We recently interviewed Mark Jaffe, an international headhunter and here’s what he had to say:

Hello Mark, can you please tell us what you recruit for and what geography you cover?

Wyatt & Jaffe works worldwide… Having done searches in Sweden, United Kingdom, India, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. And the US.

Functionally, just about everything…with an emphasis on high-impact and C-level roles. Industry-wise: Technology, Financial Services, Consumer and Retail.

Notable clients?

Historically: Bank of America, GE Commercial Finance, Gateway, Ricoh, WaMu, Maxtor, First Data, CB Richard Ellis, Philips Semiconductor, Seagate.

What has been the key to your success?

Direct and honest communication. Trust created by saying and doing the truly difficult things, not just what gives everyone immediate pleasure. Understanding client needs and expanding on, rather than simply meeting, their stated objectives.

Why are some recruiters failing in this market?

Partly because they expect their clients to direct them. It’s like a physician asking the patient what drug to prescribe. Most search firms wind up behaving simply like vendors, not advisors.

And more importantly because, in my humble opinion, they take a sales approach to what is and should remain fundamentally a consulting business. Selling is advocating for me. Consulting is advocating for the client.

What are the trends you have spotted in your field?

In a troubled economy like this one, the best efforts of almost every search firm have been focused primarily on business development, marketing, packaging and promotion of their services. How would you like it if your attorney was too busy promoting his practice to give you reliable and expert representation?

Like anyone else in the profession, I’m also concerned about the commoditization of search. Treating the selection of key human capital as a mere business transaction doesn’t just damage our industry. It ultimately impacts the performance of corporations and the long-term effectiveness of their leaders.

Disintermediation is rampant now. Both CEOs and their HR chiefs would do well to “spare the consultant and spoil the executive team” by working with search principals directly, rather than through lower-level intermediaries. This is not simply a matter of personal taste or preference; it is critical to corporate health.

How much do you use social media to find clients and candidates?

We have also used a wide variety of digital and social media tools (in the old days it was called “research”) as a part of our overall process. But we have always believed, as we do now, that identifying candidates can only be done meaningfully within the context of a deep understanding of the client’s specific needs. There is no magic formula. Bottom line: If you’re the right person for one of our searches, we’ll find you whether you’re on LinkedIn or not.

How important are resumes and cover letters?

Resumes are terribly important. I can’t imagine a time when they won’t be.

Cover letters should be three things: short, concise and short (so important I mention it twice).

What are your best tips to jobseekers in a tough market?

Remember that it’s not you, it’s the economy. Try to stay calm. Take a deep breath and relax. Hyperventilating is never pretty, particularly during an interview. Prospective employers want Jason Bourne – not Jason Alexander. Show them you’re capable, confident and cool. No sobbing!

Work your contacts, but don’t work them over. Your network is a precious resource and should be treated as such. Now is the time to use it…but gently. Ask for a reference, not a job. When you don’t put your friends on the spot, they’re more inclined to help you.

Keep your wallet in your pocket. If someone offers to craft you a “killer resume”, put you in touch with the “hidden job market” or coach you to become a newer, more marketable you…just say “No.” Whether they’re asking for $3,000 or $300, it’s overpriced. Don’t take candy from strangers, either.

Are career coaches of any use to jobseekers?

Some people may benefit from the hand-holding, but I think that the fees they charge are outrageous and generally a very poor return on investment. When times get tough, the tough get pitched a bunch of crap.

Any other pearls of wisdom you would like to share?

Haven’t I already said too much?

Related: How Recruiters Can Make Use of LinkedIn Recommendations.

A 25-year veteran of executive search, Mark Jaffe has a reputation for seeing beyond the package and posture of highly accomplished business leaders. He is uncompromisingly direct and focused on his task – finding the perfect match for his client. Mark is one of the most frequently quoted talent brokers of the new economy and was named by BusinessWeek as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential Headhunters.

About Jörgen Sundberg

CEO of Link Humans, download our new eBook now: Measuring Employer Brand: The Ultimate Guide and check out our latest product The Employer Brand Index.

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