What does your recruitment consultant do for you?

If, like me, you’re a fan of the Alex cartoon in the Telegraph, you’ll know that when he’s under real pressure at MegaBank he gets in touch with his headhunter.  She invariably is the bearer of bad news about his job prospects, albeit usually to good comic effect.

If you’re a senior executive (or indeed an aspiring senior executive), you’ll have had several calls in the course of your career from recruitment consultants sounding you out about a possibly lucrative move. It is good for the ego, but what does your recruitment consultant – or headhunter – actually do for you?

Recruitment consultants work at several levels. At ‘High Street’ level many are simply processors of CVs, looking to move candidates on for a quick buck.  At the level at which users of exec-appointments.com operate, these sort of people are few are far between.  The big firms are genuinely good at what they do, very conscientious and scrupulously professional and discrete. At the very top end they move in exalted circles and it’s quite possible that their contacts list (probably not on a computer) has just the person you need for your next C-Suite appointment. I recall attending one of the really big international recruitment consultancy’s golf days and their CEO, sitting in the sunshine outside the clubhouse, was surrounded by a group of clients and candidates from the City of London who looked as if they could have been straight from the Alex comic strip (in terms of influence and earnings rather than morals!).  Clearly, this gentleman is an important and influential individual.

The good headhunter will not waste your time. The good headhunter knows his/her industry and is polite, professional, highly experienced and knowledgeable about remuneration and how you might fit into the role he/she has for you.  The average recruitment consultant will not necessarily waste your time but will reveal his/her lack of professionalism by demonstrating a less than complete grasp of your line of work.  They may also try to chisel out some of your contacts who might help in their quest to fill the vacancy. I’ve even had someone blatantly ask me, “do you know anyone else who might be suitable for this job?”  Your contacts – their fee, so it’s up to you whether your reveal this information!

You’ll know if you’re in the hands of an expert.  You’ll be thoroughly vetted, possibly if not probably psychometrically tested, interviewed several times before you get to the final appointment and your referees will be sounded out for their honest impressions of your ability and character.  I recall being vigorously questioned by a senior recruiter about a friend’s ability to fill a very senior job in graduate recruitment. I was on the phone for about half an hour but finished the conversation knowing that, whatever the ‘result’, my friend was being seriously considered and consequently was being seriously and professionally assessed.

On the other side of the coin, if you approach a headhunter (redundancy does happen), then make sure it’s someone who really does understand your industry and who makes the effort to take the time to learn about you; not just about your business skills but what makes you tick, what your management style is and what you really want from your next job and the one beyond it. Remember, the job of a headhunter is to match you with the perfect job.  You should take similar care in matching yourself to the headhunter.  A perfect match and you have more chance of a perfect job. 

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