Best Practices for Using Search Firms in The Job Search


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Looking for a new job can be done through networking, looking on company job boards, or by contacting senior executives and pitching your own job creation idea. Another option can be to use a search firm that has contacts with hundreds of executives and companies to look for a placement.


Using search firms can be an excellent addition to a career search strategy. Follow these tips to help maximize your use of a search firm to discover your next career opportunity.


1.      How the Search Industry Works. Search firms are paid by a company or corporation that is looking for a position / role that has a difficult range of skill sets to match.  Normally, a typical job search does not bring in either the quality, experience, or skills that the firm needs and that is why the company turns to a search firm to find those highly skilled candidates.  Search firms also look for experience levels from senior executives to entry level employees.  Finally, search firms are only paid once a candidate they find is placed and agrees to join the company searching for the firm.  Therefore, as a search firm job candidate, you must have the skills, experience, and availability that a search firm needs.  Be very suspicious if a search firm asks you to pay them – very, very few search firms work to be paid by candidates.


2.      Follow the Internal Processes of the Search Firm. Search firms are approached by literally hundreds of interested candidates a week.  Follow these steps to give yourself the best advantage possible.  First, go local.  Find the local search firms where you live because they will have the best local connections and job options.  Second, get in their position database.  Nearly all search firms have their own database of candidates.  Take the time to thoroughly and completely fill out all their required data with all the up-to-date information.  Finally, if you can, meet in person, call, or video conference with the contacts at the search firm.  As much as you can, make yourself a real person for the search firm partners – it makes their jobs easier and your chances better.


3.      Be Honest, Responsive, and Complete When Talking to a Search Firm. By far the best way to work with a search firm is to be completely honest in your resume, skill sets, and experiences.  Honesty is the best way to get a search firm to back you and lack of honesty is the best way to get dropped as a prospect, often forever.  Search firms also need you to be responsive and complete in your answers whenever they contact you.  Remember, the search firm is discussing you with some of their clients and they have questions.  The more honest, responsive and complete your answers, the better your prospects.  


4.      Consider the Trade Off’s of an Exclusive Arrangement. At times, some search firms may ask for an exclusive arrangement to work only with them or let them conduct your entire job search for you.  There may be times where this works well.  If you have a lot of time in your search and the search firm is very well connected – then an exclusive arrangement may be for the best.  Or, if your search firm dominates in a location and skill set, Web Advertising Analytics in Anchorage, Alaska for example, then going with an exclusive arrangement may be the best way to meet your goals.  However, exclusive arrangements can be very limiting if you are in a rush to find a position or are in a major, highly competitive job market metro area.


5.      Do Not Reverse a Decision on a Search Firm Opportunity. If you get a selection through a search firm, carefully consider everything about the position, company culture, the geographic area, and how you like your boss.  The absolute worst thing to do is to say “Yes!” and then back out on your offer.  This leaves other candidates that wanted the position as rejected candidates, the search firm looks bad from the company that hired you, and you lost an amazing amount of credibility in minutes from both the search firm and your (new) employer.  Bottom line, if you decide to work with a search firm, then decide up front what you will and will not accept for a position and inform them of your preferences.  When the time comes, act according to your word.


Working productively with a search firm may open wonderful opportunities for your career. However, working with a search firm is not a “slam dunk.”  Be honest, be responsive, be thorough, and be complete to give the search firm the best candidate, you, that they can place.  Good Luck!


Share Your Ideas and Experiences How You Used a Search Firm to Get Your Next Opportunity!


Other Articles of Interest:


1.      Overlooked Resources for Military Transition


2.      How to Create Different Career Options for Success


3.      Best Practices for Military Transition – An Interview with Hirepurpose


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 250 articles in over 150 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and