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When to hire a headhunter

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At a glance

  • A job recruiter can provide valuable support and guidance during a job search, helping people of all skill levels identify employment opportunities in their desired field.
  • To make the most of your experience with a headhunter, establish clear career objectives and goals. This empowers them to better assist you.
  • Job recruiters can assist in developing your resumé and preparing you for a successful job search through mock interviews and insight on the current job market in your field.
  • Take charge of your job search with University of Phoenix’s free, downloadable career resources, including resumé templates, cover letter examples, career guides and more!

What do headhunters, also known as job recruiters, do? They connect businesses to top talent just as much as they provide job seekers with guidance during each stage of the job hunt.

Finding a job can sometimes feel like a job in itself. It’s easy to get discouraged after submitting countless applications and scanning multiple job boards. Job recruiters can provide valuable support during the job search process, helping people of all skill levels find their next job, especially when they are having trouble finding opportunities on their own.

Hiring a job recruiter is one of the best ways to expand your job search and identify new career opportunities. While it’s not always necessary, using a recruiter may accelerate your pursuit of a new career or position.

Consider a few factors — including a job recruiter’s fees, network size and area of expertise — before deciding whether this is the right move for you.

Elevate your job search with our free resources and tools. 


What do recruiters do?

Job recruiters can help qualified candidates improve their resumés, prepare for interviews and even identify employment opportunities that might not be visible online. They usually work for a staffing agency or internally with a company’s human resources department.

Job recruiters usually have a screening process when partnering with a new client. They will ask about your job history, skills and career aspirations, all to get a better understanding of your strengths. After the initial screening, they begin pairing you with positions in the workforce where they feel you might be a good fit.

Headhunters commonly work in one of two situations. If they are employed by a larger organization, they will likely work on-site with a company to help them address gaps in their internal team. If they work for independent recruiting agencies, they partner with individual clients or entire companies to fill positions.

Advances in technology allow many of these professionals to work from home. With a strong internet connection and the necessary communication tools, some of them can perform their tasks remotely. However, some companies require job recruiters to work on-site.

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What are the benefits of hiring a recruiter to find a job?

Under certain circumstances, hiring a recruiter can provide benefits to job-hunting candidates. Whether you’re looking to change careers or find a job with a specific company, headhunters can provide valuable assistance, information and encouragement.

Here are some of the benefits recruiters offer:

  • Contact with an expanded network of employers in your field
  • Help building a resumé and cover letter
  • Help tailoring that resumé and cover letter for individual employers
  • Hours of saved time searching job boards, submitting applications and corresponding with hiring managers
  • Access to positions that aren’t posted on public, online job boards
  • Interview preparation services
  • Valuable insights about the state of the current job market

A helpful recruiter serves as an advocate during your job hunt, simplifying the hiring process and improving your application’s visibility to potential employers.

Who should consider reaching out to a recruiter?

Recruiters can be just as helpful to job seekers as they are to companies looking to fill job openings. If you’re considering hiring a recruiter, several factors can make you a more attractive candidate, including your skills, market and current employer.

Candidates seeking executive or managerial roles

After helping you find a job, many headhunters are paid a percentage of your starting salary for an agreed-upon length of time. This means that while they can help almost anyone find a career, they often prefer to work with candidates seeking higher-level roles that command higher salaries.

Some also prefer to work with experienced candidates because of their familiarity with a specific market. For example, a healthcare recruiter might look for healthcare employees seeking executive-level positions since they are already familiar with the companies, industry challenges and experience required for certain roles.

Candidates with very specialized skills

Candidates with specialized skills are also attractive to job recruiters seeking clients. Your skills in a particular field will make you appear more valuable to your future company, which often makes it easier for recruiters to find you an employer. Differentiating skills can make a headhunter’s work much easier.

Recruiters also prefer candidates with specific credentials. For example, people with a master’s degree typically have a strong work ethic, developed skills and several years of experience in their field. Candidates with a doctoral degree are often even more qualified.

Recruiters typically look for candidates with a good combination of skill and experience. For example, candidates with a bachelor’s degree who also have career-relevant job skills like SEO and digital marketing are often attractive clients for a job recruiter.

Candidates in fields with talent shortages

Other candidates are particularly appealing to job recruiters because of the industry they work in. If your industry is experiencing a labor shortage, in which the demand for workers is greater than the supply, a recruiter will typically want to work with you.

Labor shortages currently affect several major markets, including healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing. Industries like retail, finance and professional services are also struggling to fill openings. While labor shortages create real problems for companies, they create opportunities for job candidates. Job recruiters can help candidates in fields with talent shortages to find open positions right for them.

Candidates in search of consultant or contractor roles

Some job recruiters are trained to partner with candidates seeking consulting or contract roles, including part-time work and opportunities with companies in specialized fields.

Recruiters who specialize in this job market may share many of the same traits with recruiters who collaborate with full-time candidates, but they may also have a different working knowledge of the job market. Their network, skills and entire process focus on helping candidates who operate within the niche consultant or contractor market.

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Candidates currently working for top companies

A candidate currently employed at a top company might also benefit from hiring a recruiter. These employees often find work more easily given their strong resumés. Candidates at top companies also tend to have an in-depth understanding of their market. They can clearly explain to a recruiter why they’re choosing to transition to a new role and what that role could look like.

Top-performing companies vary across different markets. While top organizations in the technology world are easily identifiable, the best companies in other fields might not be so recognizable. Experienced job recruiters know the top-performing companies in your market, even if you work in a niche field with less attention.

Who should think twice before hiring a recruiter?

Some candidates, such as those looking for entry-level positions or entering a new career field, might not benefit from hiring a recruiter.

Candidates looking for entry-level positions

A candidate seeking an entry-level position might not see the best results from hiring a recruiter. Typically, recruiters want to work with candidates who are at least looking for a second-level job in a field. For example, they might partner with a candidate looking to transition out of a basic role and into a management position.

While entry-level positions often create exciting opportunities for a candidate, they don’t always create the right partnership opportunities for a recruiter. Since many headhunters earn a percentage of your salary after hire, they tend to look for candidates targeting higher incomes.

However, some recruiters specifically work to fill entry-level positions. If they do not reach out to you over networking job sites, job seekers may have to seek out the staffing agencies on their own and apply on the agency website.

Tips for working with recruiters

Working with a job recruiter can be a stress-reducing experience, one that often results in an exciting new position. Here are a few tips to make the most of your partnership:

  • Establish clear career goals: Make sure your recruiter understands the roles and responsibilities you’re looking for.
  • Update your resumé and curriculum vitae (CV): Make sure to add relevant skills, job history, education, and all certificates and licenses you’ve earned to your resumé and CV.
  • Apply for one position at a time: Some recruiters consider it a “spammy” activity to send out multiple applications before you receive the results of your first application.
  • Prepare for your interview: Ask your recruiter to review interview tips and best practices with you. If time permits, participate in a mock interview to better prepare for the real thing.
  • Practice honesty: Keep your resumé, CV and interview responses honest and transparent to avoid misrepresenting yourself during your job search.
  • Be responsive: Respond proactively to correspondence from your recruiter, or from potential employers, to help move the job hunt along.

It’s also important to stay patient with your recruiter as they work to find you the career opportunity you deserve. Even if the process takes longer than you expect, the end result may well be w


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