No one can deny that recruiters and headhunters are still an important part of the equation when it comes to finding your next role, but how many recruiters is too many?
A lot will depend on the role you do and/or the role you want i.e. your specific specialty or corner of the jobs market. For instance, an established recruiter covering a very specialized area such as Equity Derivatives Structuring, Debt Origination or Product Specialists on the buy-side (to name three examples) may well be all you need for a successful outcome.
On the other hand, if you’re a technologist or work in a large corporate function such as finance and are very open to which part of the F.S. sector you work in (and even other sectors), then you will never find one firm that can cover the full range of opportunities, and you are better off working with a handful of recruiters, who can cover different types of employer and/or different sub sectors. In this instance I would recommend dividing and conquering i.e. dividing your target market up and partnering with a different recruiter for each part i.e. sell side, buy side, non F.S.
You need to particularly selective in choosing contingent recruiters who are paid on successful placement and who tend to operate at junior to middle management levels of seniority. They are paid for success, and what you want to avoid as much as possible is a situation where you have two to three recruiters all trying to get your CV into the same firm at the same time. Not only does this get very messy when it comes to ‘candidate ownership’ (think behind the scenes scrapping between recruiters for fees), but it’s really not a good look as far as your personal brand is concerned. It's unprofessional, and it can make you seem borderline desperate. However, if you get the right contingent recruiter they can work very hard on your behalf to get your CV in front of clients.
Talking to various traditional executive search firms will be less of problem; they typically only work on specific retained mandates for a limited number of clients.
You might also want to consider whether you want to explore permanent and temp/interim positions simultaneously. If that’s the case, then you are best off keeping those routes to market separate i.e. work with different Recruiters for the different types of work. Many firms will say they do both and will try to persuade you to keep it under one roof and with them exclusively, but in my experience very few will represent you equally well in both channels as different consultants will effectively be competing against each other to make a fee.
Of course, there are too many other variables in between to cover every eventuality, but the key message here is that you should try to limit the number of recruiters you work with as much as possible relative to the size and scope of your target employer market, whilst at the same time being careful not to end up working with too few especially if they just don’t have the brand, scale or reach required.
Dan Whitehead is founder of City Career LAB (a career coaching company) and a 20+ year veteran of recruitment and corporate Talent Acquisition in Financial Services.
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