We all know that recruiters and headhunters are often necessary middlemen in the job searching efforts. What we may not always appreciate is just how much influence they may have on our current and future job search success.   This is especially true for $100K+ jobs.

Did you know that many headhunters have black lists kept in their databases? As you may infer from the name, if you are blacklisted, they will not consider you for any openings today and well into the future and worse, they won’t tell you that you have been blacklisted.

Even if a recruiter or headhunter does not have a formal list, they will remember you if you left a bad impression. As recruiters often move from company to company, that reputation of you is carried with them for a long time.  As you will see from two recent articles on the Wall Street Journals  – Avoiding Mistakes While Job Hunting Online and How a Black Mark can Derail Job Search, in this tough market, recruiters are even less forgiving since there are so many applicants.

So what do you do?  don’t wait until you get on that black list to do something.  Your goal is to never get on that list.  Here are some tips:

  • Don’t lie about your experience – it’s okay to reposition your background, but outright lying about an experience or job skills that you don’t have will surely land you on the black list
  • Don’t intentionally play two or more headhunters against each other – I am not saying don’t work with more than one headhunters, but make sure they represent you for different companies.  Knowingly agree to work with more than one headhunter for the same company openings will not increase your chance but will only create lasting, damaging reputation for you.
  • Stay courteous and professional – even if some recruiters are not in this market.  I hear many times recruiter don’t call back or don’t make interviews they schedule.  Even so, this is a employers’ market with too many applicants.  Don’t take it personally.  I am not excusing the behavior but it’s prevalent in this market and it’s not worth it for you to write a nasty email to that recruiter just so you can feel better about being stood up.  That gets you no results  but can leave a strong negative impression with that recruiter.  You will just guarantee that they will never call you again even if they find a good fit.
  • Always be on – with recruiters, every conversation is an implicit interview.  Don’t be fooled even if you are just chatting at a networking event.  Always stay on your story around what you are looking for and why you are qualified.  Unnecessary honesty about your weaknesses will be remembered
  • Clean up your online presence – recruiters are all very internet savvy these days and will check on you on linkedin, facebook, google, etc… Put yourself in their shoes  and do these search.  Even if it’s something old, if it’s searchable and it’s inappropriate, get rid of it from your public online history.  It can only hurt you.
  • Don’t spam your resume – Avoid applying to too many jobs with the same headhunter or company.  You will just look un-focused and create unnecessary work for recruiters.  Know why you are applying to every job.
  • Communicate what you want – maintaining a good relationship with headhunters does not mean saying yes to exploring all openings they offer.  It’s okay not to be interested in a job opportunity they present you.  This will save your and their time.  Just communicate and you can also use the opportunity to reiterate what you are looking for in case they come across it.
  • Build recruiter relationships over time – Don’t wait until you need a job to contact headhunters.  The best time to build relationships is when you have a job and not when you are desperate for one.

It’s important not to underestimate the value and influence of recruiters in this market or in a good market.   I recommend reading “Rites of Passage” by John Lucht if you want to know more about how the execute search industry works.  Good luck with your job search.

– Lei

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