Working with search consultants: think fit, be focused, and get familiar

Even though the U.S. economy has technically pulled out of recession, my inbox doesn't know it. I'm still getting scores of unsolicited emails and CVs from job-seekers around the world hoping to get a new position. Conditions are still tough. So here are a few pointers for working with executive search consultants:

  • When evaluating your fit for an opportunity, minimize aspects of the job that are new: new company, new geographic responsibility, new function, new industry. If you're evaluating a new job, three "news" is too many and would be seen by an executive recruiter as risky. If you're out of work, getting a job is urgent, I know, but it is more important to get the right job.
  • Don't get into the position of being one candidate, out of many, to fill a vacancy. The odds will be against you. Work to develop relationships directly with the CEO or line manager of your target companies and try to create a role for yourself that addresses a real business need facing the CEO. You'll have no competition for the role.
  • Never rely on search consultants to find your next job. They work for companies, not for individuals.
  • If you can get a meeting with a search consultant, you're lucky. Most simply don't have the time to meet job-seekers, even as a courtesy. Their time is being paid for by clients.
  • The time to develop a relationships with a search consultant is before you need them. Be forthcoming with tips; help them before you ask them to help you.
  • Keep your cover letter brief and focused, addressing the consultant by name. If your cover letter and CV hits one of our hot buttons, then we'll respond. If it begins "Dear Sir or Madam," we'll delete it immediately.
  • If you can get an introduction to a search consultant from one of his or her clients, then the consultant is very likely to pursue your case.
  • Most search consultants don't have the time, desire, or expertise to guide you through a major transformation, such as changing industries. They would prefer to put you in a box and consider you for a position when the client needs candidates in your box. To get around this focus on competencies that transcend job title.

You can check out some of my past posts on related subjects, like finding your value proposition, zig-zagging your way, and job hunting from the inside-out. What is your experience? What am I missing? Do you have any other advice to job seekers?