One of the questions I get asked the most is, “What is the #1 mistake job seekers make?”

This isn’t the easiest question to answer, simply because job searching is not a linear process and there isn’t one right way of doing it.

That said, there is one mistake that seems to be the most consistent among job searchers right when they enter the market:

Job Searchers have a tendency to spend 99% of their time trying to get the attention of search firms & recruiters.

I understand that these search firm executives called you a lot while you were employed, but unfortunately that’s not going to be the case now that you’re “out.” I had a search firm executive tell me on the phone this week that “Our clients don’t want to see in-transition candidates. I hate to say that, but it’s just not what they’re paying us for.”

So, if that’s the case, why do job seekers spend so much of their time trying to connect with them, have coffee with them, or get on their radar? Because it’s important to do so and because job seekers DO find jobs this way (even though search firms sometimes say they’re against it). However, it’s even more important to do it the right way and allocate the right amount of time to it.

What do I mean by that? I mean that 80% of your time needs to be spent in front of employed decisions makers, and 20% of your time needs to be spent with search firms, recruiters, LinkedIn, job boards, networking groups, your outplacement and social media. Thus, only allocate the appropriate amount of time to search firms and recruiters.

When you do, remember that they don’t work for you. They work for their client. They may be sitting inside the big & fancy walls of Russell Reynolds, but their teams are VERY lean. They only get 10 or so searches a year and they’re trying to fill them quickly. Be mindful of their time. You will get a much quicker response.

What would I do?

I would send a note to each search firm executive I know. It would be brief, semi-casual, play to their ego a bit- and again, be mindful of their time.


Dear _______________,

I’m reconnecting with you because I’m going to be entering the market and wanted to get on your radar. I also know your time is valuable and limited, therefore I’ve bullet-pointed the top 3 aspects I bring to a job and attached my resume. If you can get together for coffee or a call, fantastic. If not, I appreciate you keeping me in mind as you’re working on your searches.

[insert bullet points]

Good luck & talk soon,

Job Seeker

Make Sure to Follow Up

I would follow-up with a call about a week later. If you don’t hear back, that’s OK. Try again in a month or so. If they get a search that is a great fit for you, they will call you. Trust me. That’s how they get paid.

Now that you’re done with the search firms and recruiters, move on to what IS going to find you a job…


Good luck and Happy Hunting!

Follow Cindi on LinkedIn and on Twitter.