Working with Executive Recruiters
In the earlier stages of your career, you may have found jobs by sending your resume to recruiters who were willing to add it to their database and sometimes try to market you to their clients. These would have been contingency recruiters. As you progressed in your career, you may even have been contacted by recruiters attempting to lure you away from your current employer for a new job. These would have been retained recruiters who were searching (headhunting) for people with specific skills and experience. When you are looking to make a career change at a senior level, the rules of the game just changed and you need to learn the new rules. Let’s look at some critical distinctions about executive recruiters that you need to know.
Contingency recruiters (often called Recruiters or Executive Recruiters) are typically used by companies when recruiting staff and management at lower levels. Some contingency recruiters may work at higher levels but specialize in a particular industry or function. Small to mid-sized companies often turn to contingency recruiters when they need to recruit for senior-level positions. Contingency recruiters collect their fees only when a company hires you. In the earlier stages of your career, if you had sent your resume to more than one contingency recruiter, the one who submitted your resume first was the one that collected a fee. Consequently, they don’t have time to gather very detailed information from the company or to conduct extensive interviews with multiple candidates.
If you are younger with functional experience at a lower level at any size company, contingency recruiters will be interested in adding you to their database, even if you are currently unemployed. This is because companies often go to contingency recruiters when they are looking for someone at a lower level and salary who can possibly step up to a higher level. If you are older, however, with senior-level experience at a higher salary at a major corporation, contingency recruiters will not be that helpful.
Retained recruiters (often called Executive Recruiters or Executive Search Consultants) are typically used by large corporations when recruiting at high levels or when looking for individuals who have unique skills and experience that a company wants. Companies engage retained recruiters on an exclusive basis and are obligated for their fee regardless of whether the company hires someone presented by the recruiter or not. Companies expect the recruiters to search for candidates from competing companies or even from a company they want to specifically target. They do not seriously consider candidates that are not currently working, even if they are the most qualified. In addition, they are not inclined to seriously consider candidates beyond their mid-forties, unless they accept that only candidates who have many years of experience at a senior level would have the experience they want.
What does this mean for you? Someone changed the rules of the game on you! Not only are contingency recruiters not going to be helpful to you but neither are retained recruiters. This doesn’t mean you should ignore recruiters all-together. It means that you should not spend more than 10% of your time sending your resume to recruiters or trying to contact them. If your resume happens to land on their desk at the moment when they realize they have not been successful at finding someone with your skills and experience, they just might contact you.