Do You Trust Your Headhunter?

By Bruce Powell

Job candidates often ask us how much information they should disclose to their headhunter. Should they say who else they’re interviewing with? What other recruiters they’re working with? Should they reveal their actual salary?

My response is usually this … “Do you trust your headhunter?” Trust is what determines how much information you should share.

A headhunter/candidate situation is a relationship. Within that relationship, you need to share as much information as you trust them with. And, if it’s a trusted relationship, the more you share with them, the better they’ll be able to provide you counsel around your career decisions.

But first comes the trust.

You don’t have to like them. You do have to trust them.

In some cases, you may not particularly like your recruiter. (Yes, it does happen. Almost never at IQ Partners of course, because we’re such a likeable crew but the recruiting industry unfortunately does have its share of disagreeable folks.)

However, just because you don’t like your headhunter doesn’t mean that you should discount the relationship. As an acquaintance said to me many years ago when we were discussing this very topic, “Why would it matter whether or not I liked my recruiter? I don’t need to be his/her friend. In fact, I don’t want to be their friend. But if they are going to give me access to opportunities that can advance my career, why wouldn’t I want to pursue that relationship?”

It’s a valid point. But here’s my word of caution. Sometimes that feeling of “not liking” someone actually means you may not trust them. So I would say go ahead and continue to work with that person, but just be careful with what information you share. If it’s not a trusted relationship, then share your information carefully.

There’s better advice when there’s trust.

On the flip side, in a trusted relationship, sharing information can be extremely valuable and beneficial for your career.

One particular candidate that I had known for many years was a senior executive who I was recruiting for a top-level job. He was waffling about a great offer I’d put on the table, and finally he came clean with me. He had another offer he was seriously considering. We talked about it, and I surprised him by recommending that he take the other offer. I felt it was a better fit for him. And here’s the kicker – I didn’t have a backup candidate – he was it. I could have easily used the information he gave me and turned it into our advantage, negotiating a higher salary, etc. but I gave him trusted counsel about the best career decision for him, and he appreciated it.

So I guess it all comes down to trust. Trust in yourself and what you want … and work with a headhunter you can trust to help you get there.

For other tips on making the most of your relationship with your headhunter, check out our blog section Dealing with a headhunter.

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