest in me as a candidate. I therefore consider this matter closed. I hereby cancel any permission I may have granted you to present me to [company] or to any other company, effective immediately. Kindly confirm receipt of this notice.”

If you’d like to continue working with the headhunter, you might omit “or to any other company”—that’s up to you.

Got a better suggestion for How to Say It to help this reader “detach” from the headhunter? Have you ever dealt with a headhunter who continued trying to “represent” you when you did not want to be represented? What did you do about it?


LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 23

We’re at it again today, Thursday July 23, 10:40am ET, on WNYC public radio: LIVE Ask The Headhunter on the Brian Lehrer Show. Join us! (And save $10… )

****UPDATE: Here’s the audio of today’s event. (How’d it go? Listener rylee from manhattan said: “I love this segment, very helpful. If you could find more experts like this guy, it would provide a very enlightening discussion.” Thanks, rylee!)

WNYC is at 93.9 FM, 820 AM — and “streaming live” on the web at This is part of a weekly Ask The Headhunter Series during July…

This week’s topic: How to Work With Headhunters.

This is a call-in show — Bring your questions! The last two weeks, we got so many calls that we’ve decided to extend the Ask The Headhunter program with a LIVE online chat today…

****UPDATE: Man, did we get questions today…! I type at 120wpm and my fingers are toasted…. The chat transcript is here (click the “replay” button when you get there…) In the meantime, I’ll take more questions here on the blog for those whose questions didn’t get answered.

And for more about headhunters… check out How to Work With Headhunters — instant delivery via download (PDF format). Do they recruit you then ignore you? Do they frustrate you? Don’t know how to find a good one? Want to know what makes headhunters tick so you can leverage better job offers? Learn how to separate the job from the offer… Check out the intro, table of contents and sample sections here.

And for WNYC listeners… here’s a special discount code to save you $10 on the book: tenoffnync


How to work with headhunters… and save ten bucks

In my last post I asked whether you’ve ever squeezed more out of a headhunter… Did you ever successfully negotiate a higher job offer via a headhunter?

How to Work with Headhunters

Now I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this blog, on my web site, or in the Ask The Headhunter newsletter… I’m going to plug a new Ask The Headhunter product… and save you ten bucks because you read about it here first. I’ll give you a discount code in a minute… worth $10 off.

Everything on all the Ask The Headhunter “channels” has always been free (for over 12 years) — articles, blog posts, tweets, tips, newsletters. (Ah, no sweat — you’re welcome. Thank you for helping me keep it interesting!) I hope it’s kept you ahead of your competition. But it’s also kept me limited to short pieces.

So I decided to break the word-count meter and actually pack all I could into one big topic: How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you.

I’ve been working on this on and off for the past year. 130 pages might officially make it a book, but I call it a guide because it’s crammed with (subtitle please…) 62 myth-busting answers for fearless job hunters. (That’s you. Thanks for submitting all those in-your-face questions all these years and sometimes keeping me up at night.)

I filled it with almost everything I know about how you can work with, deal with and profit from headhunters. (I say almost because I’m sure that if you read it, you’ll come back here with questions that will make me realize there’s always something more I can teach you… So we’ll be covering more.) I also expose all those unsavory characters who call themselves headhunters but waste your time and make you feel worse than the HR machine does when it chews you up and spits you out… When you’re done reading, you’ll never waste a minute with them again.

What about how to squeeze a headhunter for a higher job offer? It’s in there. No one else has ever told you how to do it quite like this before… How to really qualify a headhunter? It’s in there. What kind of resume is best at making you the headhunter’s #1 candidate? It’s in there. A crib sheet? It’s in there. I had a blast writing every page.

Instant gratification? It’s in there — this is a PDF and you can download it instantly. But don’t expect some cheesy Word document. The design is lean and clean — more editors and experts combed over it than publishers ever assign to their authors. (I know because a big-time publisher put out my first book. This PDF looks better and packs more value!)

You can learn more about it and decide whether it’s for you by clicking the book cover above: Features, benefits, sample pages, the table of contents and so on.

About the ten bucks: If you’ve been following Ask The Headhunter all these years, you can get the edge first and get it for $10 less than the rest of the world by using this discount code when you order (I’ll leave the code active for a reasonable period of time).

Click here, then type in this discount code: tenoffblog

About those 62 questions I answer in the guide: I’m ready to answer more once you use those up.