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Know As Many Retainer Firms As Possible

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Since it's clear that each retainer firm...no matter how large...is only going to show you a very few opportunities per year that would interest you, the only way you can know about more recruiter-handled opportunities is to know more firms. Certainly your self-interest lies in that direction, and how to achieve that goal-both conventionally and on the Internet-is something else we'll look into.

Contingency firms, however, are another matter. If a firm offers any contingency services-even though it also offers retainer services-consider it a contingency firm and look out for the potential disadvantages. You're probably already acquainted with some very fine contingency firms which have agreed never to submit you without first identifying both the employer and the job, and getting your advance approval. I suggest limiting your involvement with contingency firms to the ones where you have this high level of personal rapport.

Reach out to firms you don't know only if they're exclusively retainer, and hence unlikely to jeopardize their "pay-me-to-look" status by circulating your resume to any company that hasn't paid.



And of course no two retainer firms will ever be "searching" the same job simultaneously, since no employer would ever pay two suppliers to do the same work at the same time.

Therefore, no employer...and no retainer recruiter...will ever find out how many other recruiters and employers you've been in touch with.

Limiting the number of retainer recruiters who know about you doesn't increase your value to anyone. Such "exclusivity" merely reduces the number of attractive positions you'll know about, by reducing the number of firms that know about you.

The only potential problem you could have along these lines would be if you happened to contact both the employer and his retainer recruiter simultaneously. Then the employer might feel that the recruiter didn't have to look very hard to find you. However, the recruiter will also present several other fine candidates who weren't obvious, so he's in no trouble for presenting one obvious candidate. Indeed, he might have seemed remiss not to identify and check out the obvious one.

Notice that medium-sized and smaller retainer firms are likely to do you just as much good as the largest ones.

Don't neglect medium-sized and smaller firms. After all, no retainer firm- no matter how large, and how many of its jobs would interest you-is likely to show you more than one-at-a-time and two or three a year. Therefore, a firm that annually handles only thirty jobs you'd want may be just as likely to show you three-a-year as a huge company that handles three hundred you'd want.

Incidentally, from the sophisticated employer's point of view, the smaller firms can sometimes be far more valuable as recruiters than the largest ones, because they're far less handicapped by the "you-work-for-a-client" and the "allocated-to-another-recruiter-within-the-firm" barriers.

Don't imagine that being well known to a retainer firm will get you exposed to the most attractive opportunity they have in terms of your self-interest.

As you know, a retainer firm that observes traditional ethics will only tell you about one-opportunity-for-you at a time...usually no more than two or three per year. Chances are that "Murphy's Law" will have you allocated to an opportunity in Hog Wallow Bend, when the firm is asked to fill the job you'd love in an ideal company just twelve miles from your home.

If this happens when you're actively "looking," and you fail to reach the nearby employer, don't blame the retainer recruiter handling the Hog Wallow Bend search...nor his colleague doing the Hometown search. And don't blame me. You knew that you should have been in touch with the target employer directly. You're the one who failed to watch out for your self- interest.

Getting in touch with a recruiter raises an unfortunate presumption. Executives ordinarily do so only when they're out of work, or in trouble and anxious to move. The more recent the contact, the more it looks like the difficulty is now!

So if your resume is a recent arrival, you'll probably be earmarked for something relatively unattractive. The firm won't feel you have to be lured away from a great situation. And once you're allocated to a recruiter for a search, nobody in her firm can contact you on anything else, until she's finished her project and her administrative assistant has "returned you to the pool." You'll never know if something more attractive is co-pending, or comes along during the weeks and months before you're back in circulation.

Keep in touch as your career progresses.

For all the reasons we've just seen, it's a good strategy to have your up-to-date information in the databases and/or files of all the exclusively retainer recruiting firms well before you actually want to move. Each time you get a major promotion, use that opportunity to send the announcement memo to the firms you've had contact with.

The implication is that you're continuing to move ahead on the fast track. You're the type of person the retainer firms want to show their clients. You're not in trouble. You're not answering the ads placed by the contingency firms in newspapers and on Internet job sites. So you certainly can't be offered uninteresting, low-salaried, out-of-the-way jobs. Your announcement arrives at a time when you're obviously on a high. And the firm updates its information on you accordingly.

No. Make contacts that are convenient and time-efficient. But don't waste lots of valuable time that you could devote to other aspects of a well-rounded job search.

Remember that even the largest firms normally allow you to see only one- position-for-you at a time...probably only two or three per year. Once any firm has a file on you and you've met even one of its members, you're about as fully involved as you can possibly be.

Moreover, if any firm is already actively discussing any job with you, you know that you probably won't hear about anything else from them until that search is completed, or you've declared yourself a non-candidate...and until the recruiter you're talking to has relinquished you in the firm's database.
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