The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beware of bad headhunters
Look before you leap: Choose your placement firm carefully

A call from a headhunter can seem like a gift from heaven when it comes to opening up job opportunities. And the marketplace is full of headhunters, recruitment consultants, executive search firms, agencies and other advisers who claim they can help.

But this is also a pretty much unregulated industry and, in the absence of regulation, there are as many shoddy and disreputable practitioners as there are trustworthy ones.

One executive who recently accepted a leading role at one of Britain’s largest media groups said: “Take a headhunter’s advice with a pinch of salt. You can feel these people are desperate to place you but bear in mind that (the headhunters) are on commission and trade off making money against maintaining important clients. This can colour the extent to which they point out the positives over the negatives of any job you may be offered.”

These firms are looking to place people with their particular clients. It takes a brave headhunter to say you would be better off applying to a company his firm does not represent. So make sure you use headhunters only as part of a broader and more active search for the right job.

Do your homework. There may be certain big firms that you have heard of, but are they right for your sector, level, role and background' If, for example, you have plenty of experience in big companies that are household names, then the top echelon of search firms might be interested in you. If you have an MBA but less than five years’ experience, then a niche firm that focuses on junior management might be better.

Wherever there is money to be made, there will be shady operators. There are plenty of career coaches and consultants who claim to be able to take over on your behalf and open up whole worlds of job opportunities. And all you need to do is entrust them with a big fat fee.

As a whole, they are even more questionable than the most unscrupulous headhunters. They may organise seminars or other events and invite speakers from the big names in industry. But it doesn’t mean those speakers endorse them.

They say they will write your CV. But why should you pay someone else to write your CV when you are the only person who really knows your most relevant strengths' They maintain they will put your CV in front of hundreds of top recruiters. They claim that their sophisticated computer systems will identify dozens of perfect opportunities.

But if they were really so good, then wouldn’t you know someone who had used the services of such a firm' Job hunting can be depressing, so these firms’ claims of being able to do all the legwork for you are naturally very alluring. But don’t let them take advantage of you in your darker moments.

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