Why headhunters waste your time

Why headhunters waste your time


May I ask for your advice? I’m a headhunter. What is the best thing to say to a candidate when they ask who is the client I’m representing? I don’t want them going after the job on their own or using another headhunter. Thanks for your time.

Nick’s Reply

headhunters waste timeNice to hear from a “headhunter,” but I’m more concerned about what a candidate should do when you won’t disclose your client. Why on earth would you not tell a candidate who your client is? Aren’t you proud of the client?

Unfortunately, I say that with tongue in cheek. I know why you won’t disclose who your client company is. You’re afraid the candidate will take the information, contact the company directly about the job, cut you out of the loop, and cost you a placement fee.

Is this a headhunter or a “headhunter”?

But there’s more to this that job candidates need to know, because this is part of how “headhunters” (I shudder to call them that) waste job candidates’ time. I’m betting you’re worried because you have no control over your client, and that’s because you have no contract or written agreement with the company. (If you do have a written agreement but it’s not exclusive, candidates face the same problem.) It’s simply bad business when a company welcomes lots of “headhunters” to submit resumes of the same candidates indiscriminately and all at once. If the company hires a candidate submitted by 10 “headhunters” and makes a hire, one of the “headhunters” gets paid and the rest get diddley-bop.

Pardon me if I’ve got it wrong, but I think that’s why you’re worried. That’s why you’re a “headhunter” and not a headhunter. (Note to job seekers: Please read They’re not headhunters.)

The Employment System is Broken

This is also proof positive that the Employment System — how HR recruits and hires — is a sham, a scam, an irresponsible cluster-f@ck that doesn’t work for anyone but the database jockeys who build the software that props up this indefensible house of cards. Yes, I’m talking about Applicant Tracking Systems, LinkedIn and Indeed, the baddest HR consultancies and “recruitment automaters,” phony “A.I.”, phony algorithms that “view and judge” video interviews, and HR-we-do-it-all outsourcing rackets. These all contribute to indiscriminate, more-is-better and massively erroneous candidate selection, “review” and “processing.”

I’m sure readers are already laughing because they’ve had loads of their time wasted by headhunters! Now we’re going to take a look at how this happens.

Job Candidates: How headhunters waste your time

Most headhunters work on contingency. That is, they are paid only when the employer actually hires a job candidate the headhunter submitted for a job. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model. It’s very common and it can work well enough for the job seeker, the headhunter and the employer. But problems arise when the search is not assigned exclusively, but thrown like chum on the waters to create an insensate recruiter feeding frenzy.

A contingency search assignment should at minimum give you 30, 60 or 90 days to complete without competition or interference from other sources of candidates. You are the only headhunter authorized to submit job candidates for X days. That’s what makes it exclusive. That’s what makes it worth your time to do a good, thorough job. That’s what makes you proud and happy to tell the candidate who your client is.

When an employer solicits many resumes from many sources all at once, it’s practicing garbage in-garbage out recruiting. It wastes job candidates’ time and its own. When “headhunters” are forced to compete this way, they will submit anyone for any job, hoping to get lucky.

How does this waste a job candidate’s time? Because earnest job seekers go on interviews totally wrong for them while the “headhunter” is hoping to get lucky. The candidate’s time costs the “headhunter” nothing because the “headhunter” costs the employer nothing unless a hire is made.

Is this a bona fide job search?

A company that assigns an exclusive search to a headhunter it trusts gets fewer but better candidates simply because it’s worth the headhunter’s time to dedicate the resources to recruit accurately and quickly. Everybody is more likely to win.

So the problem is not how to answer that question. It’s to start with a bona fide search that’s exclusive. Anything else is not good business for you, for the employer, or for the job candidate. The very fact that you fear competing with your own candidate tells us there’s a fundamental problem with the business model you subject yourself to.

If you don’t have a meaningful agreement with the company, recruiting and submitting candidates becomes a crapshoot and you’re not likely to make a placement because of all the counterproductive and phony “competition.” (It’s phony because all the candidates come from the same databases!)

You should not be wasting your time trying to make a placement without a solid, exclusive relationship with your client. And a candidate should not work with you if all you’re doing is submitting yet another copy of their resume to the same employer.

Headhunting is not a numbers game

I know this is hard advice. But headhunting is hard work. That’s why we get paid up to $30,000 to fill a $100,000 job. What most “headhunters” are doing is playing a recruiting lottery, hoping to get lucky. They’re not real headhunters.

Of course, you could just tell the candidate the truth: You can’t name the company because you know they will apply directly or apply through five headhunters hoping the numbers will work in their favor. Or, you could tell them the name and beg them to work only through you.

Please think about this. Headhunting can be a great business — if you are actually doing business with written agreements, trusted clients and trusted sources of great candidates. Everything else is dialing for dollars.

My advice to any headhunter is to do exclusive searches.

Go exclusive or go away

My advice to job seekers is to work only with headhunters that have the inside track on filling a job for a company. They should always ask the headhunter, “Who is the employer, and are you handling this assignment exclusively?” (See headhunter Joe Borer’s excellent article, How to Judge A Headhunter.)

I have no advice for employers that tolerate and encourage a feeding frenzy of “headhunters” competing to fill one job. They deserve the mess they’re in. This is how and why “headhunters” waste job seekers’ time.

I wish you the best.

Do headhunters tell you who their client is? At what point? Have you ever “gone around” a headhunter? Have you ever learned that multiple headhunters submitted you for the same job? What happened?

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