Working With Search Firms: Matt Bud’s Opinion

So who is this “Matt Bud” character, exactly, and why should his opinion matter to you?

Matt is the Chairman of one of the world’s largest professional networking associations, the Financial Executives Networking Group (FENG, for short), comprising over 36,000 financial executives across the globe who have banded together to share tips, career advice, and networking assistance.  He’s also a former CFO, himself, in addition to being the Managing Partner of a top financial consulting and executive recruiting firm based on the East Coast.

Long story short, this guy really knows his stuff when it comes to the executive job hunting arena.  And he’s also one of the most talented (and prolific) writers out there today when it comes to career issues.  I’m in awe of his efforts in this regard, quite frankly.  So even if you aren’t in the financial field, yourself, I’d highly encourage you to follow the thoughts he shares on a daily basis via his blog, available here.

At any rate, out of all the great insights he pumps out, I thought the article he wrote yesterday might be a particularly useful read for many of you out there on my distribution list, since I know a great many job hunters are still mildly (or largely) confused by how to work effectively with search firms — aka recruiting firms or headhunters.  So with Matt’s permission, I’m reprinting his article below for your reading pleasure:

(when he says “members” in this article, just substitute the phrase “job hunters” instead, since he wrote this particular article directly for the benefit of the FENG membership…)

Search Firm Rules of Engagement (Matt Bud)

“I got a note today from one of our members asking how to manage his relationship with search firms.

The first thing I would point out to everyone is that the search business isn’t what it used to be.  (But then, what is?)  I would suggest that there honestly aren’t a lot of searches currently going on anywhere in America, hence the brevity of our newsletter most days.  When there are a lot of searches out in the market, my phone here at world headquarters rings non-stop, and recently it has been more like a library atmosphere.

That said, there are a few valiant souls left in the business and our objective as an organization is to treat them well.  Specifically, I request that members only respond when they meet at least 75% of the position requirements.  Briefly, if you wouldn’t hire you, don’t waste everyone’s time.  Yes, I know you need a job, but with all the folks out of work right now, a search firm can generally speaking get a slate of qualified candidates in short order.

It is a beauty contest of sorts.  When candidates are stacked up side by side, you really have to hit most of the buttons.  In addition, if you are made aware of an open job by a search firm, you are honor bound not to run around them to the firm in question, even if they refuse to submit your credentials and you think they are wrong.  Trust me, it never works.  They have a relationship with the client and you will only end up embarrassing them and you, not to mention ensuring that you won’t be considered.

This leads well into my next point which is that search firms work for their clients, not for you.  They are not in the business of making a square peg fit a round hole.  The client rules.  If they want a left-handed monkey wrench turner, a right-handed one just won’t do.

Let us assume that you have somehow gotten an interview with a recruiter and/or gotten to know one due to a search he/she was working to fill.  What do you think the odds are that they will have another search to show you?  Unfortunately, the answer to that one is that the odds are very low.  Unless they are extremely specialized and you are also, they only work on a few searches in any one year and the likelihood of the glove fitting that well twice in a reasonable period of time is very low.

Does it pay to follow up with them?  Sure.  What have you got to lose?  Just don’t make a pest of yourself.  Some of the real professionals in the business will actually talk to you and help you in your career.  Why would they do that?  Because they hope to some day get some business out of you.  How widely should you broadcast your resume?  As widely as makes sense.  The only thing I wouldn’t do is submit your resume to several recruiters at the same firm.  They honestly don’t talk to recruiters at other firms much because they are competitors.

One of the things you need to be aware of are corporations that use lots of recruiters.  This is primarily an issue with larger firms, and since they don’t hire a lot of our members, it isn’t a big issue for us.  You don’t want to be in the position of multiple firms submitting your name to the same firm.  If there is any sense that your placement could result in a lawsuit as to who submitted you first, you will simply not be selected.  Always try to find out who the client is if your credentials are being sent in.  And, if you are concerned that you are responding to the same job you responded to previously, let the search firm know.

Item last.  If a recruiter asks you to let them know about all of your interviews, don’t do it.  It is really none of their business and their value added isn’t there.  They are only trying to find out the names of firms that are hiring so they can send in more candidates.  Since you are clearly already represented, what do you have to gain by telling them?

Let me close by reminding all members that the ‘real deal’ is networking.  I am only bringing up the issues related to search firms because they should be part of your overall strategy.”

Great advice, Matt!  Thanks for allowing me to share your pragmatic thoughts on this subject with my readership…



  1. 50 Tips to Help You Find a Job – Just another weblog - May 25, 2010

    […] Should you work with a search firm? […]

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