Headhunters are a great means to gain access to jobs or job seekers that may or may not be public. Their services also speed up the hiring process, which is important as companies must move swiftly to secure the best talent. For individuals, faster progress on the job hunt means a more secure career move.
Before sending out a flurry of CVs or calling up a headhunter to handle your company’s recruitment, here are 5 of the biggest misconceptions headhunters experience when working with clients. Since most candidates do not fully understand how the headhunting process works, here’s a quick overview:
As a company: an employer contacts a headhunter (or recruitment agency), writing out a description of the candidate being sought. The headhunter then works to find the exact match for the employer.
As a job seeker: the process begins with a headhunter agreeing to represent you. They give you updates now and then about the process, when your resume has been submitted for a position, etc. Also, the first time submitting your resume to a headhunter, expect to receive a bit of feedback on how to improve your resume. If you don’t, find another headhunter who will take more time in polishing their candidacy pool.
Most candidates do not realize there are two different types of headhunters: those who work on a retainer basis and those who work on a contingency basis.
When working on a retainer basis, the headhunter bills the client to conduct the search. Job seekers should expect to pay a percentage—sometimes up to 50 percent—of their first year’s salary to the headhunter. A headhunter that conducts a contingency-based search aims to represent the highly-specialized, “rare find” candidates. The search is performed for free; the headhunter only receives payment when a candidate is hired by the company. For job seekers, a study conducted by MRINetwork reveals 90% of headhunters believe it’s a candidate market, meaning companies are taking great pains to find the best fit.1
1. “I hired a headhunter to find me a job”
One of the biggest misconceptions is that a headhunter finds a position for a job seeker. Headhunters work for companies, not job seekers. They go through resumes, pick out the potentials, and send over the batch to the client company for the final say. What the companies decide is outside of a headhunter’s job description.
Again, since headhunters work for companies, they focus on finding the right candidate for their corporate client. The goal is to find the right candidate for the company, not finding a job for every single job seeker who contacts the agency. Therefore, a job seeker still must put in the work to groom their resume and keep on applying to vacancies.
2. “My company can’t hire a headhunter; they don’t understand my business”
Antonio Fernández Bravo, a headhunter who has worked with multinationals and startups, believes “some companies are reluctant to outsource selection processes because they fear an outsider will fail to understand their business”. Bravo highlights the most fundamental task an excellent headhunter undertakes: they know the client’s corporate culture and understand the client’s industry.
This makes a fundamental difference in saving time and building trust. The best headhunters have the pulse on the industry and understand its particular hiring practices—a component that business owners may or may not be knowledgeable about. For example, a qualified headhunter knows which skill sets are on the rise and which salaries are set to increase. In addition to becoming acquainted with their client’s company culture, headhunters act as partners in helping companies understand the changing professional landscape.
3. “They’ll help me figure out my career”
Headhunters are not career coaches. Career coaches are paid to guide a person in their career development and offer advice in reaching goals. A headhunter’s duty is to find the best candidate for the company they’re recruiting for. They review a candidate’s history and experience and work to fill vacancies within organizations. If a candidate is wishing to gain clarity about their next professional step, consider hiring a career coach before working with a headhunter to find the next opportunity.
4. “Recruitment firms are more effective than individual headhunters”
Companies and job seekers tend to seek out firms for their hiring needs. In many cases, this strategy is the most effective, such as when a company needs to hire a large amount of software engineers in a short time frame. However, when companies need to find specialized talent, they might wish to consider a more curated means of search. Independent headhunters are a helpful alternative if a company or an individual is looking for quick response time and when a candidate possesses niche industry experience. Bravo adds “the relationship is direct and fluid, which speeds up response times without sacrificing quality”. Working with a qualified, individual headhunter provides an alternative experience.
5. “They just want to sell my the company the candidate with the higher salary”
Alex Marchenko, Managing Partner of Avalon Chase, reminds those seeking out headhunting services: “You do not need a Ferrari when a Ford would do the job”. This same principle guides the headhunter process. Headhunters dig through a pile of talent in search of the best fit, not the lukewarm fit that possesses a higher salary tag. Professional headhunters know this bait-and-switch method can be used only once—the next time, the company and individual will not again trust them to do business.
Why? Putting a highly-paid professional in a setting that does not highlight or need their experiences results in mutual disappointment—and no one pays for a second round when trust is broken. Instead, Marchenko points out, “Most recruitment professionals who value their reputation will go for a lower-paid candidate that has potential to grow and exceed the client’s expectations. This is the best way to ensure that both the client and the candidate will be happy and will do business with the same headhunter in the future”.
About Elizabeth Taylor:
Elizabeth worked as a strategist for multinationals and tech companies. She quickly learned even the world’s most important institutions and most game-changing companies can only scale impact if they are understood. Elizabeth is a graduate of Vanderbilt University. Visit her at: tayloredstrategy.weebly.com