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Posting your resume on various websites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and LinkedIn allows your information to be available for recruiters to find it. Back in the day when “head hunters” were used often in retained job searches, having your resume readily available helped expand your reach and also let recruiters find you.

These days, things have changed a bit.

Head hunters are essentially recruiters through an agency. They tend to recruit for positions at various different companies and are paid only when they place an employee in a position (their pay is usually a percentage of the person’s new salary, or a pre-set fee).

With the economy being the way it is and the pool of qualified talent being bigger than the demand, the rate at which companies are relying on head hunters has been reduced drastically. So then, in turn, having your resume “available” to head hunters’ resume mining efforts, is not as critical.

Rule of thumb: Unless you are applying for, and qualified for, positions at the director level and above, your chances of obtaining a new position through “cold” head hunter requests are slim to none.

How do you know that a “head hunter” is contacting you?

Most likely they will reach out to you via phone with a lead coming out of left-field. They will tell you a position title or department description, but will not tell you the company’s name or specific information. They are usually upbeat, very excited to be speaking with you, and interested in getting you vetted and moved into a “yes” or “no” pile. At the end of the day, head hunters are essentially salespeople trying to sell a candidate (maybe you) to the company they are searching for.

Is it worth having an interview?

YES – I am so tired of getting this question. You never know what position they are hiring for, or what they may be hiring for in the future. Not to mention that every interview is good practice. You should absolutely accept the phone interview, and do your best. If it’s not a good fit after the fact, so be it.

How do you interview without company information?

Typically when you are interviewing, you have applied for the position and are interested in working at the company or doing the work that they’ve posted as available. Both of these factors tend to be vague at best, missing at worst, when you have your first interview/conversation with a head hunter.

Your approach to the interview needs to be different. And here’s what you need to know:

They are only interested in hearing what you can deliver.

While they may be doing some culture-fit questioning, their main goal is to get a full-understanding of your background, experience, and skill-set. They want to know if you meet the minimum requirements for the position they are searching for.

Your job is to showcase yourself as much as possible. Think and act in terms of STAR – briefly describe situations/tasks that you have done, the actions you have taken, and the results that your actions had. The more specific, the better in this case – they don’t want to know the nitty gritty, they want to know the extent of knowledge you have within specific skills.

Don’t take it personally.

Cold recruiting is a numbers game. They are finding YOU – not the other way around. So you most likely are not going to be a match for the position they are trying to fill. Your resume is the only knowledge they have, and they may have found you by doing a search on one specific term. To them, it’s worth the effort to reach out and have a conversation in case you do match the specifics, but they usually aren’t so lucky. So don’t take it personally if they don’t feel their position is a good fit for you.

They may not have a specific position in mind.

For larger, retained corporate searches, the recruiter may be looking to fill a bench of talent. In other words, there may not be a specific position available at the moment, but they know that marketing positions tend to come up every two months – so they want to have qualified candidates “ready to go” in case a position becomes open.

Do not cross the head hunter.

For example, if the recruiter tells you the name of the company and you go online and apply through the company’s site directly, you have officially crossed the head hunter. I don’t recommend this approach – at all. Although I will be the first to admit I *may* have done this a few times in my career.

That being said, nothing good can come out of the situation. The only times that I would recommend reaching out to the company directly is a) if the recruiter has become completely unresponsive and you think you are an awesome fit for the position; or b) you know someone within the hiring team.

Other than that, let the head hunter manage the process and present you through the proper channels.

There are some awesome head hunters out there.

While you may encounter an overly aggressive or extremely rude head hunter, the majority of them are very, very good at their jobs. It’s a tough industry, so to be successful at it – they have to know how to pair up personalities, companies, and skill sets with precision. If you have a bad experience with one, don’t rule out head hunters forever – just move on to the next one.

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