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Choosing and Working with a Recruiter

by Darrell Gurney, CPC, JCTC

A critical element in determining the right headhunters for you is noticing the ratio of words coming out of their mouths compared to words going in their ears. You might call it the WO/WI factor. (Easy to remember because, "Wowee! Man, does that guy talk a lot!") A headhunter's interaction with a potential candidate reveals volumes about how they work. A WO/WI factor greater than one (more words going out than in) can be a sign of greater disregard to come.

A key factor in partnering with a recruiter is whether or not they take the time to listen to your needs and desires. Many candidates get frustrated dealing with recruiters constantly calling them about positions that don't fit their stated desires. The best way to deal with them? Don't! The headhunter for you is the one who gets to know you, your interests, and your needs during the first phone-call (caveat: that they have initiated) and then only contacts you with opportunities that fit those criteria. Therefore, the WO/WI factor, in the beginning at least, should be small-ideally a ratio of less than one. Although recruiters may initially focus on and espouse the merits of a particular opportunity, which is natural, you need to get a quick sense of whether or not your interests are being probed-or are they just trying to fill a hole. Whether you're a match for that particular position or not, good recruiters always want to build their database with potential future candidates. Therefore, they want to know what would really turn you on.
WO/WI of 3 = Commercial! Catch zzzzs!
WO/WI of 2 = What's missing is you
WO/WI of 1 = Extremely more fun
WO/WI of less = They pass the first test
When you connect with a good recruiter who gets into your interests and desires and, over time, tells you about positions that fit those interests and desires, stick with 'em. But don't expect that headhunter to have immediate opportunities that fit-unless you want you're square corners rounded to fit a hole. Finding the perfect position may take some time, especially if you're quite specific about what you want. Keep in mind that greater flexibility on your part leads to your recruiter calling you with more possibilities. A good rule of thumb: two calls from a recruiter to whom you've spilled your super-specific guts with positions that don't fit, move on to someone who listens.

However, if you bare your soul to a recruiter who doesn't call back for a while, if ever, either
1) they listened well and can't help you, or
2) they are simply still looking for a position that fits.

In either case, there is less wasted time on your part. Wouldn't you want your recruiter to spend time trying to find opportunities for you rather than easing your insecurities? It won't make anything happen faster to be on the phone telling you that they don't have anything for you. If you haven't been called, assume there is nothing yet to call you about.

Although a recruiter is paid by her client companies, a good search professional operates with two customers in mind: the company and the candidate. You might call the company the "client" and the candidate the "customer." Just know that a good recruiter understands that to really forward things in this life-the client's, the candidate's, the recruiter's-it's best that everyone be pleased with a placement. Candidates who have had their edges shaved to fit particular round holes eventually become dissatisfied, even if they work out relatively well in the short run. This means they have to move to other jobs, and the company must find other people to fill their positions. Although there is a misperception that this is the ideal scenario on the part of the headhunter (the "churn" factor), someone who operates on this Ride-'em-in/Ride-'em-out philosophy will not succeed for long. A recruiter's reputation among clients and candidates is determined by each party's satisfaction with a placement. Real success is built upon this kind of reputation. You want to "partner" with such a recruiter.

Excerpted from Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written consent from Hunter Arts Publishing. and without prior consent of the author. Darrell W. Gurney, Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC), Certified Jobs and Transition Coach (JCTC), and Licensed Spiritual Counselor (RScP) is Principal of A Permanent Success National Career/Search Partners ( and author of Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters ($14.95, Softcover), available online at or by calling 1-877-4-HEADHUNT. Headhunters Revealed! received the Clarion Award for Best Book by the Association for Women in Communications, has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly and the American Library Association's Booklist, and has been featured in nationally syndicated career columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy's "Careers Now." Sign up for a FREE monthly subscription to The Career Secrets™ Newsletter at © Hunter Arts Publishing.

Need help with your career? Get a Career Coach. Darrell Gurney, CPC, JCTC can help you through your career. Email your inquiries to

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