AFPAAA - So You're Looking For Another Job ...
B. Get Ready, ...


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The entire "So You're Looking for Another Job" publication is available on floppy disk from AFPAAA for a donation of only $25.00.  

To order a copy, send an email to JOBSDISK 

Include your full mailing address and preferred word processing format. Then send your check to: 
AFPAAA, Attn: JobDisk. When your check arrives we'll ship your disk. 


To order a floppy disk containing the mailing addresses of search firms specializing in PR, send an email to PRLIST 

Include your full mailing address and preferred word processing format. Then send a donation of $10,00 to: 
Attn: PR MAILING LIST, PO Box 540,  
Fairfax VA 22030-0540. 
We'll ship your disk as soon as we receive your check.

7. Employment Search Firms 

Employment search firms and agencies are additional sources for locating employment opportunities and should be a part of any job campaign. However, it is wise to exercise caution and good judgement using the employment services of search firms and agencies as you would with any organization which derives its income from the sale of goods and services.  

I have worked for and with a search and outplacement firm for the past ten years, and will be the first to tell you that there are a lot of unethical ones out there. Search firms are generally paid by the gaining employer, but unless your resume hits their desk when they have an open order for someone of your background, the chances are that that is the last time it will be looked at. On the other hand, they do have valid jobs, and they don't get paid until it is filled!. Send them a resume, but don't expect too much.  

Search firms and employment agencies play a role in your job search. However, this role is not the "star" of the show. Today 2%-5% of job opportunities are generated through search firms and employment agencies. Since you do not know where or when a job opportunity will materialize, Chessmen suggests that you do not leave this stone unturned.  

To the uninitiated, perhaps a job hunter, the above statistic recounting that only 2%-5% of jobs today are secured through an employment agency or search firm, may seem a very surprising figure. Many individuals are under the mistaken impression that, in fact, the majority of employment opportunities are satisfied through one of these types of service agencies or consulting firms. The truth of the matter simply expressed is that using an executive search firm or employment agency is the most expensive way to recruit personnel. Fee schedules are discussed on the following page, but the applicant is well advised that the above figure is an accurate figure. While we do not suggest avoiding the use of search firms and employment agencies, the applicant is well advised to put their role in the employment process in proper perspective.  


Many individuals have had negative experiences with search firms at some point in their past and consequently are reluctant to use employment agencies or "Headhunters" to assist them in conducting their job campaign. The term "Headhunter" is a common descriptive used for executive recruiters or search firms today. Remember, the use of this term is not complimentary. Although there are some employment agencies in every geographical area that do not deal with candidates professionally, the industry itself has grown to large proportions over the last 10 to 15 years. Because of this growth, there have been a number of professional agencies that have earned outstanding reputations--both nationally and in your local area. When conducting a successful job campaign, you should use every avenue available to you. Employment agencies are one of those avenues, but not the only avenue.  

Develop a strategy to use search firms. Understanding the functions, differences and philosophies will aid you in utilizing this source.  


1. What is the difference?  

How does an employment agency differ from an executive search firm? There are two major distinctions: First, an employment agency represents the candidate on a "contingency" basis while the executive search firm always represents the candidate on a "retained" agreement with the company that has the open position.  

Contingency agencies handle multiple job orders at one time with little exclusivity for the positions with any one company.This creates the high volume, high pressure and sometimes impersonal experiences found in utilizing agencies.  

Retainer search firms are hired by companies to search out a qualified candidate for a specific open position. The company grants an exclusive search to the search firm and thus reduces the need for the high volume, high pressure atmosphere sometimes found with employment agencies.  

Second, the methods of payment differ although the employer generally pays the fees in both cases. With employment agencies, the employers payment is contingent upon the agency making a successful placement and the candidate reporting to work. With retainer search firms, the employer retains the services of the firm and pays a fee regardless of the outcome of the search -- a retainer fee.  

Third, employment agencies do little "qualifying" of their candidates while executive search firms are paid in part to provide this service.  

The following chart will assist you in understanding the major differences between contingency and retainer firms and why you need to know that information before enlisting their assistance in your job campaign.  
Employment Agency  
Personnel Agency 
Placement Agency/Firm 
Executive Search Firm 
Executive Recruiter 
Fee: 20-30% of First Year's Salary 30-33% of First Year's Total Annual Compensation Plus Recruiting Expenses Incurred During the Search 
When is Fee Paid? Upon Completion of 
Search Assignment 
Up Front, 
A Retainer Fee 
Who Pays the Fee? Corporate Client 
Corporate Client 
Licensed by  
the State?
Yes No
True Consulting Firm? No Yes
Typical Candidate 
Salary Range:
$40,000 to $60,000 
and Below 
$60,000 to $65,000 
and Above 
2. Where can I find search firms or agencies?  

There are two major sources for employment agencies or search firms:  

a. The Directory of Executive Recruiters is a comprehensive listing of 2,100 Contingency and Retainer Search Firms. This directory is also known by its slang title "The Red Book" -- so named because of its bright red cover. Several cross-references are also given, arranged by the following categories:  

  • - Functional (Job) Classifications 
  • - Industry Classifications 
  • - Geographical Index 
  • - Key Principals Index (list recruiters by name) 
  • - Retainer Recruiting Firms, A to Z 
  • - Contingency Recruiting Firms, A to Z 
The alphabetical listings contain the detailed information on each firm. When referencing a firm or individual in any of the other sections, turn to the alphabetical listing for more detail.  

The Directory of Executive Recruiters is published annually by:  

    Kennedy Publications  
    Attn: Bookstore  
    Templeton Road  
    Fitzwilliam, NH 03447  

    (603) 585-6544 

(You may also want to consider ordering the Directory of Management Consultants)  

b. You can supplement this information locally by looking in the Yellow Pages under the following headings:  

  • - Management Consultants 
  • - Executive Search Consultants 
  • - Personnel Consultants 
Remember, however, that the telephone company is not very discriminating in its policy of allowing businesses to select categories for listing. An "Executive Search" firm that is also listed under "Employment Agencies" is probably the latter. Check with the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for reference.  

3. How do I effectively contact a search firm or agency?  

The most effective and efficient way to contact a search firm or agency is with a well written letter and resume. This letter is a cover letter, since your resume is enclosed with the letter.  

When writing your cover letter to search firms and employment agencies--always, repeat, always--include an exact salary or compensation figure when requesting employment assistance from an agency or search firm. In actual practice, employment agencies and executive search firms give little or no attention to resumes being sent to their attention which do not include current or most recent salary or compensation. Always include these figures in your cover letter. You will find additional tips on writing cover letters at the end of this section.  

4. Should I follow up or contact the search firm or agency to whom I sent my resume?  

No! Do not be a pest!  

Executive search professionals appreciate receiving resumes, but telephone calls from unknown candidates are not welcome or necessary.  

Most job seekers realize that recruiters can not help them unless they have a suitable assignment. But some otherwise capable professionals are so traumatized by unemployment that they forget this reality. They may even call monthly "just to check . . . ," obviously not recognizing that this immediately puts them in the "never consider" file. People assume that executive recruiters are aware of all kinds of job openings. Not true. Recruiters only know about their current assignments, and a few others they may have discussed with clients.  

Recruiters just do not have the time to field telephone calls. Time is money to them and they do not want to waste it. After all, they do work for themselves.  

The key to using a recruiter is in the understanding that your time is valuable and worth money. If a recruiter is interested in you, he will call you without delay. NO CALL--NO INTEREST. Do not take this personally, for tomorrow he/she may receive a job order from a company that matches with your background and the telephone will ring.  

5. How do I "work" with a recruiter without being "worked over"?  

You do not. They work with you when they are ready and have a real search assignment. Do not expect search firms to be guidance counselors or Outplacement consultants.  

A recruiter views you as an opportunity to generate income by placing you, as well as a source of information regarding your previous or current company, opportunities you are pursuing and names in the form of referrals.  

Working with a recruiter can be advantageous for your campaign as long as you know how to deal with the persistence of an aggressive recruiter. The following tips and suggestions are provided for you to consider when investigating or working with a recruiter:  

a. Who is responsible for the fees? How does the employment agency or search firm derive its fees? Are the fees paid by the employee, employer or a split between both the employee and employer? Ask!  

What happens if I am separated or leave voluntarily during the first six (6) months to one (1) year of employment, will I be liable for any, all or a portion of the original search fee?  

b. Is the agency a contingency or retainer search firm?  

A contingency firm receives its fees from the corporate client only upon completing the assignment.  

A retainer firm receives a percentage of its fees from the corporate client in order to initiate the search. The balance is received during the search.  

c. Is there a fee for any other services offered by the agency? Agencies may offer additional services such as assessments, consultations, and outplacement.  

d. Do not sign anything except the application form. If you are asked to sign any other document, be sure to read all the fine print.  

e. Beware of high-pressure tactics. An agency may try to pressure you into accepting a position in order to quickly complete the assignment.  

f. Advertisements for glamorous or "perfect" jobs should be treated with skepticism. Very often, these advertisements are used to bait candidates.  

g. Be cautious of agencies that suggest an immediate career change or ask if you have skills that are unrelated to your career or desired position. Chances are, they are more interested in immediately filling a vacant position than they are in assisting your career.  

h. Consultants who appear overly friendly (invitations to lunch, drinks, etc.) may have a hidden agenda.  

i. Do not tell an agency or consultant the names of the companies with whom you have interviewed or are pursuing. If you do, when a fee can be earned, you may find yourself competing with a fellow candidate from this same agency.  

j. Avoid agencies which display any evidence of discrimination pertaining to race, religion, ethnic background, or politics.  

k. Carefully interview the agency. How long have they been in business? How successful have they been in placing candidates similar to yourself? Will they provide references?  

l. Make your initial contact with agencies on Wednesdays or Thursdays.  

This not only avoids the rush of responses to the Sunday ads, but it makes you appear less desperate. Fridays force you to vie with the weekend for the agency's attention.  

m. Work with as many agencies or executive search firms as you can. Do not think that an agency will work exclusively on your behalf until the right match has been made.  

n. Periodically place a follow-up telephone call to the agency to check on recent developments once you have had contact with the agency. However, do not be a pest.  

o. Do not state the amount of compensation you will be willing to accept. If asked, indicate that you are "open."  

It is important to use the word open when employment agencies ask what salary you seek. The reason we recommend using the word open is that it simply means that you are open to hearing any offer a company might make you. When saying open, you will not eliminate yourself from being sent to interviews for any positions because you are too high or too low on your salary requirements. The agencies will have a good indication of the type or the range of compensation that you may be seeking based upon your past salary. Using the word open when asked to discuss what type of compensation you are willing to accept is always the safest and best response.  

p. However, never be reluctant to tell an employment agency or search firm your current and most recent salary and bonus. Be exact! This figure probably will be verified.  

q. Employment agencies generally have a fee structure averaging 20% to 30% of the successfully placed candidate's first year total compensation. For this fee, ask yourself, "What has the agency really done to help me in the interview?" Point: Do not be afraid to ask questions that will help and prepare you for the interview.  

  • Ask the search consultant to provide you with as much background information as possible on the company, hiring officer and position: 
  • Ask for quarterly, annual, and 10K reports 
  • Ask for product literature 
  • Has the consultant conducted any successful search assignments for this company? 
  • What are they looking for in the successful candidate? What type of candidates have succeeded in the past? 
  • Probe for what you should stress and what to avoid. 
  • What are the decision maker's hot and cold buttons? 
  • Interview the search consultant ask penetrating questions. 
r. Some agencies or consultants will suggest you are overpaid or may have to take a pay cut. Remember, regardless of location or identity, the greatest demand is for the best!  

s. Many firms are using temporary agencies and/or contract firms as a way to pre-screen potential employees. Therefore, you may want to consider using this option during your career search.  

6. How does a recruiter get to know me? Can he help me in my search if he does not even meet with me in person?  

Recruiters make quick evaluations based on the quality of your resume and cover letter. This quality includes the mechanical correctness of your materials but more importantly your accomplishments within your experience compared to their open positions.  

Today's recruiter will usually call for more information or send a "fact sheet" for you to complete.  

If a potential match is evident, you will probably receive a telephone interview/screen which will vary in length of time from few minutes to an hour. This telephone interview/screen is a "real" interview, so you will want to listen carefully and respond with specific accomplishments and results whenever possible. Have your resume ready -- next to your telephone.  

Through the written communication and the verbal discussion(s) the recruiter creates his "perception" of you. If everything fits, he presents "you" to the client company that has the open position.  

In the case of a retained search, you want to be and most likely will be invited to a face-to-face interview with the recruiter. Be prepared to handle both types of interviews and screenings. For more specific information regarding interviewing, refer to "Handling the Interview Process" handout.  

7. Remember, never leave a stone unturned in the search for your next opportunity -- you never know where it will materialize.  

8. If you would like to mail your resume to all of the search firms who specialize in Public Relations, AFPAAA can make available a mailing list on computer disk. See the PR LIST for information. 

To help you draft an effective search firm/employment agency letter, we have included a list of suggested opening paragraphs and a sample letter:  


Dear : (Insert contact's name)  

Please review my experience and qualifications against your current client search requirements.  


Dear : (Insert contact's name)  

If in the course of your search assignments you have a requirement for a high powered sales executive, I would be interested in exploring any attractive opportunities.  


Dear : (Insert contact's name)  

I am currently conducting a search for myself in the senior sales and marketing management area of the healthcare industry. Hoping that you may have a client search underway that might be a match for my talents and background, I have enclosed my resume for your review.  


Dear : (Insert contact's name)  

If one of your clients is contemplating major business decisions for implementation, possibly my ten (10) years of extensive experience in capital equipment and computers may be of interest to you.  


Dear : (Insert contact's name)  

When I joined my present company, sales were flat and earnings were declining. Recognizing that better direction and leadership were needed, I guided the turnaround of the company increasing sales from $18 million to $45 million and increasing earnings 550% over the last ten (10) years.  

I am writing you because you may have a client who is seeking a senior manager with experience directing the profitable growth of a manufacturing operation.  


Dear : (Insert contact's name)  

I am pleased to enclose a copy of my credentials for your consideration regarding any search assignments you have undertaken recently in the field of information systems.  

Therefore, if you have a client who requires management expertise in the mid-range to personal computing systems, including a strong background in software systems, I would be pleased to hear from you.  

January XX, 19XX  

Ability Search, Inc. 
1629 "K" Street, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20006  

Dear Sir or Madam:  

I am seeking a worthwhile public relations or line management position in a medium to large size company. Twelve years of broad and diversified experience in Public Relations, plus four (4) years of general management experience qualify me for such a position.  

My accomplishments and expertise in public affairs led to my assuming in 1995 the new position of Director of Public Relations for XXXXXX, a subsidiary of XXXXXX.  

After successfully organizing the department in 1996, I became Manager of Media Relations for the company headquarters and was assigned the responsibility for solving the division's media relations problems. While in that capacity, I assembled and restructured a new response team, and helped change the company's media reputation from one of "reactive" to "proactive", resulting in the documented increase in positive stories and a much less hostile attitude on the part of local and regional reporters.  

I have enclosed a resume which describes in more detail my employment history. My current annual compensation is $XXXXX  

After you have reviewed my qualifications, please call me if they are appropriate for any position you may have. I may be reached at the above number or discretely at work at (312) XXX-XXXX.  

Thank you for your consideration.  



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