As a Hiring Manager, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with recruiters, otherwise known as headhunters.
On the one hand, they can be a source of applicants for positions with hard to find skills and experience. Many information technology and high level executive positions fit into this category.
On the other hand, they can be a pain to work with, and I strongly disagree with some of the advice they give to their clients. Here are examples of headhunter advice that we Hiring Managers really don’t like.
Take Control of the Interview
You have to aggressive to be a headhunter, so some of the advice they give recommends that you be aggressive in your interview. One way they recommend you do this is by somehow ‘taking control’ of the interview.
I can always tell when I’m interviewing people who are referred by a headhunter and bought into this advice. What they frequently try to do is not directly answer my questions, but instead give me a presentation on how they would do the job and solve my problems.
The issue I have with this is that they assume that (a) I have problems to solve, when I may just need a new person, (b) they know what those problems are, and (c) they know the best way to solve them. Unless I redirect them back to my questions, they will soar off into their idea of what I want to hear.
While I can admire the initiative, unless I’ve specifically posed a problem and asked for a presentation on how to solve it, what I want is for you to answer the questions I ask. These questions are designed to tell me what I want to know about your ability to do my specific job.
In my opinion it’s presumptuous for you to assume you know what I want to hear, and frankly a bit offensive when you try to take over my conversation.
You should save this type of approach for when you’re asked to use it.
Bypass HR and Go Straight to the Hiring Manager
Again, headhunters want you to be aggressive. When I post job openings, I’ll sometimes have applications bypass HR, where the job posting says to send them, and be sent directly to me.
I guess I can at least admire the fact that they were able to find my name!
The thinking here is that I’ll read these first and that will avoid the delay with waiting for HR to send them to me. In reality, I do not read these and send them straight to HR. This is in order to be fair to the applicants that play by the rules.
The same thing applies to following up after an interview. You should always start with HR. They know the status of every job opening and every interview. If you call me directly, I will not be happy and will simply tell you to call HR, like you should have done in the first place.
Having said all this, there are situations where the recruiter, not you, does all the follow up and communication with the company. In this case, they may know insiders and be able to skip normal channels.
But for those of you who the recruiter simply points you to the job and you do all the follow up, your best bet is to follow normal hiring procedures for that company.
Most Jobs are Found by Networking
I see this advice in many places, not just from headhunters. By ‘most jobs’ the number I most commonly see is 80% – that’s the percent of all job opening that are supposedly filled by networking.
I’m not sure what job market they are operating in, but it sure isn’t the same one as me!
Let me be clear. Networking is an excellent way to find a job, especially for high level and executive positions. But for most people, job postings on company websites, on sites like Monster, and even in the Sunday classifieds is going to be the way jobs will be found.
My last two management jobs were found by continually checking the jobs posted on the websites for companies I was interested in.
Sure, if you know someone who can give you a heads up on a desired job opening, or better yet, is in a position to hire you, that’s great. For most people, however, the traditional way of applying to listed job opening is how they are going to find a job.
Don’t Target a Job, Target a Manager
This by far what I consider to be the worst piece of job interview advice.
Basically, it suggests that you don’t look for a job, but instead target a manager in a company you want to work for. The idea is that you somehow convince that manager to give you a job, even if an opening doesn’t exist. Here’s how you’re supposed to do this, straight off of a job advice site which I’ll leave unnamed.
First, call the manager, explain who you are, what you know about his business, and explain how you might help with some of the challenges that company faces. Then, ask for a 12 minute meeting (after all, you want to make the point that the meeting will be brief) at which you’ll demonstrate how you’ll add to the bottom line.
Many times, claims this website, the manager will create a job for you. However, I’m here to tell you that from a Hiring Manager’s perspective, there are several reasons why this is bad advice.
First of all, managers hate getting cold calls such as this. We have no idea who you are, what your background is, or if you’re even qualified to work at our company. So why would we agree to meet with you, particularly if we don’t have an opening? And why would we think the you, a stranger, know the answers to our problems?
Second, even if we agreed to meet with you and you were the Second Coming as far as helping out our business is concerned, most of the time we have to go through formal channels to create a new opening. And even then we have to have the budget for it. We rarely can simply create a new position because we like you.
Lastly, I don’t know a single manager that is willing to do these so called ‘informational interviews’. We all know that they are really not for your information only – you’re looking for a job and believe this is a way around normal channels.
This may work if you do it by networking. In other words, someone in your network knows the manager and is willing to call them and get them to agree to take your call and grant a short meeting. This is the power of networking done right.
But don’t be surprised if you get a chilly reception from your cold call to a manager who knows nothing about you.
The Bottom Line
Some of these tactics may work under certain circumstances. But overall, they are looked at with disfavor by Hiring Managers. They are intrusive and take away from our primary duties of running the business and recruiting talented help the proper way.