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Should I pay a recruiter to find me a job? Not if you are an executive!

The answer to “Should I pay a recruiter to find me a job?” is a simple one.  No.

Recruiters are known as headhunters for a reason.  They hunt heads.  While there are investments that can be made in your career, paying a recruiter to find you a job should not be one of them.

The hiring organization pays the headhunter.  The fee level will vary considerably based on the nature of the service provided.  A retained executive search fee is typically calculated based on the total compensation of the successful candidate – 33% is not unusual.  Contingency recruitment fees are often half of that – but, unlike with retained executive search, the recruiter is only paid if a placement is successfully achieved.  A recruiter working on a contingency basis may not even be operating on an exclusive basis.

So, how can you invest in your career?

While you should not pay a headhunter to get you a job, there are a variety of valuable services that will help with your executive job search. These include everything from executive outplacement, through LinkedIn optimization to executive resume writing services. However, to evaluate the value of any of these options, you must first understand how executive jobs are filled.

How do executives get hired?

Senior-level recruitment is very different from the process that an executive may have gone through earlier in her career. There are a limited number of positions at the top of any organization, and it would be highly unusual for a company to create a role just to hire you.  That can happen in more junior roles – particularly in sales  – but it’s almost unheard of in the C-Suite and other leadership positions.  What this means is that a company will only hire you if it has a specific opportunity that needs filling.

There’s an old saying – executive positions are not advertised on executive job boards. That’s fundamentally true. However, there clearly are many exceptions, some organizations have an in-house executive search team, but generally speaking search firms are brought in to the find the best candidate. This search firm will be responsible for filling the position. This means that you need to be known to that firm – or they need to find you. If you are the best candidate, then it is the job of the recruiter to hunt you down.

So, to go back to our question – why would you pay a headhunter? An ethical recruiter responsible for completing a search would not be willing to take your money – it would be a conflict of interest. Paying a third-party recruiter will not change the core challenge you face – to be selected, you need to be known, or you need to be found.

Should an executive pay a headhunter?

To reiterate – No.

If you are the right candidate then it’s the job of the recruiter to find you, and one she will be rewarded handsomely for if she succeeds. If you aren’t the right candidate, she won’t put you forward to the client anyway!

That’s not to say, however, that it’s not appropriate to make an investment in your career.

As an executive what you do need to do is increase your visibility among executive recruiters. That’s key. It can be done for free, but there are also ways to boost your chances.

How to be found by executive search firms – quickly

The first thing you should look to do is share your resume on GatedTalent. It’s free.

GatedTalent is a candidate pool which is integrated with the executive search databases of countless global executive search firms. Essentially, by sharing your CV / Resume with GatedTalent, you are adding your profile to the little black book of an awful lot of executive search firms – in just seconds.

If you do wish to increase your visibility further, consider promoting your resume on GT – this will put your details at the top of candidate search results when you are relevant to the search the recruiter is doing. This will cost little more than a dollar a day and seems an obvious investment.

A more significant investment to consider might be optimizing your LinkedIn profile, having your resume professionally written or speaking to a coach.

GatedTalent works with career coaches and mentors. They argue that an executive launching a career search should consider their career documentation in terms of a business investment:

“How important is it to have strategic marketing collateral in place when launching a new product or service for your company? When conducting an executive job search and targeting $200K+ opportunities, you are essentially trying to make a major sale that will always require top career marketing materials. An executive recruiter will initially spend as little as 10 seconds “scanning” your resume and you will want to make sure they “bite” in that time.”

If you believe that superior documentation will have an impact on your ability to find your next role more quickly, then you can quantify the upside. It becomes a simple ROI decision.

“Competing with subpar documents will jeopardize and impact your chances of getting found online and generating interviews. In other words, non-optimized career materials will prolong your job search time. Let’s say you are an executive with a $200K base salary which equals a daily income of $548. This means, that while in transition, you are losing $548 every day or $3,835 weekly.

Now let’s assume you invested between $2,000 and $2,500 in having branded career materials created for you and those career materials empowered you to shorten your job search by just one week. By taking just one week off your job search time, you already had a wonderful ROI. And it is quite likely that top-notch career materials will slash your job search time more than just a week.

Now think about your ROI if your optimized career materials enable you to take off not just weeks but several months of your job search time.”

Our coaches use the example of an executive who is between roles, but the same logic works for an executive looking to make a change while employed – the ROI is based on the increase in salary associated with a successful job change.

In an executive outplacement service the way to go?

There are services designed to help support an executive job search. Executive outplacement services do exactly this – they will work with you and provide career support, career documentation reviews and so on. These services are expensive, however, and are typically paid for by the former employer of an executive – often as part of a negotiated settlement agreement.

For an individual executive seeking to move into a new role without having to cover the cost of executive outplacement services, however, that are a whole host of steps you can take for a significantly smaller fee – or for free.

So, how can you invest in your career?

Firstly, ensure that your LinkedIn profile is optimized around the types of positions that you are hoping to be considered for. You can do this yourself, or it will cost from $470 for a qualified LinkedIn profile writer to do it for you.

Preparing to meet the interview questions with confidence is also key to success. While there is no set list of executive interview questions to follow, it is important to learn how to hone your answers and spotlight your skills and qualifications.

Our executive interview coaching services can help you – whether you are in urgent need to practice or you are looking for a bespoke program.

Your offline executive career documentation

Your LinkedIn profile will help increase your visibility. You’ll also need to put together other documentation to support you as you go through the executive search process. Executive search consultant John Jazylo of Leadership Capital Group makes the critical point that all of your documents should be in synergy – your executive resume, biography and covering letter, along with your LinkedIn profile should all be “on message” and in line with your executive brand.

While it may not be appropriate to pay a recruiter to find you a job, and a full outplacement service may be beyond your budget, having an expert produce career documentation that is fit for purpose is something worth investing in.

I’ve touched on the importance of optimizing your LinkedIn profile up to date, but it’s also important to consider your offline documents.

Natalie Hodencq NCRW is GatedTalent’s Nationally Certified Resume Writer and holds her qualification from the NRWA, the only non-profit trade association for career services professionals. If you are looking to have your resume and other offline documentation refreshed, she’s well worth speaking to.

If you are looking to have your both online and offline documentation updated, then GatedTalent can offer a combined service that brings together Natalie’s expertise with the written word and our Nationally Certified Online Profile Expert (NCOPE) expertise with the LinkedIn and GatedTalent algorithms. Contact us to learn more!

Support through the process

It can take a year for an executive to complete a career change successfully. Indeed- it can take ninety days from the point you are contacted by a recruiter on a specific search before you are finally placed.

As you go through the process, you’ll find a host of advice from executive recruiters in our executive career advice blogs (be sure to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to ensure you don’t miss anything!) and through our live Premium Member webinars which regularly feature detailed content and live Q+A sessions from leading recruiters, career coaches and senior executives.

Next steps: Share your resume with recruiters globally via a GatedTalent profile today!


Don't pay a recruiter to find you a job
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