In the May 14, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter some readers get fed up with headhunters who waste their time.
My friends and I are successful IT (information technology) types and receive calls about positions from headhunters often. We are all experiencing the following:
- The initial salary range presented is higher than what the employer discusses or offers and thus, everyone’s time is wasted. The recruiter then weasels out of the lie.
- The headhunter calls with a “hot” opportunity, gives us the details, finds out if we’re interested and then tells us that interviews will be conducted very soon. We never hear from the headhunter about that particular position after that and our phone calls go unanswered, until another opportunity comes up and the process starts all over again.
- The headhunter asks if we will interview but he doesn’t know any specifics about the job, like what the company specializes in or what technologies they use.
Are these really legitimate positions? Why don’t headhunters take the time to research the position in order to convince the candidate to pursue the opportunity? Why don’t they return our calls or explain what happened to the “hot” position? Do they really think we will recommend potential candidates when they are so unreliable and inconsistent with their stories? (We are called upon to refer candidates to fit entry level and lateral positions.)
What’s going on? We don’t have time to waste talking about positions that don’t exist, or to interview for positions not in our specified salary range. Many thanks for your input!
Most “headhunters” are no better than most personnel jockeys. They’re ignorant of their own business, they have no clear business goals (other than to make money), they don’t understand the jobs they’re trying to fill, their strategy is to “dial for dollars,” and they lose their credibility quickly.
The problems with headhunters
You must understand two things.
First, the cost of entry into the headhunting business is so low that anyone (and I mean anyone) can give it a shot. All it takes is a cell phone and a free LinkedIn account.
Second, turnover in most of these firms is very high because they do next to nothing to train new headhunters (I shiver to even call them that) properly. The result: the experiences you describe.
You hit the nail on the head. Refuse to have your time wasted.
The solution is to grill the headhunter. Play hardball.
Get references: Ask to talk with three people in your field that the headhunter has placed and three managers that have hired the headhunter’s candidates.
Issue a warning: Assuming you get those names, tell the headhunter that if she doesn’t call you back when she says she will, her name will be mud among your associates.
Know headhunters from telemarketers
Fast-buck artists who talk a good line, make little sense, and don’t keep promises aren’t headhunters. They’re telemarketers playing long odds to get a fee every now and then. Most of them don’t know the first thing about dealing with the professional community they recruit in. If they sound like they don’t know anything about your work, it’s because they don’t. Heck, most don’t even recruit — they copy and paste keywords, job descriptions and resumes.
Make them earn their money.
(To any “headhunters” reading this, if this describes you, don’t send me your complaints. You get no sympathy from me for treating candidates like this.)
If a headhunter presses you too soon for the names of references, politely take control of the discussion.
How to say it: “I think you’ll enjoy talking with my references — have you already talked with people who know my work? If not, then first we need to talk about the position you’re working on. If you decide I’m a viable candidate, and if I decide I want to pursue it, then we can talk about my references. So, tell me more about the position. Who is the manager?”
From How To Work With Headhunters, p. 84
Good headhunters are few and far between. Remember my advice to ask for references? The “headhunter” who contacts you is very unlikely to give you any because he doesn’t have any. That’s the first sign you’re going to waste your time.
- Good headhunters will share references.
- Because they circulate in your professional community, they probably know people whose names you will recognize.
- They will treat you with respect, and they will do what they say they’re going to do.
- They will also instantly reveal that they know a lot about the work you do.
- They will ask intelligent questions, and they can answer yours.
It really is that simple. For a good primer about headhunters, please read Joe Borer’s How to Judge a Headhunter. Joe is a good headhunter, but please don’t try to contact him. Good headhunters don’t field unsolicited calls from job seekers. (See Headhunters find people, not jobs.)
Be your own headhunter
The purpose of Ask The Headhunter is to teach you how to be your own headhunter — even when you’re not actively seeking a job. Cut out the middle man when necessary. But when you meet a good headhunter, you’ll know it – they’re worth your patience and your attention, because they’ll treat you with respect and negotiate a deal like you never could on your own.
I usually rant about personnel jockeys and career counselors and coaches. Did I ever tell you the one about the inept headhunter…?
How do you judge headhunters? Give us three signs that quickly tell you who’s for real and who’s going to waste your time. Let’s compile a list everyone can use.