Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Come and get me: Using a headhunter

Headhunter, search firm, recruiter, temporary agency-- they are not really synonymous, but they do describe a similar purpose: they receive an assignment from an employer with a job opening and they try to fill it. Some work from their available candidate pools, filling relatively low-skilled positions, to others who have rolodexes of extremely versatile and talented execs who they may be able to finesse into the position. Their services vary based on the needs of the company and many of these firms specialize by industry or salary range. Some may offer additional HR services, such as payroll or reference checking, to organizations that have a hiring relationship with them.

Are there librarian headhunters?

Sort-of. Correctly, there are firms that work to fill a variety of positions in the library: clerk, administrative assistant, for example. There are other firms that fill senior level positions, such as branch manager, when a personal touch may be needed to encourage a candidate to apply. A library may have decided to use a recruitment firm because it is hard to fill positions--don't scoff, rural libraries or libraries in less desirable locations or even libraries that have outsourced their HR may have a hard time staffing positions and need to use a recruitment firm. So, yes, you as a librarian can use a recruitment firm.

But you need to do your research first:
  • Find a recruitment firm that specializes in libraries. There are a few out there. Check the job postings and start looking at the websites of recruitment firms that are listed. Are there positions available that you can apply for? Do they attend any career fairs where you could meet with them in person and ask them about tailoring an application package?
  • You need to pick a recruitment firm that matches with your position. If you are trying to get in with a Fortune 500 company that has a library, look for a recruitment firm that assists Fortune 500 companies; if you want one that deals with academic libraries, look for those firms. Be specific.
  • Know what you want to do. I know that seems silly--you want to be a librarian. What kind? Where? Who for? With what duties? Can you do those things or do they seem like something you want to do? You need chemistry with the recruiter, but you should be able to make a bond with the position.
  • It takes time. Surprise: there is no time saving when working with a recruiter unless they have called you directly to match with a position. And that only happens if you are on their radar, which means, research, interview and submit application materials.
  • They aren't working for you. The recruiters work for the company that hired them to fill a position. You are important to the equation, yes, but if you have a bad attitude or unrealistic expectations, they can move to the next candidate on the list.
Using a recruitment firm or headhunter is not a time saver, but it can be an important part of your career management--especially if you see yourself moving up the management chain. Think about your strategy for approaching a recruiter and use some of the advice in Joe Borer's article How To Judge A Headhunter, to find the right one.


MIS librarian said...

Could you give us a short list of some of the recruitment agencies you speak about?

bookish37 said...

SLA has a page for executive recruitment firms: http://www.sla.org/content/resources/inforesour/reftool/placement.cfm

Through my work, I have also surveyed, researched and networked with recruitment firms (of all types, not just those that recruit librarians), so some of my comments in that post is related to my relationship and work with executive recruiters.