Gwen biking around the Googleplex

Gwen biking around the Googleplex


Ever wanted the inside scoop on headhunters? Meet Gwen – friend, ex-colleague, advisor, and of course, headhunter. Currently running her own business, Beslow Consulting LLC, Gwen’s also worked for some of the world’s most desirable employers, like Google.


So Gwen, you obviously work with a ton of candidates eager to get new jobs. What are your top pet peeves?   

You’d think this wouldn’t happen but headhunters still see a lot of resumes with spelling errors and typos.  It’s sloppy and doesn’t suggest great care or attention to detail.


Also, people sometimes have resumes with an objective statement that says the person is interested in a completely different kind of job than the one they are applying to. This kind of stuff happens a lot when you’re doing mass applications – going after any and all jobs without much direction or focus.


Headhunters use LinkedIn a lot to find and contact candidates. Now how can someone try to develop a good relationship with you via LinkedIn or even by email? 

Be courteous and be specific. 


If you are copying and pasting messages, then it is most likely going to be a generic (and ineffective) approach. This goes for contacting both headhunters as well as people who work directly at a company. 


For example, if you are interested in working with Amazon, know why. Did you just read an article about drones delivering their packages? Did you know they own Quidsi (who is the parent company for companies like Diapers.com)? I was speaking with them recently and they asked what I thought about the boxes they were using for Amazon Prime (luckily, I had an answer).


Even if I can’t help someone, I will respond to every email I get – so long as it is not a mass email. 


What difference does it make (if any) if you like a particular candidate or not?

I think it depends on why I might not like a candidate.  If someone is unpleasant or dishonest, I will not develop a relationship with them or submit them for a job. As a headhunter, I want to fill as many jobs as possible by submitting as few candidates as possible. 


Liking or connecting with a candidate makes it easier to get to know them and get a good feeling for what they are really looking for, but it’s not essential for me to work well with them. 


If you were going to use a headhunter yourself, would you tell them your current salary?

Yes, but not right away and not via email. My salary would likely seem high based on my age but if I spoke to someone, I could explain how I got to a senior level in a short amount of time.   


From a headhunter point of view, your current salary is the easiest screening tool and saves the most time.  Don’t forget that before making offers, companies often ask for paystubs!


In any case, a good headhunter will know what the market rate is and should already have an idea of what you are making.  This works both ways and the headhunter should always be able to tell you what the salary range for a particular position is. 


For the people who refuse to disclose their salary or want to wait until they get an offer, just keep in mind that a lot of companies will not accept resumes from headhunters without salary information.  I ask two questions, what did you make at your last job and what do you want to make at your next one – and then I work from there. If you want to try to negotiate more after the offer, of course that’s your prerogative.   


What is a common misconception of a headhunter?  

A lot of people think that when you speak to headhunters, you should be in interview mode.  A headhunter should be your advocate and the more information you can give them to help them understand why you left your past job and what you want in your future job, the better. 


As a headhunter, I want to know more information to help me either 1) place people or 2) rule them out. I had someone the other day tell me that he lost his last job due to filing a discrimination claim.  I’m glad he said it so I could appropriately coach him on how to convey that during an interview. However, if he had told me he lost his job because he discriminated against someone, I would be glad that he told me so that I could avoid submitting him…


It’s pretty widely known that headhunters tend to make about a big commission (based off of the candidate’s first year salary) when they place someone in a job. Why’s it so high?

For contingent agreements (meaning the headhunter only gets paid if they fill the position), the market rate is 20-25%. The headhunter should be an extension of the company they are recruiting for and doing everything an in-house talent acquisition team would be doing.  This means advertising jobs (which can cost up to $1000 per job to post), screening candidates (and helping revise resumes when necessary), writing bios and scheduling interviews.  If a headhunter is not doing all of those things, then they’re not worth the fee.


Should candidates follow up with headhunters when they have been submitted for a job and don’t hear back?  

Yes! Most likely if you have not heard back, either the headhunter has not heard back from the company or the company has rejected the resume. But regardless, an email can often get the quickest response. 


Any good headhunting stories to share with us?

When I recruited for Microsoft, I once received a cover letter that explained why the person so badly wanted to work for Apple! This kind of thing happens more often than you’d think.


At Google, I called someone who was a recent college grad about a job he applied to. It was a bad connection and he was really rude.  I told him I was calling about the resume he submitted to Google and he commented that he had never heard of the company and suggested I email him the name.  Needless to say, he was much nicer after he got my email (!), but I did not continue down the interview process for him. 


One of my other favorite stories is that I had a candidate mail me a shoe with his resume.  I of course had to call him. He told me he was just, “trying to get his foot in the door.”  He actually ended up getting the job!


Any other advice you’d give to someone before they start working with a headhunter?  

Find a headhunter who specializes in hiring for jobs that you are interested in or who focuses on your industry. It is also a very good sign when a headhunter has both in-house and agency experience.  I would be hesitant to work with someone who has only worked on the agency side because they can lack perspective.  Ask when you speak to them or look at their LinkedIn profile.   


Also, work with someone that you trust and be honest with the headhunter. This relationship works both ways.  So for example, if over the phone a headhunter will not tell you the name of the company they are recruiting for, I’d advise against working with them. 



For more information on Gwen and Beslow Consulting LLC (focused on NYC Tri-State and the SF Bay Area), check her out on LinkedIn, follow her on twitter @gwenbeslow (or follow her dog on twitter @pongosrevenge) or post a comment/question below. 

Comments & Responses

2 Responses so far.

  1. Greg says:

    Great article Gwen. As Gwen’s old boss I can’t recommend her highly enough, an outstanding recruiter.

  2. Very good article. Yes, typos are a no-no. I also agree that finding a specialist is the way to go.

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