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Talk about love-hate relationships…recruiters rank right up there. You love them when they call to screen you for an opening of interest. Even if you’re currently employed and overwhelmingly busy, let’s admit it. It’s an ego stroke when they call. If you’re in transition, their call makes your whole day euphoric. You tell your friends that, “recruiters are calling,” and feel that life is good.

A love-hate relationship

On the other hand, you hate them when they don’t get back to you, especially if you’ve had a phone screen or, worse yet, a face-to-face interview. “Hellooo…did I invest some of my time and emotion in you and you’re ignoring me?” If you’re not hearing from them, they’re telling you your status: inactive or they’re working on something else. Either way, your behavior is the same: not concerned because you’re a valuable commodity and you’re busy.
Here’s where the brand management comes in.

Avoiding the pesky suitor image

I work with search firms all of the time and find that the job seeker (the “candidate” in search firm language) weakens him or herself and their brand constantly by chasing after search firms wanting to know their status.

Although it feels highly personal, it isn’t. It’s a highly structured process. There’s a tactic or two to address this non-response but let’s take a trip back to high school first.

Remember the person in high school who you didn’t want to date? The one who kept showing up just hoping that you’d change your mind and really want to go out with him or her? The more they tried to interest you, the more you joked about them with other people. Although you felt badly, it wasn’t your job to take care of that person so you distanced yourself from him or her. See where I’m heading?

PhotobucketSearch firms feel the same way. Candidates who chase them, who stalk them after a conversation when they don’t hear back, are turning their brand into that of the pesky suitor in high school. You’re conveying the impression that you don’t have any other alternatives, that you’re anxious, and that you don’t know how search firms work…not a pretty place to start for brand management.

How search firms work

You’ll get more details on this in a section of The New Job Security called “Self Abuse: Job Postings and Search Firms.” Read it to get some direct quotes and advice from different global directors of some of the largest international search firms. Search firms work for companies putting round pegs into round holes as quickly as possible. They work only with already approved, funded, job openings, looking for a candidate who is already doing whatever the corporate client needs…ideally with the competition.

If you are considering changing the type of work that you do, are investigating new industries, or are not going straight up your current ladder, search firms aren’t a great use of your time.

Bring the search firm to you

Here’s the goal: build a brand that brings the search firm to you rather than your chasing them.

How do you do it?

1.  Be hot and be known. If you’re a recognized professional, as teaches, the world will start knowing about you. Oh, by the way, you need to be competent in your field, too. Just being hot doesn’t keep you employed for too long, unless you’re Justin Bieber. Search firms can find you and you’ll make them look good when they present you to their clients if you’re a desirable commodity.

2.  Get into their BlackBerries. What makes you worth putting in their BlackBerries? You’re going to be there because you’re asset to them. Pick out your favorite three firms and help them when you aren’t expecting anything in return as in 1) connecting them with candidates for other searches they’re conducting and 2) telling them about turnover within companies that might create new searches.

3. Establish relationships, not transactions. Getting to know them when you’re not looking for a job is the best time. Send them a holiday card, an article of interest, an invitation to a meeting you’re attending. Think of it as getting a couple of professional friends rather than someone who’s a savior on the spur of the moment.

The goal is to build a brand of success. They’ll be attracted to you because you’re going to help them be more successful. As for the love-hate relationship? You’re the one who’s going to decide if you love them when they’re pursuing you. They’re going to hate it when you need to turn some of them down.


Pam Lassiter is author of the award winning The New Job Security and Principal of Lassiter Consulting, a career coaching firm doing outplacement or internal growth programs for companies or individuals.