Marketing yourself to retained search firms

Q. I am trying to be thorough in my job search and have prepared different versions of my resume to address the potential needs in a few different roles. I have been told I have exceptional experience and academic credentials, and I believe I could realistically pursue several career tracks. How would you suggest I market myself to retained search firms? Many firms today have a place on their website where you can upload your resume to be considered as a candidate for positions for which they are sourcing candidates. Since I have different versions of my resume targeted to different industries and/or positions, how do I approach them with the best chance of getting a response?


Retained search professionals are seeing the market for their services improve, and after a dismal 2009, first quarter of 2010 offers a promising outlook for the rest of the year. Many job seekers have been overlooking these resources, and your efforts with these recruiters are much likely to pay off.

For an insiders look into how to successfully access retained forms, I consulted with Joe McCabe, Vice Chairman of CT Partners (formerly Christian and Timbers). Joe offers two suggestions when approaching retained search firms. First, get your “generic” resume in the firm’s database by applying online to give you access to everyone throughout the firm.

Also, research the consultants on the firm’s website to see which ones have a search practice most closely aligned with your career experience. Send that slightly tailored version of your resume to the most relevant consultant first. So if you have financials services experience than send that version to the consultant who handles that vertical market. McCabe cautions that the content should be fundamentally the same with different highlights, but it must not contain any inconsistencies in the core content.

Often people with multiple resumes consider various formats. Most retained search professionals prefer the traditional layout of Company, Title, and dates employed, as opposed to resumes challenging the reader to identify where responsibilities were performed or when someone worked at a particular organization.

Retained firms, and contingency firms as well, have functional or industry specialties and if your areas of expertise do not fall into those areas there will not be a response to your unsolicited emails or calls. Focus on accessing firms who are looking for people with your area of expertise. Remember the firms do not need to be local to the area of your search. A west coast firm may be doing an east coast search, or the reverse. And only one retained firms has an individual search.


If you are right for a job, search people will be eager to talk to you. If they do not think they can present you to a company they will not meet to network, or to hear why you want to make a career change into the role, or industry. I say this because job seekers often forget what search specialists are responsible for finding the right candidate for a company not the other way around. They are compensated by the hiring companies so they will always remain priority for them, not the job seeker. Remembering these hard facts will hopefully make some of the rejection that comes easier to handle.


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