Someone is stealing all the headhunters… or so it seems to an Ask The Headhunter reader:

Are there still headhunters out there? People paid by companies to find good candidates? I thought they were extinct. They all seem to have moved on to doing “outplacement” services. The only headhunters I hear from are the fee-for-service types! They want me to pay them. Are there any headhunters left in this economy, who actually place people with their clients?

Funny, I look around and I suddenly realize that lots of “headhunters” have indeed turned into outplacement consultants, selling services to job hunters — and to employers who are downsizing. Do you get calls from real headhunters any more? Or are they all selling something else nowadays?

Where are the headhunters?

  1. I had a recruiter (headhunter) contact me after being laid off from my company (I have extensive time in Aerospace, international experience and an MBA). I then began a series of 4 telephone interviews with ‘said’ headhunter and then told I would be flown out to Philadelphia. They then came back and stated that I misunderstood and I was going through a now 5th interview. So after much careful research, planning and drawing up intelligent questions for this prospective employer…I discovered the company had posted the JOB opening on their website within the past few days.
    So I surmised either the prospective employer was *hosing the recruiter…or the recruiter was *hosing me…either way, someone was caught with their pants down.

    I declined moving forward into the next round. I now have the headhunter calling me wanting to discuss this issue.

  2. Dear C,
    Having discovered the headhunter was merely interviewing you for a position already posted on a corporate website is not catching someone ‘with their pants down’. This is what headhunters do; troll the internet for opportunities which are then (sometimes) positioned as their close relationship with the employer. If there is indeed a relationship, then this works for you; if not, it works against you (some employers simply will not pony up for the cost of a headhunter for a permanent position).

    In a perfect world, people would be more straightforward. Only suggestion is to keep this possibility in mind as you negotiate future relationships.

  3. I’m a software developer in the high-frequency trading industry in Chicago. I have my resume online and a public profile on LinkedIn. I am constantly being contacted by exactly the kind of recruiters you describe. I.e., people who get paid or make a commission on placing employees in these firms. None of these recruiters has ever asked me for money.

  4. Nick, WHERE ARE ALL THE HEADHUNTERS? Yes, GREAT question. Everytime I turn around, I’m getting a sales email from a recruiter in my base market who is selling their “career counseling” services. They are speaking, networking, offering services, etc. Many of these people have been through the last recession of 2001. They quickly switched gears to capitalize on this as last time, many of them went into real estate. And we all know what happened with that.

    So….I personally pondered this. Me: a Master’s Degree in – yes, Career Counseling. Work experience as: you guessed it, a Career Counselor. Volunteer experience as: big surprise resume writer and standup workshop trainer on the job search process. Current job: executive recruiting firm owner who works a desk and does research, search nationally for the past 13 years.

    For me, turning myself back into a career counselor for money dilutes my brand as an executive recruiter. Anyone who works with me knows that their deliverables will include great interview skills, a knockdown resume that THEY learn how to write; an interview with the company; and if they land it, a great offer.

    You see, I incorporate all of that great experience and the credentials into my day to day life as a headhunter. That’s what makes me good. Of course I like to help people. But I try to do this on my own time because you see, if I’m not working toward gaining a great requisition, I’m not earning a living.

    Some of us are lucky – we can ride this thing out. While doing so, I’m seeking to strengthen my brand as a recruiter, broaden my client base, market my services and deliver fantastic results. When things get better, I’ll be stronger. The best headhunters are the ones who actually have a requisition with the company they are calling you about. If they don’t, the chances of them helping you are only 50-50. If you’re out of work, the best advice I can give you is to act as your own recruiter. And that’s advice worth paying for!

  5. Claudia,

    That’s the best explanation I’ve seen in a long time, about what a headhunter is and does. Those who can’t cut it have turned into “outplacement” consultants, or they’re flipping burgers. Those who know what their business is really about — relationships and delivering value — will get through this.

    And your point about requisitions is dead on. If a headhunter does not have an actual relationship with the employer and the hiring manager, it’s not a headhunter. It’s some guy dialing for dollars.

    Thanks for posting and showing how the business is done!

  6. Mei
    I think you misunderstood. The job posting JUST went onto their website in the past week.
    This executive headhunter did NOT troll their site.
    I have been interviewing for over 7 weeks. Company A contacted/contracted with the headhunter in APRIL.
    so yes, someone has been caught not having full disclosure.

    My sense is that either the company did not trust the “process” and decided to post the job last week…or the headhunter knew this had happened and did not have the kahunas to tell me about it (needless to say I found out anyways).

  7. Just an update:
    I received a call from ‘said’ executive headhunter and after a bit of a heated conversation, she finally confessed that Company A had posted the position without notification. I am surprised that a company would sign anything contractually and then not disclose what they are doing behind closed doors.

    Why does any spiraling economy bring out the worst in companies (and people)?

  8. I hold a Master’s degree, have been a National Exec Board member of an association overseeing 1200 corporations and 1/4 million constituents, a VP for 9 years over a SE USA association overseeing NC into the Caribbean, and have “turned around” four edge-of-bankrupt coporations into debt-free, renovated, growing, expanded facility non-profits that had up to $1/3 million in cash upon my resignation. I have a 100% success record in my field. I accepted the top level positions to bring them back from edge of extinction. Upon fulfillment of that goal, I offered my resignation in order to go do the same thing somewhere else. I didn’t need to “seek out” my next position. It always “found me”. (I also taught at a university in the evenings to share my knowledge for the past 14 years, and am now an Area Chair).

    I completed my four “turnaround” 5 years ago and relocated between Tampa and Orlando on I-4 corridor, expecting to “take a break” for 2-3 months for the summer. I have been unemployed ever since from a F-T position in my field!

    With businesses and corporations failing and going bankrupted all around me, I would have expected to have been “hounded” to do what I have successfully done all my life for them.

    After 2 years of not finding placement on my own, I hired a professional “career advisor” to whom I paid $5k. He said they had a 100% success record in helping people find jobs within 90 days. He slid a figure in front of me of a salary to expect and one for a signing bonus. That has been 3 years ago. I have not as much as had an interview!

    He also told me that most jobs are found via “networking”, but then went on to tell me NOT to expect any friend, family, or neighbor to help me by trying to get me in front of their employers because they would not ever take the risk! So, I wonder WHO is it that I am to network with to find the jobs? My past corporations function “independently” and feel no obligation to refer me to anyone else.

    Few places take “hard copy” applications any more. Most are electronic submissions which does not allow the applicant to “get in front of” a potential employer or to make an impression or “bridge” via conversation.

    I have posted my resume on multiple Internet job posting cites, sent my resume to recruiters, hired a “career advisor”, gone to “networking” meetings, and given my resume to friends, family, and neighbors.

    Any other suggestions? Again, in a market and economy that is seeing every size company fold or go into bankruptcy protection, I would think my track record in turning around businesses would be highly sought after.

    I have never asked for more than $1,000 per week in salary since near bankrupted companies cannot afford high priced executives! (Somehow, corporate America missed that message!)

    Any insights or helpful hints would be much appreciated!

  9. Art Turner, it may pay to have a background investigation done on yourself. You may have something in your record scaring them away. I had a co-worker who pleaded ‘no contest’ to domestic battery. He didn’t know ‘no contest’ shows up as a ‘guilty’ in your record, and he was unemployed for 3 years because of that…

  10. 1 – great recommendation.
    another suggestion, google yourself. you would be amazed what pops up. I deleted my entire LinkedIn account because my entire DOD secret job came up ! I was NOT happy!

  11. I am a UK headhunter for ******** Assocs

    – A tip to the wise.

    Information on candidates/sectors is a two way street. To make yourself known to the top (or even humdrum) headhunters, offer information to them/their firms. Call one and ask if they ever pay for information on your sector. (we sometimes do) Getting known as a face in your sector takes time. Do it early.Build relationships.(don’t wait until you’re ready to move/got fired/seduced the bosses wife/boyfriend/Granny/Grandad -again )

    Chat with search fims at industry events and meetings. Get to know them. They thrive on contacts and business intelligence.We never refuse it.

    Understand the difference between real search firms and agencies who “do seach assignments”-there’s an important difference.

    It is the critical role of a management searcher to be very discrete, for both legal and professional reasons.

    and NEVER, EVER, pay to have a “headhunter” work with your career. Thats not management search – its pimping, an altogether different discipline, requiring more diverse skill set,- and, traditionally, flares and a broad-rimmed hat!

  12. Per the last comments on June 6th I am looking for feedback on fee-for-service headhunters. Are they worth the personal out of pocket fees? I fundamentally have a problem paying for the consultative service since they already receive placement fees when they find and place executive candidates at the client’s firm.