Have you ever used a Headhunter to find a Job?

Headhunters perform essential work for employers looking to fill highly specialized or senior-level roles. But there’s a lot they won’t tell recruits about how they operate. And, anyway, it’s not at all clear that they’re necessary for entry- and mid-level finance jobs, especially in a red-hot job market.

Your career is your own to make, so no one can tell you whether a headhunter is right for you. If you do choose to go it alone, use these five tactics to guide and shape your search.

  1. Understand the Positions For Which You’re Applying

This sounds overly basic, but you’d be surprised how widely definitions of common financial industry roles vary between employers and subsectors.

Start with a reputable arbiter of employment information. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines “financial managers” as professionals “responsible for the financial health of an organization…[t]hey produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.”

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Then, check employer websites and job descriptions to see how their role definitions square with the “neutral” ones. Any gaps could provide clues about their expectations.

  1. Check Reputable Employee Reviews

Next, check employee review sites with real, vetted reviews from actual current or past employees. As with any online reviews, you’ll need to take individual feedback with a healthy helping of salt. Still, in the aggregate, reviews’ tone and content can provide important information about employers.

  1. Talk to Current Employees, Off the Record

Go deeper and speak off the record with current employers who hold positions similar to your own. You’ll of course have an opportunity to do this during the interview process, but know that you won’t get the full story from semi-scripted conversations set up by the employer.

  1. Make Sure the Organization’s Values Align With Your Own
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“Culture fit” is finally getting its due. If you don’t identify with a prospective employer’s mission, or you don’t see your own values reflected in its priorities, you won’t thrive there. Full stop. A quick survey of the employer’s website is a good start, but you’ll want to ask pointed questions during your interview, too.

  1. Network, Network, Network

Last, but certainly not least, network like your job depends on it (because it does). Never pass up an opportunity to speak with someone who might be able to advance your career, however tenuous the connection. And don’t shy from after-hours networking events, either; you may well meet your next boss or mentor at one.

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Looking for Your Next Job Is a Full-Time Job

Even in a seller’s market for finance talent, job-seeking is hard work. If you’re serious about finding the ideal job that aligns with your strengths and provides commensurate compensation, you need to be willing to put in long hours for as long as it takes before you sign your employment contract.

The rule of thumb: you need to treat your job search like a full-time job. The silver lining: in this market, your diligence is likely to pay off in short order. You won’t have to work at finding your job nearly as long as you’ll (fingers crossed) work at whatever job you find.