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Trust and Clout: Trout!

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When you start fishing the waters for recruiters, focus on a good "trout" stream because Trust and Clout are two determinants of a winning catch. Let's first consider trust. Do you sense that you can trust a particular recruiter? Is he trusted by his client companies? The more you can answer these questions regarding a potential "career partner," the better. On a personal level, the gut speaks volumes that the mind can't always absorb, so you may just need to go with it. Client trust, how-ever, may be more difficult to determine given that many headhunters will not necessarily divulge their client's identity until absolutely necessary. But it has been determined that the two of you might be a good working match, this should not be an issue. Some head-hunters, as in any service industry, might even have letters on file from former satisfied clients or candidates. It's not a must, but it might be an avenue to explore in determining a recruiter's muster.

Another simple way to assess the trust factor-turn an oft-used interview question back on the recruiter: "What would your candidates say about you as a recruiter? What would your clients say?" Initially, it might throw the head-hunter off to be interviewed by a candidate. But, whatever the outcome, you win: either 1) the recruiter is caught off-guard and reveals a power-trip mentality which says "I am in charge, not you;" 2) they reveal an interesting perspective of themselves that you can process through your own BS detector; or 3) your chutzpah and professional savvy in asking makes an incredible impression, upping their desire to work with you. As I said, whatever the outcome... you win.

A word about trust: it's a two-way street. Don't expect a headhunter to let her hair down and begin revealing more than the usual cryptic information unless and until you are willing to do the same. The successful recruiter/candidate relationship is founded on the same principles as all human relationships-mutual trust, mutual respect. If you view a new recruiter through past-tainted glasses, know that what you see will be tainted. Best to always be the one to demonstrate trust by sticking your neck out first. This opens the gate for reciprocity. What are some recognizable elements of trust? Basic openness, honesty, and authenticity-letting your guard down to let some-one really get to know you .. . where you've been, where you want to go.



When considering the trust dimension, it is important for you to know a recruiter's basic fear when disclosing client information. It's that the candidate will go around the recruiter, doing an end-run straight to the company. I'm sure those reading this book have more integrity than that.

But to understand the motivations and mindset of a headhunter, know this: "going around" means that the candidate takes the information gained from an initial conversation with a recruiter and uses it to contact the hiring company, thereby bypassing the company's obligation to pay the recruiter's fee. As low-down as it seems, it does happen, and the fear has been genetically ingrained in headhunters, whether or not they've actually experienced it. You see, recruiters are in the injorma tion-brokerage business: they broker the information they gather on clients and candi dates to make a living. If a client or candidate utilizes information gained from a recruiter to either hire an employee or get a job, unquestionably that recruiter is entitled to compensation.

If, on an initial call, you've ever asked a headhunter "What's the name of the company?" and you've heard him hem and haw, now you know why. Certainly you have never entertained the thought of using such information unethically but, on the first call, a recruiter doesn't know you from Adam. Over time, as in any budding relationship, when the candidate and recruiter learn more about one another, more is revealed. So don't be offended if you can't find out everything up-front-understand the headhunter's situation. In time, however, if an open and relaxed relationship between recruiter and candidate has not begun to coalesce, there may be reason to reassess your choice of recruiters. Now let's take a look at clout.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines clout as "pull" or "influence" and it is another vital ingredient in your total recruiter evaluation picture. One way to determine it is by asking outright "What is the range of fees you charge client companies?" Again, it may well elicit surprise, a candidate turning the interview tables, but the reaction will be revealing. A headhunter who is highly respected by clients is well paid. She may not want to reveal this information, claiming that it is proprietary in nature. Don't let this be an immediate turn-off: your relationship may not yet be at that level of openness. Then again, it may mean that this firm is a "bargain shop," a cut-rate recruiting house that undermines the professionalism of the entire industry by charging fees far below average. If you were proud of your services, don't you think you should enjoy the privilege of charging prevailing rates?
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