Article: Tips for using a headhunter (Source: Yale)

Tips for using a headhunter

Choosing to use a professional recruiter, or headhunter, in your job search is an individual decision and has become more and more common, particularly during a strong economy.  During an economic down cycle, attorneys should be more cautious when soliciting the help of a headhunter. When you are hired through a headhunter you come with a fee for the firm, one which firms may be less willing to pay during difficult economic times. 

With that being said, professional recruiters do maintain a vast network of contacts and may save the firm time in their job searching process; however using a recruiter is one resource in an effective job search. Be cautious to not rely too heavily on this one avenue at the risk of ignoring other successful job search strategies, such as networking.

In most cases recruiters are used by larger law firms and corporations to find candidates who closely match the required qualifications and experience for a position. Depending on the arrangement with the firm the engagement may be contingent or exclusive. In a contingent engagement, the recruiter is one of several being used to locate talent for this position. In an exclusive engagement, the recruiter is the only one being used by the employer. In both cases it is the usually the employer, not the candidate, who pays the fee.

Developing the Talent Pool for a Position

Recruiters build their pool of candidates, or talent, in two ways: (i) by contacting candidates identified through research or referrals through unsolicited “cold calling”; or (ii) the candidate seeking a new position contacts the recruiter directly.

Even if you are not actively seeking a new position, your situation may change in the future and you may then want to use a recruiter. It is a benefit to have a short conversation with recruiters who “cold call” now and keep notes of these talks, including the recruiter’s name, recruiting firm and type of opportunity. This way, you will develop a list of recruiters for your future reference. You can then add to that list with referrals from attorney friends and colleagues.

After an initial contact, most recruiters will arrange an in person meeting before presenting a candidate to an employer. As a candidate, you should try to meet the recruiter in person before authorizing him or her to submit your materials to an employer. Use the meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the recruiter and the position.

You can also ask to meet with a recruiter as part of your general job search, rather than in response to a specific position. Use that meeting to learn about the employer relationships he or she has and the strategy the recruiter suggests for you in your job search. In that meeting you should talk with the recruiter, and agree upon, which employers he or she can send your materials. If you are meeting in regards to a particular position, try to get a sense about the recruiter’s relationship with that employer as well as more details about the position.

Depending on the particular job search, candidates may work with more than one recruiter. If you work with multiple recruiters, keep detailed records of which recruiter you authorized to submit your materials to which employer and on what date.  These meticulous records will help avoid your resume being submitted multiple times to the same employer. In general, once a recruiter sends your resume to an employer, your candidacy is linked to that recruiter for between six months and one year.

Managing Your Job Search

Although you have engaged a recruiter to assist with your search, it is vital that you remain in control of the search. It is important to be clear with the recruiter about his or her authority and to work together to craft a search strategy. Discussing a strategy ahead of time will prevent his or her sending your materials to an employer without your express consent.  As a general rule, your materials should be sent to no more than 15-20 employers at one time. Further, your materials should be sent by a recruiter in response to an active search, rather than sent to an employer that might be a good fit but does not have a current opening.


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