Good Headhunters: They search for living resumes

Next week I’m doing a presentation to a group of alumni from Cornell University’s Johnson School of Business, about how to work with headhunters. These are seasoned executives who have been running companies for 7-15 years, and who turn to their alma mater’s Career Management Center for an added edge. What they want to know is, how can they get a good headhunter’s attention? What’s the big secret? And, how can they speed up the process?

When I do such talks, I usually find my theme in a current controversy. This time, it surfaced in a BNET blog posting by Jessica Stillman: Secrets of Job Hunting in a Post-Job Board World.

Kudos to Stillman for even writing about “a post-job board world.” Her article is really about how to get past the job boards by getting the attention of real, live people, including headhunters. In referring to a list of “tips” from yet another blog, Stillman triggered afresh a controversy that I think has long bewildered job hunters at all levels: If you decide to forget the job boards, can you really find a job by developing real, live contacts?

I found the theme for my Cornell presentation by picking at some of the suggestions Stillman passes along. Let’s see where it gets us.

Be findable: But who do you want to find you?
In Stillman’s posting, the “seven things employers should tell job seekers about how to get considered” starts with some suggestions about using keywords to be “findable.” Let’s be careful here. If you want to be findable to headhunters, there are headhunters, then there are headhunters. How you set yourself up to be found depends on what kind of headhunter you’re trying to appeal to.

The majority of “headhunters” aren’t really headhunters. They’re dialing-for-dollars, and they are indeed looking for your keywords, because they understand little about the industries and companies they recruit for. They rely on buzzwords to “turn up” resumes that they blast out in bulk to their “clients.” To such headhunters, clients are any companies that are advertising jobs — and the “headhunters” throw resumes at them, hoping the spaghetti will stick to the wall and earn a fee. It’s a numbers game. When you feel a “headhunter” has wasted your time, it’s because the wrong one found you.

What’s really key?
Good headhunters aren’t looking for keywords. They are looking for key people, in places like discussion forums where the best and brightest are talking shop. Good headhunters look for substance, and for the gurus that others turn to for advice. They target those discussion leaders as potential candidates. It takes a lot more than keywords to get the attention of good headhunters, who are looking for complete sentences and proof of skills and reputation.

So, be careful how you make yourself findable. The keyword/buzzword route will waste a lot of your time, because it attracts flies. The ability to talk shop with your peers, and to develop a strong reputation, will get the long-term attention of good headhunters. Once they identify you, they will start to follow you around, because those headhunters realize that you’re not just a potential candidate. You will likely lead them to other good candidates.

Find good headhunters by going where they hang out.
These important distinctions between headhunters also suggest how you need to appeal to the ones you’re interested in. Although good headhunters use the Net in deliberate, thoughtful ways to identify movers and shakers in the community they recruit from, they don’t spend most of their time behind a pc, waiting for names to turn up in response to search strings and keywords. They don’t scour the stale databases of job boards for resumes. So, where else do they hang out?

They attend industry events. They circulate in real time in the real world. Are they going to find you out there, among the movers and shakers in your business, who hang out with like minds? Do you go to such events? Do you attend seminars and presentations? Do you take continuing education courses? Do you contribute your knowledge and expertise at such events, as a presenter or teacher? Do you have a real life in your industry? That’s where good headhunters are looking for you — in the real world.

Good headhunters don’t gather dead resumes.
The suggestion that it’s important to “post your resume” is troubling. Lots of the most talented people don’t even have resumes. Their resumes are represented by the chain of their contributions to their field, by the people they influence, and by the circle of friends they belong to. Their living resume is often found in the pages of the industry press, across discussion forums, and in the products they design, make, and sell. It’s also on the lips of other industry notables, who are quick to recommend experts they know and trust. That’s the living resume — it doesn’t have to be written, or on paper. It’s the resume that good headhunters are looking for.

If you are going to have a written resume, then it matters where you post it. If you have a blog where you teach your peers something useful, that’s a high-quality place to put your resume, because the blog proves the resume and brings it to life. If you participate actively on professional forums, where you are tested, critiqued, and judged by your peers, that’s good, too. That’s where good headhunters hang out, looking for living proof of talent. But slapping a written resume all over the job boards will just make you look desperate or too-easily available. That’s a dead resume, because there’s no proof connected to it. The spaghetti headhunters that pick your resume off one board or another will soon have you splattered all over kingdom come.

What kind of headhunter?
The dig about contingency headunters, in the list of tips that Stillman quotes, is a shallow one. Some of the best headhunters work on contingency. That is, they get paid only if they fill a position. Retained headhunters get paid whether they fill a position or not, and whether they find the candidate or whether the candidate is recommended by the hiring manager’s brother. Both kinds of headhunters can do an excellent job; they just operate under different models. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the contingency folks; they fill some of the tastiest positions. Judge headhunters by their behavior, not by how they bill their fees. (For a comprehensive look at how headhunters operate, see How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you.)

What is killing the job boards?
I agree with this in Stillman’s column: Some recruiters will keep using job boards, but job boards will also continue to commoditize people. Most job boards rent, trade, sell, and “scrape” resumes. There are quite a few legitimate niche job boards, like But the only honest general-purpose job board I know is, because it does just one thing: match people to real jobs.

Otherwise, the job board business has become so corrupt that its model no longer has anything to do with filling jobs. It sells stale data to wishful employers and desperate job hunters, and also “upsells” that data to companies that make money from it in other (sometimes questionable, sometimes illegal) ways. (What do you think is one of the leading channels of identity theft?) That’s why you find expired three-year-old jobs on services like TheLadders, and it’s why you get e-mails from spaghetti headhunters long after you thought you removed your resume from a job board. These job boards don’t care if you find a job, they just want you to keep coming back to look for one, and they will “curate” your resume forever, all over the Net.

Yes, some recruiters will keep using job boards, and some employers are looking to buy spaghetti. But the uproar from angry customers — both job seekers and employers — is what’s killing the job boards.

You don’t need to “sell” yourself to someone who trusts you.
Today, the biggest load of bullshit in the career industry is that getting a great job is all about selling yourself. This popular metaphor — that you are a product — leads to dangerously useless practices, like creating a “brand” and “making your resume your marketing piece” and having “an elevator pitch.” While a succinct outline of who you and what you’ve done can be useful, what really matters is demonstrating what you can do next, with whom, and for whom.

And you need to express that only to the tightknit circle of friends who do the work you want to do (whether they know you yet, or not). That’s a tall order — and it’s a whole lot harder than “selling.” You have to build a life and a cohort and a reputation over time. You must be one of the best in your business, whether at entry level or as an executive.

To a good headhunter, substance always matters more than sizzle. And to communicate your substance, you need more than a resume, or a bunch of keywords, or a good pitch. You need to be part of a circle of friends — people who do the work you want to do — that imbues you with a fine reputation. Far from selling anything, you have to earn your way in by making a substantial contribution. Headhunters will find you among people who know, trust and respect you. Not splattered on a wall for the world to pick at.

In the end, getting hired by a good company, or through a good headhunter, is about being able to demonstrate what you can do to bring success and profit to a company’s bottom line — not about how you advertise your availability. Even if you like to operate below the radar, good headhunters and good employers will find you, because people they trust put their own reputations on the line and recommended you. Not because you spread your keywords around somewhere.


Readers’ Comments: Did I really agree to that?

In the February 22, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader worries about employers that bury little bombs in job offers that might get the new employee fired…

I read about an employee who sued after her company fired her for refusal to sign its new two-year non-compete agreement. She was fired for “non-compliance with company policy.” The court reaffirmed an old decision from California that an employer cannot lawfully require the signing of a non-compete agreement as a condition of continued employment, but I don’t know whether she has actually won her case. This raises the bigger question: How can people protect themselves against these kinds of surprise “attacks” from their own employers?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

Was it really a surprise? Or did she in fact agree to sign a non-compete agreement (NCA) when she accepted the job? According to your story, she wasn’t fired for refusing to sign the NCA, but for failing to comply with company policy. That’s key.

Your story reveals one of the big gotchas that people don’t think about when they accept a job offer. Most job offers include words along these lines: “By accepting this offer you agree to abide by the rules of the company’s employee policy manual… If you don’t, that’s grounds for dismissal.”

Thus, when you accept the terms in a job offer letter, you’re agreeing to additional terms defined in other company documents. How’s that possible? It’s called incorporation by reference. The offer letter references the policy manual, thus the policy manual is incorporated into the job offer—and so are its terms.

…My guess is that this is the essence of the court case you’ve described. She may have naively agreed to sign an NCA when she took the job. That may be why the company’s position is that she’s not in compliance with company policy.

So, what does this mean to the happy-go-lucky job hunter who gets a headache trying to understand a job offer? It means caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. It’s up to you to understand what you’re agreeing to. A few tips:

First, read the offer carefully. (Or, back up a step. Make sure you have the job offer in writing.) [Details are in the newsletter. If I give you everything here, you’ll never sign up!]

Second, ask for all documents incorporated by reference in the offer. [More in the newsletter.]

Third, before you sign the offer, ask to see all documents you will be expected to sign after you accept the offer. [More in the newsletter. You’ll love it.]

I’m not a lawyer, and this is obviously not legal advice. It’s common sense based on experience. Remember that the company hired a lawyer to write all those documents. You are about to commit to a salary deal ($50,000? $150,000? More?). You’re at a disadvantage if you don’t have your own lawyer review the details of the deal.

(The flip side of this advice about offer letters is about employment contracts. If a company doesn’t give you a contract, maybe you should ask for one: Employment Contracts: Everyone needs promise protection. While such contracts are usually reserved only for executives, Bernie Dietz’s article makes a powerful argument that everyone should have a written employment contract.)

When you accept a job offer, you’re agreeing to live under the company’s rules. Have you seen the rules? Do you understand them? Don’t be so eager to accept the salary that you ignore the other components of the offer. Don’t wind up asking your lawyer after the fact, Did I really agree to that?

Oh, no! Getting a job offer is very exciting, especially if you decide to accept it. But sometimes, there are little bombs hidden in that offer, and in the documents you must sign before you start the job. Today’s Q&A is about such an explosion: The NCA. Have you ever been burned by terms in a job offer that you didn’t notice when you accepted it? How did you deal with it?


Readers’ Comments: Why does he get paid more than me?

In the February 15, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says he’s way underpaid:

I recently started a new job, and there is one other person here who does what I do. He was hired about six months before me. While he was helping me get settled, he showed me his annual benefits enrollment form as an example. It had his salary pasted all over it, and I was dismayed to find out that he makes 30% more than I do. We have the same job, the same responsibilities, and my initial assessment is that my skills and background are stronger than his. (He did have a contracting relationship with the company for some time before he was hired.)

It’s been very demoralizing to learn this so soon after starting this job, which is otherwise a good situation for me. Is there any way to handle this, besides going out and finding another job? It’s hard to be happy and effective at work knowing someone else who does the same things you do earns so much more. Thanks! 

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

There’s an important parable in the Bible. Two guys hoeing in a field stop for a break. Abe mutters, “I can’t believe I work this hard for $5 an hour.” Isaac is stunned. “$5 an hour? I get only $3 an hour!”

Later, Isaac goes to the boss. “How come you pay Abe more than you pay me?” The boss cocks his head at Isaac: “What did I offer you to do this job?” Isaac says, “$3 an hour.” The boss leans toward him a little closer. “And what do I pay you to do this job?” Isaac shrugs his shoulders, “$3 an hour.”

“So, I’m a man of my word,” says the boss.

You have no idea why the boss pays the other guy more than he pays you. But there may be many reasons. For example, your co-worker may have been hired on a career track you’re not aware of, and he may have skills you don’t have that the boss will need later.

Your buddy may have been better at negotiating his deal than you were. Or, it may be easier to find workers today than it was six months ago. Maybe the company can’t afford to pay more now. The list of possibilities goes on.

The point is, you accepted a certain deal, and your boss is honoring it. Don’t leap to a conclusion about this. Instead, when the time comes for your first performance and salary review, I suggest you apply some of the ideas in this article: How to Perform in a Performance Review. It will help you justify your value to your boss.

In the meantime, consider how presumptuous it would be to ask your boss to pay you more, right after you accepted the deal you did. I’m not going to get into the ethics of hiring the exact same kinds of people for the exact same kinds of jobs at different rates of pay, because I have no idea whether everything is equal. Do you?

(My apologies to the Bible for mangling a good parable.)

Untangling the factors behind someone’s salary is not always as simple as it seems. Fair pay is a good thing. But jumping to conclusions is not. Have you ever found yourself earning less than the next guy doing a job similar to yours? What did you do, and what was the outcome?


TheLadders’ Mercenaries to Critics: They’re good eggs!

Egg on FaceBeleaguered and battered by the press, by career industry pundits and — mainly — by its own customers, TheLadders recently convened a war council to round up industry “leaders” to defend its flagging reputation. But this little event quickly blew up in TheLadders’ face, and now it’s leaving egg all over TheLadders’ leading apologists, who are beginning to look like paid public relations flacks rather than industry leaders.

TheLadders paid these folks “T&E” — travel and expenses — to attend the meeting in New York. Then it wined and dined them, and plied them with sugared-up stories about its business model, its phenomenal growth plans, and how it’s changing the world of job hunting and recruiting for the better.

TheLadders fed them a load of bullcrap, gave them some Kool-Aid to wash it down, and then deployed them back to the field, to spread the dung around the Net in a desperate effort to put down the surge of highly-vocal customer dissatisfaction with TheLadders.

But not all the “leaders” swallowed the KoolAid or played along. HR consultant Mark Stelzner says he was skeptical about the event, but accepted the T&E and attended anyway, but only after he pinged his list to get its take on TheLadders:

“The results were shocking to me but may not be to others. I received over 800 messages in less than two weeks… and not one of them was positive.”

Aroused all the more by these reports, Stelzner attended the event and decided to put his list’s concerns to the test. But he quickly found himself relegated to “a corner table” after he started asking tough questions about TheLadders’ business model — and its practices.

Stelzner’s report on the meeting (Climbing All Over TheLadders) quickly triggered the first of TheLadders’ T&E Mercenaries, Josh Letourneau of Fistful of Talent, to take the first shot at Ladders’ critics with TheLadders: More Cirque Du Soleil Than Evil Empire. (Stelzner says that virtually the entire bullpen of the HR blog Fistful of Talent was in attendance.)

Among Letourneau’s targets were Laurie Ruettimann (The Cynical Girl), who recently explained, in her no-frills style, why The Ladders Is The Single Biggest Piece Of Crap, and yours truly (TheLadders’ Marc Cendella: Burying the Pig).

The “event” was already paying off, and battle lines were being drawn. Letourneau set the tone, disparaging bloggers who have published Ladders’ customers complaints as “sheep,” and reporting that, “TheLadders truly cares about their perception among us HR Pros and Recruiters.” (Later in his own thread, Letourneau complains about the “personal innuendo” he’s been subjected to by “the sheep.”)

Though she didn’t post on the topic, Alison Green (AskAManager) quickly took LeTourneau to task in a series of comments on his blog:

Wow. This misses the point altogether.

The issue isn’t that they charge job-seekers. Lots of people charge job-seekers, from job coaches to resume writers. Who cares? If people are willing to pay for a service, great.

The issue is that they LIE to job-seekers and engage in fraudulent business practices. They claim they offer a service that they don’t offer. I would bet money that a lawsuit is in their future, and it will be well-deserved… It’s disappointing to see writers sent on an expenses-paid junket and then turn out posts like this one.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins (Job Board Doctor), had already piled on in late January, amplifying the complaints of Ladders’ customers in Is it ever ethical to charge the job seeker?

Another thorn in TheLadders’ side, Matt Youngquist (Career Horizons), had already published P.T. Barnum &, discussing what TheLadders’ customers have been screaming about: fraudulent promises and advertising:

They not only claim to sell you access to a pipeline of hidden leads, but also claim to “filter” these leads in a way that will save you lots of time and ensure you’re only bothered by $100K+ opportunities.  Throw some high-profile television ads and snazzy web design around this concept, and boy, it suddenly sounds like an irresistible bargain for the low, low price 0f $30-40 per month!  The problem?  These claims are bogus.

But TheLadders’ bigger headache is now coming from the public sector: Human services organizations funded with tax dollars to help the unemployed. Karla Porter is the Direc­tor of Work­force Devel­op­ment and Human Resources for a mid-size metro area cham­ber of busi­ness and indus­try and eco­nomic devel­op­ment agency in Pennsylvania. I don’t think she knew about TheLadders’s war council meeting, but had she been in attendance, she probably would have been seated at the same corner table with Stelzner, for asking the question, WTF are they smoking over at TheLadders? Commenting on TheLadders recent “pole dance” commercial, Porter says:

If The­Lad­ders thinks this is cool hip and fun then call me a prude — but as soon as I hit the pub­lish but­ton on this post I’m can­cel­ing my sub­scrip­tion, because I no longer have respect for their on the job behavior…[sic]

The last place TheLadders wants to get noticed for bad behavior is among publicly-funded jobs agencies. That’s what brings investigations by state offices of budget and management, and the attention of state attorneys general.

But it was only a matter of time before TheLadders got some real ROI from its T&E Mercenaries crowd. Long-time HR industry pundit John Sumser finally came to TheLadders defense today, with his ironic Who Pays? (Hey, John, TheLadders pays, for travel, beds, drinks and mercenaries.) I expected more from Sumser, because his industry vocabulary is deep and broad, so his cold-served replay of the party line developed by Letourneau and Fistful of Talent was disappointing.

The best Sumser could offer:

What I saw during the time I spent with theLeaders at theLadders was pretty instructive. The company is growing. Their ambitions are big. They know what they’re doing.

Note to TheLadders: Next time, don’t just pay Sumser T&E; pay the guy a fee, and maybe you’ll get better than this.

What makes The Mercenaries’ statements embarrassing and transparent is that none of them address the specific, documented complaints leveled by TheLadders’ own customers. While painting a pretty picture of TheLadders’ financial success, and while telling us about the big smiles on the faces of the enthusiastic and brilliant Ladders employees, Letourneau and Sumser totally ignore the challenges issued by Ladders customers and its critics. They don’t answer, just like TheLadders’ didn’t answer Mark Stelzner’s tough questions at the war council meeting.

But they have no answers. It’s all public relations poppycock and verbal 3-Card Monte. In my comments to Letourneau, I said:

Josh: I’m calling you out. You asked, “Can you elaborate? What are they lying to Job Seekers about?”

I answered your question, which now appears to have been gratuitous.

If you really have standards for public discourse, it’s your turn: Respond to the examples I gave you.

Respond to Martin Burns, who provides one of the most damning indictments of TheLadders’ business practices that anyone could [on Letourneau’s own blog]: TheLadders posts jobs without the permission or knowledge of employers, thereby causing them embarrassment and unnecessary costs. This is an ongoing practice: I have published and cited other examples of Burn’s experience.

What I’m posting is not opinion. It’s evidence provided by Ladders customers — and, in the case of Martin Burns’ company, victims. Your opinions notwithstanding, let’s talk about the substance of the complaints, and about Ladders’ practices, which clearly seem to be systemic.

I posted a comment to Sumser’s PR pabulum a few hours ago, and I reprint it here because I won’t wait for him to decide to publish it. It’s really my response to all TheLadders’ Mercenaries, who have compromised themselves as credible, objective observers of the career and HR industries:


You don’t offer any new spin on the apologists’ defense of the Ladders, but you base your entire post on the same fallacy. Paying for career help or for job listings isn’t the criticism. If someone can make a buck helping people get jobs, that’s good. And if those people actually land jobs by paying for help, that’s good, too.

The criticism against TheLadders is that the company’s practices are fraudulent. TheLadders doesn’t deliver what it charges for.

And, like the other Ladders’ apologists, you don’t address that anywhere in your post. You ignore it. You ignore the substance of all the critiques — “the noise” — that you disparage.

The rest of your post is fluff — a 3-Card Monte game that’s clearly designed to distract folks from the facts and information that many Ladders critics (myself included) have presented to demonstrate the fraud.

Your real agenda is revealed in this statement: “any publicity is good publicity. The critics may be a part of theLadders growth engine. The louder the noise, the faster the growth.”

Pure public relations flak. Because, John, not all publicity is good publicity. “Loud noise” might contribute to faster growth, but growth doesn’t prove the integrity or value of a service or of the company behind it. All it means is that more suckers are paying up. And if that’s your criterion for backing, defending and endorsing a business, well, go for it, Man.

You have not addressed any of the detailed, credible criticisms directed at TheLadders. Instead, like others who’ve been wined and dined by TheLadders, you just wrote a public relations release for Marc Cenedella.

I called out Josh Letourneau, and I call you out, too. Address the specific complaints of Ladders customers, and of employers who have been abused by TheLadders.

Yo, John! It ain’t about how much money TheLadders is making, or how clever its ad company is, or whether the investment bankers descide to buy in to this racket.

It’s about TheLadders’ customers getting screwed — job hunters and employers alike.

Maybe you’ve been wined and dined so many times that you’ve forgotten what this is all about?

Late yesterday, The Wall Street Joural reporter Joe Light called me to talk about the controversy that TheLadders’ customers have stirred up. He said he was preparing for a meeting today with TheLadders’ president, Alex Douzet. Can’t wait to see whether Douzet serves up some fresh answers, because those rotting eggs are starting to smell really bad.


Readers’ Comments: The Deadly Resume: 10 jobs in 12 years

In the February 8, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to persuade a company to focus on skills, rather than on 12 years of jumping from job to job:

I have had 10 jobs in 12 years. All have been increasing in experience from a lowly copier technician, to parts runner, to computer technician, to part-owner of a company, to service manager with multi-million dollar accounts with 5-10 techs under me, and finally to high-end computer network technology for some big companies.

Now I’m looking for a network technology position in a smaller to medium-sized company. I’ve obtained some software certifications and taken some admin courses. All of my experience is baptism by fire and road-warrior stuff. The first question out of prospective employers is, “How come you’ve had 10 jobs in 12 years?” I want to shift the focus to what I can do for the company instead of defending my resume but I am not sure how to go about it.  

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

To most employers, that’s a deadly resume. They are concerned you’re going to “bounce” after a year. They’ll lose what they’ve invested in you, and they’ll have to find a replacement—and that’s no simple feat. This would be true about any job hunter, whether it’s a network technologist like you, or a manager or an executive.

You need to provide an honest explanation that’s going to satisfy an employer. The best way to start is by pointing out that your references are excellent (I hope they are) and that your record of success on the job is stellar. Then, ask the employer, “What is it that concerns you?” Yes, ask point blank, even though you know what the answer is. Let the employer say it aloud. If you want to have a meaningful discussion, the subject needs to be addressed candidly.

Then, depending on the response you get, you must think fast on your feet and figure out how you’re going to help the employer avoid losing you in a year. Start by explaining what happened:

How to Say It
“The first five jobs were quick changes because I wanted to work with sophisticated technology, and each new job offered me dramatic new opportunities to learn and grow. The next five were with large companies, where it was hard to move from one function to the next higher one. The lack of good hires forced technical people like me to stay in one job too long.”

Let the employer ask you questions about this. Unless the employer can exhaust her concerns, you’re not going to get anywhere near an offer. Help her talk about what’s bothering her, or you’ll get no chance at persuasion.

I’m sure you realize that your first real problem is your judgment. If career stability has been your objective, you blew it. You chose companies that could not keep you challenged. Your second big problem is patience: You didn’t invest the time and effort to help one of those companies develop a career plan for you. (We can blame the companies, but it’s your career, and in the end, you’ve got to manage your employers if you want to achieve your own objectives.)

But lets get on with how you might handle this. Before the employer is going to get interested in what you can do for her, she needs to see a commitment…

In the newsletter, the next part is how to make the commitment: How to Say It. (If you want in on the additional advice next week, sign up for the newsletter now!) But my challenge to everyone here on the blog is, How would you say it?

How could you make the kind of commitment that would make a skeptical employer consider what you can do for her company? Is it even possible?


Recruiting: Have employers put on their thinking caps?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Joe Light (Recruiters Rethink Online Playbook) suggests employers may have put on their recruiting thinking caps. Light discusses whether employers and recruiters are shifting their focus away from job boards and towards more personal (and productive) recruiting methods.

“About 24% of companies plan to decrease their usage of third-party employment websites and job boards this year,” reports Light.

Duh. Why this change?

“We need to reach candidates earlier, before they’re being pursued by competitors.”


“Now, the company is hiring different types of recruiters who specialize in headhunting, including finding candidates to poach from competitors, rather than those who are good at processing and filtering applications.”


Companies are dumping the job boards, and instead putting recruiters out in the field, to talk to people. Duh.

Why is it so difficult to understand that smart people prefer to do business with others they know and trust, or with folks who are personally referred to them by trusted contacts? While most “headhunters” don’t hunt (just dial for dollars), the best earn their $40,000+ fees (per placement) by going out into the world and talking to, meeting with, forming relationships with, the shining lights in the fields they hunt in. This should tell any job hunter something important: It’s the people, Stupid!

Joe Light is shining the light (sorry!) on a sea change in recruiting. The smartest companies don’t even need headhunters, if they put their best managers out there to find great candidates. This isn’t rocket science. But, nor is it the stupid database game that most seem to think it is. You can’t get a job by having a machine plaster your resume all over kingdom come, using “keywords” and “semantic analysis algorithms.”

TheLadders, Monster, CareerBuilder and that ilk are fascinating businesses — they make wads of money while their products don’t work! (They represent the “source of hires” about 0.7%, 4%, 3% of the time, respectively, according to annual surveys done by CareerXroads.) Yet personnel jockeys continue to throw cash at them.

While the trend seems to be changing, I worry about one of the last bits in Joe Light’s article:

“Instead of using senior recruiters to filter through the company’s applicants, lower-level screeners process them first and only hand off the most-qualified.”

Really? Just how does a company get better candidates, when it uses lower-level clerks to sort out the best candidates? Gimme a break. Sometimes the problem of “mindless recruiting and hiring” is a bigger part of a problem corporate mindset than we realize…