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By Judith Aquino

It’s no secret that working with a headhunter or recruiter can be an effective way to advance your career.

Headhunters often have access to jobs that are not advertised elsewhere and can speed up the hiring process between an employer and potential candidate.

The trick, however, is understanding how a headhunter operates.

“As a career management coach, it is always surprising to me that even senior level job seekers often don’t know that ‘headhunters’ work for the companies, not the candidates,” says Bettina Seidman of SEIDBET Associates.

“Clients sometimes say: ‘I’ll just contact a headhunter who will get me a job.’ Headhunters aren’t career counselors…they’re motivated by earning the commission.”

To find out how to increase your chances of landing a job through a headhunter, we spoke with several executive recruiters and career coaches to get the low-down on the errors job seekers make.

Holding back information can make you look sneaky

It’s important to be as honest as possible with your recruiter about your career, preferences and anything else that could affect your job search.

“Job seekers sometimes fail to tell their recruiter when their company, position, or compensation preferences change. Second, job seekers hurt themselves by not telling recruiters about personal obligations and other things that might interfere with their job searches,” says Katy Keogh, of the staffing firm Winter, Wyman.

“Bring these things up at the last minute, and they can be a deal-breaker. Why? Changing the game at the last second with a hiring company makes you look sneaky or complicated for no reason at all.”

Providing a vague description of your accomplishments makes it harder for a headhunter to place you

“Leave out the jargon,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career coach and co-founder of SixFigureStart. “Show specific and measurable results.”

“Don’t make me as the listener/recruiter/prospective employer have to translate what you’re saying into how it will benefit me or fill my needs. Talk to me in terms of my needs and what you will do for me.”

Don’t assume that a headhunter will do all the work for you

Jennifer Lenkowsky, a managing partner of The Corporate Ladder, sees it all the time. “The biggest misconception a job seeker makes is that they assume because a headhunter agrees to meet them, that headhunter will find them a job,” she says.

“And then, they (job seekers) tend to put all of their eggs in a headhunter’s basket. Unfortunately if the companies that we work with don’t pick up on your resume, it’s out of our hands.”

“A headhunter’s job is to find the right candidate for the client (company) who hired the recruitment services – not to find a job to every single job seeker who contacts the recruiting firm,” adds Laurent Guerrier, CEO of the staffing firm, Luxe Avenue.

Not tailoring your resume to a specific job tells a recruiter that you are either lazy or the wrong candidate for the position

“Whether you’re using a headhunter or applying directly through a company’s website, gear your resume towards the position,” says Lenkowsky.

“There is nothing wrong with having different versions of your resume as long as everything you list is truthful. If you are applying for a position that requires event planning experience, then be sure to include all information that’s relatable.”

“A job summary should consist of 4-5 sentences on what you can bring to the table,” adds Terri Lee Ryan, a career coach.

Don’t waste time by applying for jobs that you are not qualified for

Be realistic about the jobs that you apply for, say recruiters.

“Don’t apply for jobs that you want or think you can get (when you know you can’t) … rather apply for jobs that you are qualified for,” says Lenkowsky.

“For example, I was recently recruiting for a position as the Executive Assistant to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. The salary was listed at $150-200K and asked for candidates will similar experience to apply. Many of the responses were from people who just graduated, had never been an assistant, or were overqualified but unemployed. This is just wasting the job seekers time as well as the headhunter/hiring manager’s time,” she says.

A poor online reputation will torpedo your chances of getting a phone call from a headhunter

“Recruiters don’t work for you, we work for the employer. When we submit a candidate we are putting our reputations on the line. We are risk adverse, so make our lives as easy as possible so that we don’t consider you to be a risk in any way, shape or form,” says Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

Remember to monitor your online presence on networking sites such as Facebook and by simply Googling your name. Another way to keep track of what shows up about you online is to create a Google Alert for your first and last name.

The best time to contact a headhunter is when you are employed

“Headhunters don’t typically work with job candidates that are unemployed,” says Terri Lee Ryan, a career coach and author.

“Companies don’t pay them big money to present workers that aren’t gainfully employed. In this market there are many good workers on the sidelines, yet companies still want to see candidates that are gainfully employed and on the ‘top of their game.’ This is why I tell workers to never quit their job until they have a new one.”

“These days, you never know if your job could disappear tomorrow,” says Erik M. Tomasi, Chief Operating Officer of DTG Consulting Solutions Inc. “Anticipate the problem before it happens by networking and responding to headhunters, even when you’re happy with your current job.”

It is not a headhunter’s responsibility to tell you what you’re good at

“The biggest mistake most job hunters make when they approach a headhunter is not knowing what job they want,” says David Perry, an executive recruiter and co-founder of Perry-Martel International.

“It’s not a headhunter’s responsibility to tell you what they think you might be good at — that’s the job of a career counselor. The headhunter’s job is to find that opportunity. When the job hunter says that they are ‘open to new opportunities’ a headhunter hears, ‘I’m clueless.’”

“They’ll ask you to ‘send us a résumé and you’ll never hear back from them.”

Not revealing your compensation requirements or being inflexible is a huge turn-off

“I typically ask for this [a job seeker’s required compensation] in the first or second phone call and it is usually to make sure that the candidate and the position in question are in the same ballpark,” says Patricia H. Lenkov of Agility Executive Search LLC.

“If not, there is no sense in wasting anyone’s time so it is best to make this as clear as possible early on. It is usually the least-experienced candidates who resist this.”

“More companies now prefer to try an employee out as a contractor, with the possibility of hiring them full-time.” Job seekers should be open to various forms of compensation.

Not personalizing your cover letter practically guarantees your letter will be recycled

“I get hundreds of cover letters every day and I’m more likely to respond to a personalized cover letter addressed to me,” says Greg Ambrose, president of Catalyst Search Group.

Also, make sure you have the correct spelling and gender of the person to whom you are writing.

“If you can’t do some research to market yourself as a candidate, why would I think you would take the initiative for my client?” he says.

Don’t harass the recruiter

Following up with a thank you note or email to remind the recruiter of your skills is appreciated.

What is not appreciated are numerous phone calls or emails requesting an update on your status.

Being assertive is a good thing, but be careful of coming across as desperate, warns Ambrose. “Being desperate or overly insistent can make a candidate seem insecure about their abilities,” he says.

“Even if you’re unemployed, the secret to getting a job is acting as if you don’t need one.”

Posted on by Steph Hartford

Recently I exchanged emails with a friend managing a new hire process for his company. “I’ve looked at enough resumes the last few weeks to last me a lifetime,” he wrote. Any candidate applying for a job in today’s market has to compete with up to hundreds of other applicants. How can job seekers possibly capture a recruiter’s attention when all resumes look the same?

While there are plenty of subtle ways to make a resume stand out, some job seekers have gone above and beyond active verbs, quantifiable achievements, and proper resume keyword selections. Here are six of the most creative resumes to ever make headlines—and what you should learn from them.

1. The job: A position with Google.
The resume: The candidate, Eric, laid out his qualifications and experience to look like Google search results.
The result? Eric didn’t get the Google job he sought, but his resume’s creative formatting did land him an interview and quite a bit of online recognition! 
The lesson? 
According to Business Insider, the job he applied for was in Google’s marketing division. However, his resume featured the skills and experiences of a design professional. Having an eye-catching resume format is important, but tailoring each application you submit is crucial.

Enlist the help of Jobscan with the tailoring processour resume analysis tool identifies the important keywords in a job description for you to help you optimize your resume!

2. The job: An internal position at Zappos.
The resume: A red velvet cake professionally made to reflect one of Zappos’ core values: “be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.”
The result? The edible resume Pua, a Zappos customer loyalty team rep, sent in place of paper worked: she was selected for the position.
The lesson? As many an event  organizer will tell you, food does make a difference in getting people excited about something. However, the cake resume likely worked in large part because of the applicant’s existing knowledge of the company’s values and her familiarity with internal staff. Researching employers you want to work for is a key part of the job search process.

3. The job: The applicant’s first position following college.
The resume: The candidate, Melissa, printed her resume on white fabric and sewed copies to a variety of patterned fabrics.
The result? Using the fabric resumes did indeed land Melissa the job she was pursuing.
The lesson? Melissa chose this creative resume format because she wanted it to “really represent not only my design skills, but my affection for sewing and including handmade elements.” This thought process shows excellent awareness of what prospective employers in her industry were looking for. Just be sure that when creating and submitting resumes, you focus more on what an employer needs rather than your personal goals.

4. The jobs: Positions with various marketing firms.
The resume: A chocolate bar with the candidate’s profile information as “ingredients” and “nutrition facts.”
The result? The candidate, Nick, was offered two jobs in three months because of his sweet resume choice.
The lesson? This candidate clearly knew his target industry well, demonstrating his knowledge that marketing extends past products and into more intangible concepts like productivity. If you do use a non-traditional resume, make sure it’s appropriate for the job you’re seeking. “Think about the best way to highlight your skills for the position, and don’t hide a lack of experience behind a cool, out-of-the-box format,” writes HR pro Angela Smith at The Muse.

5. The job: Any full-time position job seeker Kelly could use to support her family.
The resume: A t-shirt with the candidate’s resume on the front and cover letter on the reverse side.
The result? Although the story of Kelly’s resume t-shirt was covered on major news networks, there’s a lack of follow-up reporting. Her bold job seeking strategy was highlighted in 2008.
The lesson? 
When an applicant uses an off-the-beaten-path resume and it goes viral, she or he may not receive the type of recognition they intended. The Today Show didn’t pull punches on the topic: “trying a crazy trick to get attention may even hurt your chances of landing a really good job, with an employer you want to work for.” If you want to use a creative resume, think carefully about how it will come across. A shirt emblazoned with “I need a job!” conveys desperation for any job, when what employers really want is someone who would be a great fit for a specific role.

6. The job: Work in computer programming.
The resume: An interactive, animated resume taking inspiration from Super Mario Brothers!
The result? The candidate, Robby, created a finished resume product so strikingly different and of such high quality that news coverage centered around showcasing the work itself. “We’re pretty sure…he landed a job offer or 50,” according to Forbes.
The lesson? If you’re considering a creative resume, don’t just go for the zaniest idea you can come up with—come up with an idea that clearly showcases your strengths.

Creative resumes can be effective when used thoughtfully. Just make sure yours is right for your target industry, skills, and the specific job you want!


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