What To Do When The Headhunter Calls - Part I in a series of articles on TPF recruiting
by Dianne Edmondson

Unless you've been working third-shift Coverage in Outer Mongolia, you've undoubtedly heard from a TPF recruiter -- otherwise known as a "Headhunter"! Most TPF shops are regularly phoned by headhunter after headhunter, each dangling a dazzling, enticing "perfect" job. Sooner or later, everyone wants to at least sniff around the job market. And when that time comes, if you already have a good recruiter in mind, you're ahead of the game. This confusing array of promises, promoters and personalities can seem overwhelming. But there are ways to wade through this maze and be surf that you, the potential job candidate, are well represented in your job search. How can you be sure that when the headhunter calls you will say and do the right thing? In this series of articles, we'll deal with several common questions concerning the process of exploring new career opportunities.

Why should I use a recruiter?
Some people believe they can do as well on their own in conducting a job search. In fact, a few people even believe that they can get a higher salary if they go directly into a company rather than use a recruiter to represent them. That's really not true however, since most firms pay fees from a different budget, such as advertising, rather than from the compensation account. Also, most companies have set salary ranges based upon experience, so no matter how you are presented to the company, your salary won't be affected. A good recruiter can really make the job-seeking experience much more profitable and pleasant for you. To begin with, the recruiter will explore several options with you rather than trying to force your interest in only one direction, thus exposing you to several alternatives from which you can choose.

Once those priorities have been established, your recruiter becomes invaluable in submitting your resume through the appropriate channels, and even more importantly, to follow up on the resume to insure that's it's reviewed and considered. (With many larger companies, this navigating the whitewater of corporate departments, headcounts and personalities is practically a full-time job in itself, and a task not advisedly taken on by someone otherwise employed!) So unless you're prepared to spend many hours tracking down your resume and its progress, arranging and perhaps rearranging interviews, following up on the interviews and prodding for decisions, you'd better utilize the skills of a professional who knows how to make things happen without alienating your potential employer towards you!

Salary negotiation can be quite tricky: getting a company's best offer without turning them off to a candidate is sometimes a tightwire act. Actually, many people have found that the salary negotiations are difficult to Personally handle, since it's a bit awkward to "toot your own horn", and most individual candidates have no way of knowing whether or not their salary requests are in line with the company's guidelines. A competent recruiter will know the client, and should be able to advise you in this area, as well as effectively negotiate salary, start date, extra benefits, etc.. And with this third-party "buffer" between you and the company, there should be no hard feelings towards you -- the new employee -- to deal with, even after a tough negotiating session. (This is one reason professional athletes and entertainers use agents rather than trying to represent themselves.)

But why should I even talk to a recruiter if I'm not interested right now? Sooner or later, everyone wants to at least sniff around the job market. And when that time comes, if you already have a good recruiter in mind, you're ahead of the game. Talking with the headhunter even if you aren't the least bit interested in making a move right now, is probably a really smart career move, IF (and it's a big IF) you follow a few guidelines, and ask a few questions. Lots of new people are scratching to get a piece of the TPF recruiting pie, and working with an inexperienced, (or worse) an unethical recruiter can be a traumatic experience for a job seeker.

So, let the recruiter know you're not interested just now, but ask a few questions to determine if he or she is someone you'd feel comfortable with later on. Always ask for a card that you can keep for future reference. If you aren't interested in the particular openings the recruiter has, and he or she asks you for the names of other people who might be qualified, consider referring people. If it's more comfortable for you to check with the individuals first, that's fine. You could be doing someone a big favor by putting him or her in touch with a reputable recruiter who represents good clients.