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Search Firms: Do’s & Don’ts for Job Seekers

Search Firms: Do's and Don'tsIf you’re a strong candidate for a hard-to-fill, technical or highly paid opening, you could land your next job through a search firm recruiter. But it’s important to know how to work with them.

The #1 point to remember about search firms is that they work for employers, not for you. That’s not necessarily bad news (see the first “Don’t” on the list).

Don’t:

  • Don’t pay a recruiter. Recruiters are paid by employers.
  • Because they’re working for employers, don’t expect recruiters to go out of their way to find a job for you.
  • Don’t focus on search firms if you’re changing careers or are not an obvious fit for the job you’re seeking. If this is you, you’re most likely to find a job through networking.
  • Don’t take it personally if recruiters don’t get back to you. They are usually extremely busy, overworked and inundated with candidates. They don’t have time to return everyone’s messages.
  • Don’t expect advice on your resume or job search (but if they do offer it, listen carefully!).
  • Don’t expect unbiased “inside” information about the companies they represent. Do your own research.
  • Don’t phone them except by request. Unsolicited phone calls are a pet peeve of recruiters.

Do:

  • Through LinkedIn and word of mouth, identify several recruiters who specialize in your field and reach out via LinkedIn, asking them to connect and whether they’d be interested in a conversation. After the conversation, build relationship by occasionally emailing them with very brief updates on your availability and career (new skills, etc.). Keep an eye open for opportunities to connect them with excellent candidates for the other roles they’re working on.
  • If you’re in open job search (not currently employed, or your employer knows you’re looking), it may also be helpful to broadcast your resume to a list of recruiters, perhaps via an online service like CustomDatabanks.com.
  • Continue job searching through other means, especially through networking your way into companies you’re interested in.
  • Ask recruiters to check with you before sharing your resume with an employer. Why? Because if they send a resume to a company you’ve already approached on your own, awkward fee issues result that can cause the employer to simply drop you from consideration.
  • For most job seekers, using search firms should not be the main strategy, but it can be a valuable part of an overall campaign.

This article was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated in 2022.

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