I remember the first time I heard the word "headhunter" in connection with employment. I had visions of some wild-eyed, wild-haired person running around with a spear in one hand and a cooking pot in the other, looking for unsuspecting job candidates to have for lunch.
Of course, after decades of writing about the workplace I use the term "headhunter" without worrying about shrunken heads and boiling water, but there still needs to be some education about what headhunters do, and how they can help those looking for work.
Headhunters -- also known as job recruiters -- spend their days looking for people to fill empty job positions. They stake their reputations (and their income) on finding the perfect employee for an employer. If they don't deliver, then they don't collect any money, and down the road, they may be looking for new employment themselves.
But the really good headhunters are able to match the the great employee with the right job, and everyone is happy. The employer has a good fit, the job candidate has a new job and the headhunter makes money.
But there are times when the headhunting process can go wrong. Sometimes it's the job seeker's fault, believing the headhunter works for them (nope...the headhunter works for the employer, much like realtors work for the home seller), or it can be the headhunter's fault, because he or she isn't familiar with the specific industry and doesn't communicate well with the job candidate.
I've interviewed several headhunters over the years, and here are some tips they've provided:
* Be honest. Don't try and exaggerate your accomplishments or fudge on your background. Headhunters are pretty savvy -- they'll ferret out your lies and move on to someone else.
* Trust your gut. If the headhunter seems a little vague on your industry or doesn't have a proven track record, then you may want to move on yourself. Don't tie your reputation or future to a job recruiter that doesn't seem like the real deal.
* Communicate. E-mail the recruiter at least once a week for an update. A recruiter is more likely to keep you in mind for different positions if you are a little bit of a (nice) squeaky wheel.
While there are concerns about the job market getting tougher, most headhunters agree that employers are still looking for key workers. As long as you can make yourself appealing by understanding what your industry is looking for and how your skills and abilities can help an employer's bottom line, then you will probably be appealing to a headhunter (unless they have salt in one hand and a fork in the other...then you should run.)