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Ask the Headhunter: Can a headhunter really find you a job without your resume?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: You are a headhunter who does not advocate the use of resumes. You state that the best resume is no resume. (See “Skip The Resume: Triangulate to get in the door.”) Yet, companies demand resumes all the time. Can you tell us how you are able to present candidates to your clients without the use of resumes?

Nick Corcodilos: It works like this: A client hires me to fill a certain position. I go find great people, usually between three and four. I discuss the candidate with the client, and we decide whether to proceed with an interview on the basis of information I have gathered and interpreted. If I provide a resume, it’s usually after the interview, and it serves to “fill in the blanks” about the candidate’s background. Clients pay me to select the candidates; why should they waste their time reading resumes?

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: How you can fix gaps in your resume

There’s one thing I do that clients love: I discuss the client’s business with a candidate, then I transcribe the discussion and provide it to the client (with the candidate’s permission, of course). That way, the client gets to see what the candidate has to say about the business, the job and relevant issues.

By the way, I don’t solicit resumes while I’m searching for candidates. I base my initial candidate selections primarily on the recommendations of trusted contacts and my own interviews. I call this a preemptive reference check. Then, I might ask for a resume to fill in the blanks — for information I might not have requested in our discussions. The client trusts my judgment and interviews the candidate on my say-so. That’s what the client is paying me for.

Almost everything happens via person-to-person discussions, not paperwork. Once you get used to this approach, you realize how inaccurate and incomplete even good resumes really are. They’re distracting.

You might conclude that my method is very different from what you can do yourself to get in the door. In fact, it’s exactly the same. The reason the Ask The Headhunter approach seems daunting to many people is that it requires a lot of work — all the work I’ve described.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: 7 steps to a new job — but first, burn your resume

Instead of a headhunter doing the work, however, you would arrange for an insider — someone the company trusts — to appraise and introduce you without a resume. This might be an employee, a vendor or customer of the company, a friend or associate of the hiring manager, or some third party whose opinion the company respects. The most powerful recommendation is always a personal one: a trusted source tells an employer to meet you.

The common response to this suggestion is that it’s impossible and that no one could actually do this. In fact, most people just don’t want to be bothered to identify and make such necessary personal contacts, perhaps because they believe the only way to get a job interview is to follow the protocols an employer’s HR department sets.

That’s a complacent attitude about getting a job. Surveys and studies consistently show that most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. If the automated, online, application-form, high-volume, impersonal methods aren’t working for you, I suggest you devote yourself to trying it this way. It works.

You can be your own headhunter, and that’s how to pull it off.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Here’s how to ask someone to be your job reference

Dear Readers: What’s your experience landing good jobs? Does personal work better than the impersonal job-application route?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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