After hearing heightened desperation from several long-term job hunters recently, I'm compelled to reissue two long-standing warnings:
Don't fork over thousands of dollars to anyone who professes to have access to a hidden job market or who guarantees to find you a job.
There are better ways to spend your money and time, primarily by cultivating personal contact with people who know you and know what you bring to the table.
Don't expect to hire a headhunter. Headhunters work for employers who pay them if they produce candidates who are hired.
The axiom in the trade is that the time to connect with a headhunter is before you need one. Ideally, you have a professional profile that fits with what the headhunter is looking for, and the headhunter already knows who you are.
Those warnings are far easier to say than they are to hear. When the unemployment clock is ticking, job hunters want to believe there's someone out there who has their best interests at heart. Motivated and gullible, many succumb to unrealistic and expensive job-finding promises.
It's fine to work with legitimate career counselors, resume writers and interview consultants who charge fees for specific services. Depending on the service, a few hundred dollars may be appropriate. You alone can decide whether the quoted price for, say, rewriting your resume is worth it.
Legitimate headhunters will not charge fees to job hunters. Again: Headhunters are paid by employers. Job hunters should never pay "registration fees" or sign exclusive search contracts with any firm.
This isn't new or surprising advice for people who are old hands in the job search industry. But because the cast of job hunters changes constantly, and because long-term searchers reach greater desperation, repetition is warranted.