Book Review: Reviews of Two Headhunters/Recruiters Books
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Here, we review two books by authors with backgrounds as headhunters/recruiters.
Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters, by Darrell W. Gurney, $14.95, Paperback, 208 pages, Hunter Arts Publishing, ISBN: 0967422906
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen
Gurney’s book was a real eye-opener for me. I had always advised job-seekers not to be overly dependent on working with headhunters because headhunters work for employers, not job-seekers, and may not have the job-seeker’s best interests at heart. What I forgot about was the law of supply and demand. Without a supply of job-seekers, headhunters would have no success in working for employers. While the headhunter’s first loyalty is to the employer who hired him or her, a headhunter can be a valuable ally to the job-seeker, as Gurney comprehensively explains in a volume that should be must-reading for any job-seeker who wants to add a powerful dimension to the search for a new job.
Gurney provides a thorough explanation of how recruiters work and how the job-seeker fits in. In a straightforward, no-nonsense, yet entertaining way, Gurney tells exactly how to best take advantage of a relationship with a headhunter. To ensure the reader truly understands the way a headhunter operates, Gurney provides a chapter called “A Day in the Life.”
He then spends five chapters (one of which we’ve excerpted, Formula for Finding the Right Headhunter: Trust and Clout = Trout!) explaining in detail how to choose a headhunter and another five revealing how to get the most out of your relationship with a headhunter.
Each section of the book ends with an excellent checklist that outlines in detail the contents of the foregoing chapters.
An incredibly valuable section — one that has become like a bible for us in our resume-writing service — is “High-tech Headhunting,” Gurney’s detailed explanation of the searchable databases headhunters maintain and how to submit your resume and cover letter electronically so they will be placed into those databases and searched. Gurney’s advice on how to reduce the database resistance of your job-search materials is alone worth the price of the book. His chapter on keywords also is must-read.
Appendices offer samples of resumes to be sent to recruiters, a technical guide to submitting your resume online, a glossary, and of incredible value, a resources section listing recruiters in all sorts of niche fields, as well as job boards on which headhunters and employers themselves post job listings.
Our only beef with Gurney’s book is his Grammar and Language Footnote early in the volume. To avoid favoring one gender over the other or repeatedly using the phrase “he or she,” Gurney rationalizes his use of grammatically incorrect plural pronouns when referring to a single antecedent, as in this sentence: “A key factor in partnering with a recruiter is whether or not they take the time to listen to you needs and desires.” He claims it’s simpler to be grammatically incorrect and say “they,” but that doesn’t make it right. A better solution would be to alternate “he” and “she” pronouns throughout the book.
But barring our quibble with Gurney’s nod to less-than-stellar grammar, we highly recommend Headhunters Revealed! as a must-have addition to one’s career library and a book that provides loads of information from a unique insider perspective that the job-seeker simply will not find anywhere else.
The Secrets of Executive Search … Professional Strategies for Managing Your Personal Job Search, by Robert M. Melancon, $24.95, Paperback, 200 pages, Melancon & Company, ISBN: 0967514002
Based on the title of Melancon’s book, you might think its theme is similar to that of Gurney’s volume. That’s what we thought when we decided to review the two books together. But Melancon’s book should more properly be called “Not-So-Secret Things I’ve Learned about Job-Hunting as a Result of Being in the Executive Search Business.” Unlike Gurney, who focuses on how to take advantage of working with a headhunter, Melancon barely touches on cultivating relationships with headhunters, recruiters, and executive-search professionals.
Melancon’s apparently self-published book claims in a press release to be “targeted primarily at the professional market,” which is evidently Melancon’s justification for the book’s “highest quality production.” Translation: It’s needlessly expensive. The author touts the book’s heavy paper, special ink, and high production costs, hence its hefty price of $24.95. We cannot help noticing, however, that the book is double-spaced. By single-spacing the lines, as in any normal book, Melancon could have packed its content into half the number of pages and charged half as much.
It’s also hard to imagine the “professional market” finding anything new or especially revealing in the book’s content. Most of the 46 “secrets” in the book are either statements of the obvious or principles that career experts have touted for years. And the book certainly lacks a cutting-edge feel; the author spends only a shocking two pages on submitting resumes electronically. Granted, the author sent us the 1999 edition of his book for review, and perhaps he has added more about this vitally important aspect of job-hunting in his 2000 edition, but in comparison with Gurney, who clearly understands and conveys to readers what they need to know about online resumes, Melancon seems woefully behind the times.
Some of Melancon’s statements about resumes are just plain wrong. Noting that today’s job-seekers are advised to omit personal data such as “marital status, height, weight, etc.” from their resumes, Melancon jaw-droppingly counters, “if you feel this is an asset, you may want to include it.” Melancon seems utterly clueless to the fact that employers absolutely do not want to see personal information on resumes because they fear being sued for discrimination if the job-seeker is not hired. Most HR managers would take a marker and black out information about marital status, height, weight, etc. (And just how could stating your height and weight on a resume be an asset anyway?)
The author also offers the absurd advice that job-seekers should prepare their cover letters on paper that is smaller than letter size. Every career expert contradicts this notion because they know how annoying employers find it to have to handle and file odd-sized paper.
Melancon takes credit for a well-known technique for answering interview questions, the STAR technique (also known as the SAR, PAR, or CAR technique), appropriating it as the “Melancon Formula.”
On the subject of thank-you and follow-up letters, Melancon states, “If you are not absolutely certain about your ability to craft an excellent letter, it’s probably safer not to send one at all.” I would suggest that if you are not absolutely certain about your ability to craft an excellent letter, you are probably not the professional, executive material Melancon purports to address with this book.
Melancon does offer a few nuggets not found in other books. He includes helpful chapters, for example, about pre-employment testing and obtaining employment offers in writing. He offers some good examples of questions candidates can ask during interviews, including a good one aimed at closing the sale. He provides a helpful list of criteria to guide job-seekers in deciding whether they want to accept an employer’s offer, as well as some good suggestions regarding references.
If the few Melancon “secrets” that are actually helpful were part of an inexpensive book, we could almost recommend its purchase. But given that the value of the content of The Secrets of Executive Search does not match its expensive production values and overly high price, we say save your money.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.
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