Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired of your career and want to make a change?
OK, so how to begin to do this? There are job boards, friends, your huge LinkedIn network or headhunters right? You start to do one or all of these but because you only jump into this pool once a year or less it’s all very mysterious, confusing and most of all a huge pain. And most days you have no gain to show for your efforts. Along comes this new concept of a Career Coach. Is this just another way for someone to make money? The short answer is yes of course, but are they worth it? Shouldn’t my recruiter be my coach? You think, I already know how to write a resume, the internet showed me how, my cover letters look good, and my background sure seems better than a lot of my friends. So why am I not getting calls? Interviews? Offers? What am I missing in this puzzle? A good coach might be the bridge between you and the career you want. I have been a career coach for a long time and was a successful headhunter for years before that. I was also a VP that had to sift through hundreds of resumes to find the best fit for my openings. Believe me; it’s no easier for a hiring manager to find the right person than an applicant to find the right job.
So what is the difference between a coach and headhunter? Let me explain it and give you some helpful tips on how to leverage both to your advantage. In short, both can become key allies to your next move if you understand them and utilize them properly. First some definitions: Headhunter-a person that makes money ONLY IF their guy gets hired. Its 100% commission and very, very hard work. A great headhunter is a part door to door salesman, part detective, and part trainer. Imagine selling vacuum cleaners door to door. Painful right? The headhunter has to investigate, find and sell a hiring manager into using them to locate talent. But they are not the only vacuum in town. Hiring managers use between 5-15 headhunters to find people, so the competition is fierce. Add to this picture an HR person that fights with the hiring manager for control over recruiter contact so the recruiter has to know where first contact must be to claim the fee. The companies internal struggles sometimes leaves the headhunter chasing a moving target in HR and/or the hiring manager, both of whom are packed with every mood, emotion, prejudice, and personality a human can have. This is half of a very difficult sale that involves two separate intangible factors, the hiring manager (as a person) and you the candidate (also a person). And as normal people, we are all affected by stress, distraction, and our changing personal needs.
On top of these challenges, headhunters get a bad rap from most people. Think of how you felt when a recruiter called you while you had a good job. You were probably not thrilled and thought of them as a cold call telemarketer. If they were good, they asked for a referral, and you blew them off right? If you are considered a hot candidate, you are often cold called. Do you respect them and realize how hard they have it? Of course not. Neither did I as an employer. But if all goes well and you do get hired the headhunter will get between 20-30% of your starting salary as commission. Trust me; they earn every penny. If the headhunter is independent, they keep 60-70% of that. If the recruiter works at a firm, they keep 35-40%. But the big gotcha is that they are selling one intangible to another intangible. This is a great article by Michael Spiro that explains the concept of intangible selling and the difficulties recruiters face every day: https://michaelspiro.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/why-job-hunting-is-a-consultative-sales-position/. So the next time you get a call be kind to them. That person’s name you give them will be treated with respect and may thank you for thinking of them!
How to find and manage a good relationship with a headhunter: First you must understand we have become a “buzzword” world. Companies and recruiters all use an ATS or Applicant Tracking System. This software tool reads resumes and looks for keyword matches. Once matched it looks for a degree and number of jobs. Some tools do more, but these are the basics. That said your real value in stage 1 is having the right buzzwords to get past the ATS. Think of all the things you have done and find the right industry buzzword that describes it. Name names of products in your skills summary too. Say “ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus 9.3” not just “Helpdesk.” Fill your skills section with buzzwords, so both recruiters and companies will take the additional 20 seconds to skim your cover letter (stage 2) after your resume. They want to see in your cover letter is that you want the job they are advertising (company) or that you are ready to discuss any job they think you might fit and that you will take their direction on how to present yourself (recruiter). With what you now know about recruiters you have to present yourself by buzzwords, short job descriptions, and a note that you are open, very open to job type, function, salary, and title. The headhunter wants the candidate with the most available skills so they can get creative and make more job matches for you. Help them help you by being open and expansive. Most people think by doing this they are saying YES to anything that happens after this conversation. In truth, you are setting yourself up to BE ABLE TO GET TO MAKE A DECISION at all. You can always say no to something later.
Make friends with recruiters. They have families and stressful jobs too. In their day to day job hunt, I suggest to people to spend a third of the day inviting qualified LinkedIn business connections, a third of the day applying to posted jobs a third of the day inviting recruiters to connect that look like they work in your industry. Once you develop a list of recruiters, make a distribution list email to all of them and send a blind email once a week to say “keep me at the top of your list”. Help them by finding jobs that may read like something you could do that may have a different title, role or qualifications. The easier you make it for a recuriter to see a fit the faster you will get a new job.
Another good method is to hunt down good jobs where the company is named, and blind copy your distribution list with the link saying “this looks like a great job for me, can you get my resume in front of the hiring manager?” If there is a way to get you in one of them may have a MUCH better chance to get it done than you do. If you don’t hear back within a business day from anyone on your list apply yourself. This method is called networking recruiters. There is nothing wrong with asking several recruiters if they have a leg into a company you identify. I have seen many cases where an APPLICANT’S RESUME was the KEY MOTIVATOR that got the recruiter in the door. They work hard, and all deserve a chance to place you. You are helping them. This is a good thing! If one calls you with a phone interview with a company get all available information from them. Do not accept “be yourself.” At a minimum they have a detailed job description, they know the background of the manager, they may have placed other candidates there. Find out why they got hired and their backgrounds, tell them you need more info to do well. You want more coaching from them based on their knowledge. Most headhunters send a cooperative manager ALL the resumes they think are a fit so spending a lot of time with you is not a priority. Make it your priority and find out what they know. As I mentioned before it’s hard for a good recruiter to slow down and see a good reason to do this, so you have to be assertive. If they resist say “I will use the information to make us both money.” That will resonate.
If you pass muster on the phone screen keep on them for more info. (Who are my competitors, what skills do they bring, where do I rank and what information will help me move up the rankings). You can positively impact your case by generating new information based on good feedback. The recruiter will forward new or expanded information to help you if it helps them make money. Work at this, do not just wait to hear back. On every phone screen with a company get the manager’s email address or business card and begin to communicate directly with them after the interview. Send a customized thank you and call out specifics about the job and company including those all important buzzwords. It’s good to say “I did some research and it seems you guys use xxx which is very close to my use of xxx.” This is buzzword translation that will help the manager make links between you and his needs. He wants to see a quick training curve and a desire to quickly hit the ground running and do what he needs to be done. Keep your recruiter informed if you have any follow-up contact but let them know you are going to stay in touch with the manager. If your reasons are sound, they will support you and see you as a better chance for his commission. Some will fight for control but can always be reasoned with if you do your homework and have something positive to add to your case. But make no mistake they are in it for the money and not the fact that you need or want this job.
Be an assertive partner not a victim of chance. Ask for coaching, and the good recruiters will give you some good pointers. Always ask for feedback on your resume from them. Every recruiter has their favorite style so take what they say and make the suggested changes. Doing this with four or five recruiters will give you enough feedback to create a decent resume. But if you want personal, focused and quality help constructing your resume, cover letter, creating a powerful LinkedIn profile that supports them find a great career coach. You need to create a solid “brand, ” and that’s where a career coach comes in.
A career coach- I made the transition into coaching because my role as a headhunter was by nature limited to search and place the best-qualified candidate and to MINIMIZE any time spent outside direct money making activity. My ATS was the first part of a conveyor belt that left no room for proper research, candidate coaching and was designed to be money focused vs. applicant focused. I told a lot of people to just “be yourself” when I knew that they were floundering in the complexity of proper career management. In truth unraveling the complexity of finding a new job happens with great tools, a structure with goals and guidance from a pro. A great coach knows how to create, utilize and teach you how to navigate all aspects of a well-constructed strategic plan. All of these elements require a degree of skill that 99% of people don’t have because 99% of the time you don’t need to know them. A great career coach knows how to properly manage all of these factors and will guide you through them to a successful placement. They should be able to help you understand what type of job you COULD do vs. a job you SHOULD do. There is a big difference. Remember the vacuum? A salesman sells it based on what it can do and what the customer needs it to do. If you want to broaden your scope a coach can show you the jobs you may be qualified to do based on your skills that you wouldn’t come up with on your own. It takes research, creativity, knowledge of the market and how coachable you are. We try and show the vacuum how many different tools they can be that are of equal or greater value to someone. A quality coach will also teach you how to SELL YOURSELF INTO THAT JOB.
Think of it this way: if you didn’t have a resume and a potential employer asked you “what can you do” your story would be about your past, present and potential future. You would not say “here, read this and come to your own conclusions. You would want to ask “what is it that you NEED someone to do.” Once known you could creatively tell your story in a way that uses their language and gives them confidence you would succeed. They would see your confidence and passion for success in whatever you do, feel your enthusiasm and belief in your capabilities. The resume on its own may hurt you because it does not tell the story like you just did. You sold yourself into their needs with creativity and confidence. You didn’t lie or exaggerate; you were allowed the chance to tell your story framed up to best match the managers wants and needs. Your coach should be your teacher allowing you to make this happen through a well-constructed cover letter and resume that motivates a discussion, so you have an opportunity to tell your story.
The cover letters I write are the ones I used to respond to. They are unique, unusual, motivational and always customized to the company and job. But a good coach also teaches you how to do it yourself through a well-constructed template. A great coach knows how to weave your strongest story from cover letter to resume to LinkedIn and how to communicate it based on individual opportunities. So now you can see where a headhunter’s job is to place you where you should fit, the coach helps you understand the widest scope of where you could fit and helps you get there. To me, the investment in a great coach can mean the difference between a new job to pay the bills to a new career that gives fulfillment and happiness while you pay the bills.
All coaches will give you a free analysis of your current situation and documents for free. Find one you connect with and consider them a partner when you need help or want to know where you stand in your market space. The average fees are $100 for new documents, sometimes including a LinkedIn pump up. Coaching from start to finish can range from $125-150 an hour. Based on the complexity and obstacles we all face in today’s job market. It could be the best investment in your career you can make.
-Murray Carlson, Life Works Today LLC. NCLC, NCRC, NCSRC, NCCRC
(630) 388-8158 www.lifeworkstoday.net