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Thursday January 24th 2019

Headhunters Are not Your Friends (The Recruiter)

Headhunters are not your friends.

By The Recruiter

(The writer is our volunteer career counsellor and he blogs at

Point to note: a headhunter who calls you about a job opening isn’t interested in being your friend.

If anything, you should be worried if the headhunter or recruiter who calls you starts getting interested in the goings-on in your personal life.

Remember at the end of the day, the headhunter’s business is filling positions for his or her client—not helping people find jobs. We’re hired and paid by our clients, and once engaged, we’re only interested in fulfilling the requirements of the assignment instead of entertaining conversations centering around the baby shower you had last weekend, or meeting you over coffee to talk about your relationship problems. In other words, we’re the kind of people who will tell you “let’s keep in touch”, but never really do…unless it’s business.

I have to be frank: my principal responsibility and priority is to the client who’s paying me, not the candidate, so don’t start whining when you wonder why I never call back after that first meeting, or why I’m not helping you find another job if the whole deal falls through: like I said, it’s nothing personal, it’s only business.

That said, it’s not entirely true that I’m an unapproachable snob—I do keep in touch with candidates, and offer advice in a personal capacity, but only at a time convenient to do so. As far as possible, I keep things professional, and I don’t usually entertain people who write to me asking me if I can help them find jobs in Singapore or elsewhere in the region.

In other words, I’ll come to you if I think you are a suitable fit and potential candidate for my clients—else, you may not ever get a call from me.

What I dislike most is people sending me unsolicited CVs that are not even close to the requirements of my assignments but look more like cries for help—honestly, no headhunter would entertain such calls or emails: we’re a business, not a charity.

The key word is “talent”. My job is not to merely fill positions: it’s to find talented people who will fulfill positions as close to, even exceeding, clients’ expectations and requirements.

One other thing: some headhunters work exclusively on assignments with annual salary ranges in excess of SGD 100k, so yes, arguably, we are highly selective about who we work with.

There are, however, things you can do to get headhunters and recruiters like myself to notice you:

  • Establish your reputation and track record. A true headhunter or a recruiter worth his or her keep is only interested in candidates with impeccable reputation and track record. And yes, we are particularly interested in hidden gems, not the candidates who actively post resumes on job search portals and apply for every other position available. What we’re looking for is someone who has solid credentials and established strong credibility in his or her line of work, and with significant contributions to the current or former organization. 
  • Google yourself. This may seem like a strange practice, but with technology like Google, Facebook and a host of social networking sites, you’ll never know what turns up when you type your name in the search engine. I have seen candidates who lose their credibility because of what they wrote on their blogs or when a non-flattering photo taken during the last company D&D springs up courtesy of the Internet. 
  • Network. Draw yourself out of a shell, and start networking to get to know people. Headhunters like to hang out at networking events, and there’s a chance you get to meet one at the Lexus Cup. Attending seminars, industry forums, training programs and other industry-related events also present opportunities for you to be identified as a headhunter’s next target. Further, networking also allows you to introduce yourself to potential employers and directly market yourself. 
  • Contact the headhunter only when you know there is a position you are suited for. Nothing irks recruiters and headhunters more than unsolicited resumes that have no relevance to any of their assignments. Worse, it makes you appear as if you’re desperate to find a job, and that may already create a negative impression, particularly if you begin with “I need help finding a job”. Remember, we’re not here to help people find jobs—we work to fill positions with our clients.
  • Be honest. If you think you can lie about your accomplishments or get away with leaving significant gaps in your resume, think again: headhunters are resourceful enough to get to the bottom of things, and we tend to be very stringent in background checks, particularly since the reputation and credibility of the headhunter is at stake. 

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