Tech & Work

Job hunting? Work with a search firm

Before they come knocking with career opportunities in hand or before you seek them out, here are a few things you might want to know about how search firms work.

When you’re job hunting, there's a handful of top-ranked executive and management recruiters looking for you. You may be even more desirable if you are successfully employed and not looking for a change. That's when they come knocking on your door, with career opportunities in hand. Here are a few things you will want to know about how search firms work.

Why a search firm?
Even though they do not represent you, executive and management search firms assist job-seeking CIOs in several ways.
  • They have a knowledge of the market within the IT industry.
  • Search firms understand the changing role of CIOs.
  • They possess a sophisticated network of industry contacts.
  • They work with their client companies in long term partnerships.
  • A search firm understands their client company's businesses, organizations, inner culture, and thinking so they can better advise the client on a strategic hire.
  • They maintain your confidentiality.
  • They make good matches. Many clients are repeat customers for a variety of executive jobs.

What kind of search firm should you use?
Generally speaking, if your annual compensation package is more than $150,000, you are of interest to top-tier executive recruitment firms such as Heidrick & Struggles and Korn/Ferry International. If you're in the $75,000 to $150,000 compensation category, you'll more likely be looking to regional management search firms. Because a company looking for a top IT executive retains only one firm to fill that spot, each recruiting firm has different clients. Therefore, you might want to contact and interview with a few search firms.

How a search firm works
"Typically an executive or management search firm works for the company looking to do the hiring," according to Kevin Rosenberg, managing director of BridgeGate , a management recruitment firm that ranks first in its Southern California region. The firms serve Fortune 500 companies as well as startups. They do not take on the candidate as a client. As job opportunities become available, recruiters personally contact successfully employed executives and try to lure them away from their jobs. However, if you contact them (as in, help, I'm unemployed!), they generally will interview you because you just might be the right senior IT manager for a specific client. But you had better have a good reason for being unemployed.

Remember, this is a retained search for a company. The recruiter is not trying to find you a job. Usually they are searching for candidates who are still employed and not actively seeking new positions. The search firm develops a list of interview candidates who may be a good fit with the company's culture and needs.

Who are the top firms?
Heidrick & Struggles International specializes in recruiting chief executives, prospective members for boards of directors, and senior-level managers. The firm's international technology practice is one of the largest in the world, conducting more than 1,100 searches a year. In November 1998, the International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruitment named Heidrick & Struggles the best performing search firm. But right alongside them is Korn/Ferry International, which conducted 120 CIO or IT executive placements in 1999. It has a worldwide database with profiles of more than 1,000,000 executives and 300,000 companies.

New focuses for these firms include newly instituted online recruiting services for professionals who are job hunting. Heidrick & Struggles's online recruiting service, LeadersOnline , focuses on placing IT professionals in the $75,000 to $150,000 compensation range. Futurestep is Korn/Ferry's online recruiting service for executives who want to keep an updated registration in the firm’s database for possible job opportunities throughout their careers. They don't specify a focus on IT jobs like Heidrick & Struggles.
  1. Heidrick & Struggles
  2. Korn / FerryInternational
  3. Spencer Stuart
  4. Russell Reynolds Associates
  5. LAI Worldwide
  7. A.T. Kearney
  8. Egon Zehnder International
  9. Diversified Search
  10. Ray & Berndtson
Source: Top Ten Links Web Site
Don't misrepresent yourself
Search firms will verify your information to reduce the risk of promoting unqualified candidates. However, pre-employment screening firms find that about one-third of applicants misrepresent their employment records and about one-fourth misrepresent their educational backgrounds. So play it straight. They'll find out anyway.

Interview, then stay in touch
Since they don't represent you, these firms don't want to hear from you too often. After they have interviewed you and have your resume on file, they will keep you in mind. "However, after we've met and talked, I don't mind the gentle reminder from you that it's been two weeks since we last spoke, and have there been any changes in the marketplace?" Rosenberg said.

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