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Creating Healthy Relationships with an Executive Search Firm

By Blake Dunavant, Managing Partner at 3D Executive Search Partners

I encourage companies to establish strong relationships with professional recruiting firms for certain needs. In a recent issue of Life Science Leader magazine, there was an article featuring EVP and leader of Sanofi’s newly created global divisions and strategic development organization, Pascale Witz.  The former GE executive commented on the value of headhunters and in being able to fill the critical talent gaps that all companies encounter from time to time. “Having headhunters review job description drafts can be very helpful to identify the most critical aspects of a job so you don’t end up with a position that looks great on paper, yet will never be able to sufficiently filled,” said Witz.  My firm has been fortunate to be valued by a small group of companies who have utilized our experience and industry knowledge in this way as well as other ways that don’t necessarily drive any fees being created but a genuine desire to find the best talent or present their opportunities in the right manner.

While headhunters can be great in helping to fill a company’s key needs, they also can be great advisors for your next career opportunity.  I’ve spoken to a number of executives in the past year who told me about their recent career switch or an impending one they are about to begin.  While many do get a nice bump in salary, many times that’s not the reason why the person was open to listening to the recruiter who approached them about the opportunity.  Like many people who make a career change, the star performer realized it was their current leadership’s lack of engagement regarding this person’s job that became the primary motivator of why they entertained the new opportunity.

It’s important for anyone considering a career change to put the following advice to work on their behalf:

Top 6 Do’s When Beginning a Career Search:

  1. Be transparent with your recruiter as to your real motivations for making a change. It’s important that your recruiting partner is aligned on the type of issues you are currently facing so they can improve your next move.
  2. Share with your recruiter the type of companies, including specific client names, that you would like to join.
  3. Disclose any companies that you are already talking to and/or sent your information to prior as there is no need for duplication of efforts.
  4. Timely and transparent communication with your recruiter is everything.
  5. Be selective. When engaging a recruiter, understand that this person is a key member of your personal team, no different than an accountant, lawyer, doctor, etc. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable professional who will be able to give you guidance and present you in the best possible light. Your recruiter is your advocate, friend, and your eyes and ears into the business community. Develop a relationship, but just as the recruiter is interviewing you, ensure you do your due diligence in selecting a recruiter that specializes in your market and has the experience to represent you in the marketplace.
  6. Network, network, network. Although you need to be conscious of not spending too much time on unnecessary things, many meetings, phone calls, and exploratory discussions with other professionals will prove to be invaluable down the road.

Top 6 Things To Avoid When Starting A Career Search:

  1. Blasting your resume out to every company that could be of interest often send it into a black hole and then a search firm can’t help position you into these companies.
  2. Being secretive about what companies you are already in process with. This insight is valuable for a search firm to know, reduces duplication, and opens up search firms to consider you for additional roles.
  3. Holding back on sharing the real issues that are the main motivations to make a move and the real “wants” in your next opportunity.
  4. Not taking a systematic approach to a job search so you can understand your value in the market, and be smart with your most valuable resource — time.
  5. Not taking a long-term vision to your career search. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that every person you speak with can lead you to another, and although that specific person might not seem appropriate at the time, the more you are able to share information and create dialogue, the more energy and information will be exchanged in returned.
  6. Understanding and communicating with your recruiter what type of culture you want and think you will be most successful in (e.g., big company, start-up, midsize)

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