This week's Q&A
How long does the headhunter control me?
Talk to Nick: For job
hunters, managers, HR.
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What is the standard for recruiter-submitted resumes? That is, if
a recruiter gives a company your resume, how long are you tied to that
recruiter concerning that company?
For several reasons, I recently lost what I consider to be a great opportunity with a small company,
A. I am now accepting another good position at another company, B, but not the one I really wanted.
In the situation with company A the recruiter was not very helpful and
virtually non-responsive when I had questions, which I am learning is not
unusual. I would like to approach company A again at a later date under my own representation.
(Perhaps that is not the best attitude to have going into a new
position, but my long-term career goal would be better served at
Can you please tell me how long this recruiter controls my resume
at company A, and at what point the company may consider me without the original recruiter's
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People get it into their heads that headhunters
have some sort of magical powers, or that they control companies and
jobs. It's not true. The headhunter may have no rights at all if you
contact company A on your own. A lot depends on what kind of
headhunter or recruiter you're dealing with.
To understand how to work effectively with headhunters, it's important to know the differences between retained
and contingency headhunters, employment agencies, job shops and career
management firms. Also relevant are the kinds of contracts employers
and headhunters use. Perhaps most important in this case is knowing
how employers routinely deal with headhunters. It's not complicated,
but if you don't know how
employers manage headhunters you'll never be able to manage them
yourself. I cover all these issues and more (including how to find
headhunters and how to leverage them to negotiate the best salary
offers) in How
to Work with Headhunters... and how to make headhunters work for you.)
How long company A would respect the recruiter's
involvement depends on a few things.
Did the recruiter send you to an interview
with the company? If no interview took place, I think you
could reapply at any time without a conflict, though I'd probably
wait a few months to avoid irritating the headhunter. If you had
an interview, it depends on the company's policy and on the
contract it has with the recruiter—if there is one at all.
Did the headhunter give the company your
resume? Companies usually rely on an actual interview as proof
of the recruiter's referral. If the headhunter submitted your
resume but there's no interview, the headhunter probably has no
claim to you. However, if the personnel office read and tagged
your resume REJECT, and you then reapply on your own, the initial
rejection may be invoked and you're toast.
I don't think it's ethical to go around a
headhunter who told you about a job to begin with. But if that
headhunter was not able to get you in the door for an interview, then
he probably has no claim on you. You could approach the company anew
on your own.
But if there was an interview and you were not
hired, here's what I'd do to test the waters. Have a friend call the
company's personnel manager to find out what the policy about headhunters is.
Here's How to Say It:
"I'd like to ask about your headhunter policy, but I'd
rather not disclose my name. If I interviewed with you through
a recruiter at one time [don't say when—the less info the
better], and then I came back to apply for a job myself, would
you consider me without the recruiter's involvement? What are
your rules about that?"
Don't make this call yourself. There is no
telling how the personnel manager might react, and you don't want this
to backfire. (I see nothing inappropriate or unethical about someone
calling a company to ask about its policy.)
Where confusion might arise is if the headhunter
(or recruiter) you encountered works for a "job shop" or
"consulting firm." These businesses will recruit and hire you, put you on their own payroll, and assign you to do work at
their clients' offices. If a job shop sent you on an interview with
its client (company A), then the situation is more complex. There is undoubtedly a
contract in place that protects the recruiter from company A "poaching" you without a fee, after the recruiter made the
initial introduction. And that's as it should be. The contract
probably locks you out of company A for one or more years, unless the
recruiter is involved. (There's an entire section in the
aforementioned book about job shops and how to protect your options
when working with them. There's also a section that answers the
question, Can I fire the headhunter?)
The best way to settle this might be
to notify the headhunter that you consider his involvement with you terminated.
(While this is a powerful move, it might end your relationship
completely.) There's a special How to Say It section in How
to Work with Headhunters about how to handle this effectively. I'm reprinting
it in the How to Say It
sidebar at right—I hope you find it useful.
Know what you're doing when you work with
headhunters. A good headhunter can boost you into the next phase of
your career. An inexperienced headhunter might frustrate you by being
unresponsive, and your misunderstanding of his role could cost you a
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How to Say It
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 the
main column.) 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. (The tip 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
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? Please
over to the Blog and share it!
Brazen Plug: There are over two dozen How
to Say It call-outs
in the new book How to Work With Headhunters! Order
Don't know How to Say It? Send
me your quandary and we'll try to tackle it! (Please don't confuse this
feature with Q&A topics, which are about advice. This is about how to say
A reader asks: I am a mission-driven person (and a turn-around expert) who shares a fair number of beliefs from the Lockheed
Martin Skunk Works style of business and project management. Even today, this is still an "out of the box" style of management and is not exactly listed in job postings as a qualification. Companies don't seem to express it to recruiters or
discuss it on their websites. I rarely find this style among people or businesses. But when I team up with them it is true business magic. How do I find these kinds of companies and people?
Whew! Why do out-of-the-box thinkers keep showing up
here? Hmmm. We're all weird on Ask The Headhunter and no one knows what to
do with us. One thing left to do: Take over.
How can this reader find other innovators who crave autonomy and
avoid bureaucracy... And hopefully a company that tolerates (and hires) them?
Help us break the bureaucracy. Help
weirdoes get hired on The Blog!
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Send it here.
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