Students and alumni often ask whether or not they should use headhunters or executive recruiters as part of their job search. The answer is…it depends.

If you are seeking a position doing the same general type of work you were doing in your last position, and you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident, then finding a headhunter or recruiter that regularly deals with your industry might not be a bad idea. Make sure you find one who specializes. For instance, if you are seeking a position in the financial industry, make sure you contact one whose specialty is finance, likewise for software, healthcare, etc. Remember that you should never be charged for their services; the fees should always come from the employers. However, since the headhunters only get paid if they fill the position, it is important to be clear with the recruiter about the types of positions that you will and will not consider.

If you are seeking a career change, working with a headhunter can be frustrating. Since it is easier for them to try to secure work in the field in which you have experience, you may find that some recruiters will try to pressure you into returning to that industry or functional area, and may be overly discouraging about your chances of making a career change.

If you are an international student, you will find that few headhunters will be willing to work with you unless you have already obtained U.S. permanent resident status. This is because employers pay large fees to recruiters to find candidates; those employers are often unwilling to pay the additional fees involved in sponsorship.

If you do decide to work with a recruiter, make sure you meet him or her face-to-face. You want to feel confident that they truly understand your background and know how to promote you to prospective employers. For legal reasons, the Feld Career Center is prohibited from recommending specific executive recruiters or headhunters to students.