Home / “Why can’t you just get me a job?”… The truth about headhunters and 5 key ways to take control of your job search

“Why can’t you just get me a job?”… The truth about headhunters and 5 key ways to take control of your job search

By Edward Fanshawe. Published on 13 September 2016

Having lived the lion’s share of my career to date in finance and industry, I have personal experience and tremendous empathy with the sentiments of the (very talented and experienced) executives contacting us on a daily basis at Eton Bridge Partners.

Why can’t you find me a job?

I’ve seen everyone in my target sector and I’m not getting anywhere – it’s like I’m invisible!

I’ve just realised the scale of investment I need to make.”…

Just a few of the comments made to me by board level candidates who, for numerous reasons, have found themselves seeking a new challenge but having to make a significant investment in terms of personal time and effort to find it.

Having made the leap to the executive search community, I now understand. The truth is that it’s not the job of a headhunter to find you a job. I wish someone had told me this when I was in a similar position to those now calling me as Associate Partner for the Board Practice at Eton Bridge.

Ultimately, when you are looking to make a change in your career, unless it’s a straightforward progression within a functional area of expertise or sector, headhunters may not be best placed to help as we are mandated by clients and can only match you to opportunities as they arise. This is further complicated by the fact that the ‘matching’ process is intricate, and involves a myriad of variables from objective skills and experience, to highly subjective interpretation of attitude, aspiration and personality. Ultimately, it’s not about finding any role, but it’s about finding the right role for your specific skills, circumstances, aspirations and character. Getting it wrong can be worse than not getting it in the first place.

Whilst this may seem very clinical and cold, the benefit of maintaining relationships with headhunters consistently throughout your career (even when you don’t necessarily need them) is essential. The right breed of headhunter can make an easier introduction to clients for candidates they know well. This can be highly effective, but can only be considered where both parties are well understood, which takes time.

If you recognise some of the above in your current situation, I have outlined 5 key steps to get you moving in the right direction. Think of it as a market entry strategy that you will have created countless times in your career; it will be an investment of your time, but the relationships you build, the insight and knowledge you gain and the exposure to which it leads will absolutely never go to waste:

5 key ways to take control of your job search

1 – Crystallise your thoughts
There’s nothing wrong with an ‘emerging strategy’, but being able to articulate the sector, role, level, location and ambitions you are looking for is important. Non-specific or general enquiries don’t give the busy people you meet enough to really help you.

2- Network
Use your own contact base of friends, colleagues and their own contacts – don’t be shy, people generally want to help you but you need to ask. Referrals from this source will be powerful, personal and open doors for you.

3 – Get stuck in to the headhunting community
Find a way to introduce yourself to the regional players and functional/sector experts. Over time, select a few whom you trust and want to work with. Keep up consistent relationships and open dialogue – it might not be today, but at some stage we will be able to help you; be it finding you a role or even finding quality senior leadership teams to support you in a new position.  We won’t bite, and the good ones will stay with you for life, offering support, advice, discretion, choice and new opportunities.

4 – Target specific firm 
If you like a specific business, sector or industry – identify the firms you want to work for, create a valid pitch as to why you can add value to their organisation or portfolio companies, and find a way to contact them directly. General applications sometimes work, but personal referrals or LinkedIn requests with a specific message are far more effective.

5 – Use online platforms
We all know them, some work better than others and might not be right to get you a job, but scanning relevant jobs boards can help you identify exciting hiring companies and engaging search firms.


In summary, headhunters will help if you give them the chance to do so – by getting to know them and being specific about your requirements. However, it is one potential route in a number of avenues that will allow you to take control of your job search and make the change you want.  It may take time, but it’ll be worth it and you’ll never look back.

For a confidential discussion, please never hesitate to get in touch and we will do all we can to assist.

Edward Fanshawe
Associate Partner – Board Practice
M: 07879 430 135
T: 01753 303 600
E: Edward.Fanshawe@etonbridgepartners.com