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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Formula for Finding the Right Headhunter: Trust and Clout = Trout!

When you start fishing the waters for recruiters, focus on a good "trout" stream because Trust and Clout are two determinants of a winning catch.

Let's first consider trust.

Do you sense that you can trust a particular recruiter? Do his or her client companies trust him or her? The more you can answer these questions regarding a potential "career partner," the better. On a personal level, the gut speaks volumes that the mind can't always absorb, so you may just need to go with it. Client trust, however, may be more difficult to determine given that many headhunters will not necessarily divulge their client's identity until absolutely necessary. But here is the very nature of the beast reticence to reveal the names of clients they service may reveal something about the strength of foothold established with those clients an indicator of the level of trust and clout in those relationships.

Don't blame a recruiter for not spilling proprietary-information (client list) when first meeting you. After it has been determined that the two of you might be a good working match, the client list should not be an issue. Some headhunters, as in any service industry, might even have letters on file from satisfied clients or candidates. It's not a must, but it might be an avenue to explore in determining a recruiter's muster.

Another simple way to assess the trust factor -- turn an oft-used interview question back on the recruiter: "What would your candidates say about you as a recruiter? What would your clients say?" Initially, the headhunter might be thrown off to be interviewed by a candidate. But, whatever the outcome, you win. Either 1) the recruiter is caught off-guard and reveals a power-trip mentality that says "I am in charge, not you" or 2) the recruiter reveals an interesting perspective of himself or herself that you can process through your own BS detector or 3) your chutzpah and professional savvy in asking makes an incredible impression, upping the recruiter's desire to work with you. As I said, whatever the outcome . . . you win.

A word about trust, it's a two-way street. Don't expect a headhunter to let her hair down and begin revealing more than the usual cryptic information unless and until you are willing to do the same. The successful recruiter/candidate relationship is founded on the same principles as all human relationships mutual trust, mutual respect. If you view a new recruiter through past-tainted glasses, know that what you see will be tainted. Best to always be the one to demonstrate trust by sticking your neck out first. This gesture opens the gate for reciprocity.

What are some recognizable elements of trust? Basic openness, honesty, and authenticity -- letting your guard down to let someone really get to know you . . . where you've been, where you want to go.

When considering the trust dimension, it is important for you to know a recruiter's basic fear about disclosing client information. It's that the candidate will go around the recruiter, doing an end-run straight to the company. I'm sure those reading this article have more integrity than that. But to understand the motivations and mindset of a headhunter, know this: "Going around" means that the candidate takes the information gained from an initial conversation with a recruiter and uses it to contact the hiring company, thus bypassing the company's obligation to pay the recruiter's fee. As low-down as it seems, it does happen, and the fear has been genetically ingrained in headhunters, whether or not they've actually experienced it. You see, recruiters are in the information-brokerage business; they broker the information they gather on clients and candidates to make a living. If a client or candidate utilizes information gained from a recruiter to either hire an employee or get a job, unquestionably that recruiter is entitled to compensation.

If, on an initial call, you've ever asked a headhunter "What's the name of the company?" and you've heard him hem and haw, now you know why. Certainly you have never entertained the thought of using such information unethically but, on the first call, a recruiter doesn't know you from Adam. Over time, as in any budding relationship, when the candidate and recruiter learn more about one another, more is revealed. So don't be offended if you can't find out everything up-front - understand the headhunter's situation. In time, however, if an open and relaxed relationship between recruiter and candidate has not begun to coalesce, you may wish to reassess your choice of recruiters.

Now let's take a look at clout.

The Price Upon Their Heads
The question arises in venturing out:
What bounty to place on a headhunter's clout?
To choose a pro player, not loser or lout,
The highest, the Highest, the HIGHEST no doubt.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines clout as "pull" or "influence" and it is another vital ingredient in your total recruiter evaluation picture. One way to determine it is by asking outright "What is the range of fees you charge client companies?" Again, it may well elicit surprise -- a candidate turning the interview tables, but the reaction will be revealing. A headhunter who is highly respected by clients is well paid. She may not want to reveal this information, claiming that it is proprietary in nature. Don't let this failure to respond be an immediate turn-off; your relationship may not yet be at that level of openness. Then again, it may mean that this firm is a “bargain shop,” a cut-rate recruiting house that undermines the professionalism of the entire industry by charging fees far below average. If you were proud of your services, don't you think you should enjoy the privilege of charging prevailing rates?

by Darrell W. Gurney, CPC, JCTC, RScP

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