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Jobs on a platter

WHAT'S in a name, they say. Quite a lot is. If this were circa 1820, and you were up for your first appointment with the local head-hunter in the wilds of the Amazon, you would have your reasons to be wary of the trophies impaled on sticks outside his well-garnished domicile. This, however, is circa 2005. And headhunters are now a sought-after lot. They have little to do with the headhunters of history, and are, by a great margin, a gentler species. They live and work in plush offices and happily, most of the `trophies' that they capture for their corporate clients do not end up on the wrong end of a stick. They are perhaps as good a bet as any for people who need help in finding a job.

Placement agencies, employment consultants or headhunters as they are often called, work to fill specific positions in companies. Their principal purpose is to bring applicants and employers together. Sometimes, these agencies offer a range of services. In addition to placement assistance, they can provide the candidate a list of currently available jobs, help them with writing and formatting resumes and cover letters, give them advice or conduct workshops on interview skills, personality development and skill profiling. Usually when a person is placed with a corporate client, the hiring company pays the placement fee, but it is also possible that you may have to pay a part of it, or the fee may be billed to you after you've secured a job.

Although many of these firms are legitimate, there are quite a few unscrupulous agencies that take people for a ride by misrepresenting their services, promoting fictitious job offerings, or charging fees upfront for services that may not lead to a job, all under the guise of offering placement assistance. So how do you steer clear of the bad apples in the basket and find the right kind of recruiter? Try some of these tips: The traditional route is to locate agencies in your area, through the telephone book or the Internet. You could also enlist the help of colleagues for recommendations, or refer to advertisements placed in newspapers by recruiting agencies.

Some recruiters are industry specific and others are skill specific. If you dash off your résumé to every agency listed in the directory, you may be inundated with more interview calls than you can possibly handle. Remember, not all of them may be productive. Most of the agencies may not be in a position to help you with the kind of job that you want. Find recruiters who specialise in your skills/ field.

Talk to the agency representatives at length to know what sort of jobs they have on offer, what the requirements are, what the basic salary structure is, and what other benefits you may get. Make sure of the credentials of the agency before you make any upfront payment for registration or services offered by the agency. An ideal way to do this is to ask around. If somebody you know was placed by the agency it makes matters much simpler. However, if you cannot find somebody who dealt with the agency, take a look at their track record.

Send your résumé along with a cover letter that says what your requirements in terms of salary, industry, and location are. If you are not willing to relocate, say so but be aware that it could limit your options. Mention any other specific requirements such as the need for discretion. Headhunters usually send a flurry of resumes to all the clients in their database. This means your résumé could get widely distributed and turn up at desks in many different companies. It could be a potential landmine if you are still in your current job and do not want your employer to find out.

Do not wait for the agency to call you. Most agencies purge older/ unsuitable resumes at specific intervals. So follow up from time to time and update your résumé with the agency at least once in six months.

During your meeting with a headhunter/ placement consultant press for a realistic appraisal of your chances of being placed. If you do not get a reassuring picture, you can assume that the recruiter is giving your candidacy a low priority. In that case, instead of wasting your time strolling a blind alley, scout around for a headhunter who takes an interest in your background and can actively help you in landing a job.

Another advantage with headhunters is that apart from maintaining a bevy of corporate contacts they are constantly expanding their client base and looking out for new opportunities. Besides, employers generally look more favorably at a candidate who is professionally recommended; and as their bread and butter depends on getting the right candidate, the headhunters will package your credentials in a very attractive wrapping when they present your case to the employer. Also, as experienced brokers, headhunters find ways to put good deals together and iron out differences you and the hiring company may have regarding your salary, benefits, and relocation package. So, brace yourself for an appointment with the local headhunter. When you need help finding the right kind of job in a corporate jungle, he is the one most likely to hand it to you on a platter.


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