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Archive for October, 2011

Yes this topic has been on my mind since I started blogging about my career.  I deliberately held myself back, at risk of offending a union of powerful professionals.  For those who know me well through this blog, I hate generalization and it’s never my intention to put labels on anyone.  Come on, who am I to judge, when I am in a profession that is heavily undermined and stigmatized by many?

There, is my disclaimer for this long overdue piece.  It’s short, but I think it’s more than adequate for a personal blog with barely enough influence.

Gone are the days when we had to register at a placement agency for career opportunities, unless you are a fresh graduate from school.  Today, headhunters are constantly knocking on our doors looking for business.  There is always a new firm popping up every month or so in the city, but there are still countless of them reaching out to this region from the States, London or Australia.  Headhunters are to be respected.  They dig up the recruitment needs, make the connections, prep the candidates, negotiate the offers, and follow-up with the on boarding process.  They know the major power players in town, in the business, and in the profession.  They know the movements in town, the headcount surges and reductions, and most importantly, they know how much talent is worth by understanding the supply and demand dynamics of an engagement, or any industry as a whole.

How many times however, have you encountered into the following scenarios?

  • headhunters who fail to provide at least the minimum level of details of the job;
  • headhunters who you will never hear back once they get your consent to express interest;
  • headhunters who represent you in front of clients without your consent;
  • headhunters who don’t know anything, and I mean anything, about your profession

Alright I do not expect them to know the inside outs of what I do or what the client wants, but there are definitely basic answers that they should have before the first call.  That includes basic job description, reporting line, organization structure, whether the role is new or a replacement one, the type of personalities wanted, timeline as well as high level budget.  Although it is not unheard of for the candidate to discover these answers only at the first interview, with all the job opportunities around, we do need to assess whether we are at all interested in pursuing these opportunities, early on.  Most importantly, the last thing I want to do, and I think likewise for the recruiter, is the perception that we are wasting each other’s time.  That’s not what I would expect, when there is a headhunter mediating the process.

Since it’s such a fierce and fast-moving business, time and time again we are told that the opportunity is brand new, that things are evolving and the hiring managers are always on the move.  We are urged to send in our resumes and await further feedback.  Usually that’s the last you would hear from a majority of headhunters.  No, not even a courtesy phone call or e-mail.  Not releasing candidates prematurely is not an excuse for disappearing in mid-air.   There are ways and tactics to articulate messages while managing expectations in a professional manner.  Just not with those folks.

To make things worse, the last thing I want is a lecture from someone whom I have never known before in my life.  Believe it or not, it happens.  It’s un-called for when they don’t even know my profession, or when they have zero intention to find out what motivates me in my career decisions.  They make shallow and short-term assumptions, as that is a reflection of their remuneration structure.  Yes they don’t get paid from me, but that doesn’t warrant being ill-treated by them just because they have the client or hiring manager relationships.  There were times when I ended up sharing with the hiring company my very candid assessments of the headhunter, as I believe their actions and behavior are not only hurting themselves, but also the reputation of the hiring company.  For someone involved in assessing, selecting and negotiating headhunting service contracts with corporate human resources on a day-to-day basis, my first hand review certainly carry some weight.

The reason I am critical of our beloved match makers is that I care about my reputation and I take my career very seriously.  It’s an extremely personal business.  Better yet, I have seen and worked with the very good ones.  They are a delight to work with.  They are well prepared, informative, and great communicators.  They share candid and timely feedback and most importantly, establish a close partnership with the candidate.  Quite frankly, I do not wish there were more good headhunters.  I just wish there were fewer bad ones.  Much, much fewer.

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