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I received a question that’s important for job seekers to consider: “Should I work with an external recruiter, and if so, how does it work?” If you’ve never tried it, enlisting the help of a placement firm can appear to be a confusing proposal. It can be tough to know where to find a recruiter, how to begin, and what to expect.

The good news is, working with an external recruiter (aka a “headhunter”) is not hard to do. First, you should know how they work. Typically, headhunters are paid a commission if they are able to help place a job seeker in a job. The hiring company pays this commission and they are only paid when and if a placement is made. Think of a recruiter as a matchmaker, or a salesperson, of sorts. They help source candidates that fit well within the companies they work for.

Arranging a meeting with a headhunter isn’t hard. You can find local recruiters online. Then, you can reach out to them by phone or email to request a meeting. Most placement firms are open to meeting with new candidates because it allows them to keep the pulse on the available talent in the job market. They will keep your resume and personal details in their database.

Along with your resume, you must typically disclose all your salary information right up front. This is a bit different than applying directly to a company, where you can often skirt the salary issue until the end of the interview process. In addition, you may also be asked to take exams in order to demonstrate your competency in certain subjects.

Keep in mind – headhunters meet with many candidates every day. You need to work closely with them in order for the process to be effective. It rarely works to sit back and hope the recruiter will show up with the perfect job completely on their own. Keep them up to date on your employment status, what kind of job you’re looking for, and of any changes that occur. If you stop reaching out, they’ll assume you found a job.

Although there are many positives to working with a headhunter, there are also pitfalls to consider. We often feel that because a placement firm makes a commission, they work for us, the job seeker. Although they are there to help, they ultimately must keep their client happy – the hiring manager. Additionally, they will only be paid a commission if they make a placement. If you’ve ever sold a house, you know that there are times when a real estate agent would be happy to sell a house at a lower than ideal price, in order to ensure a commission.

Placement firms can be helpful, but like other parts of the job search, they’re a tool rather than a complete solution. To maximize success, continue looking on your own. You’re your own best advocate, and after all, you’re searching on behalf of just one job seeker: you.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Author: Angela Copeland

Angela Copeland is Founder and Coach for Copeland Coaching, a great way to jump start your job search. Follow her on Twitter @CopelandCoach for tips on finding the perfect job for you.

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