Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Things you SHOULD be AWARE about Headhunters

A typical scenario…not professional

This sounds simple isn’t it? Someone calls you, introduce himself and the headhunting firm and ask whether you are interested for a change of job? You are excited and say “Yes, I am!” Further to the conversation, you inquire more about the responsibilities. The Headhunter gives you a brief. Very general, probably one or two-liner statements. You ask a few questions but you get vague answers back. Hence, you ask the Headhunter to send you the job description.

What happen next may shock you. The Headhunter sends you a short paragraph of words, highlighting in a nutshell about what you should do in the new role. There is nothing on the requirements, skill sets, experiences needed. How will you be keen to explore further? You have zero knowledge about it.

You ask more and the Headhunter says “Mr. A, why not we meet up and discuss?” Sadly, there is no agenda given. No specific focus, just a broad overview. You ask again and the Headhunter tries hard to sell you the appointment with him.

He will say “Mr. B, the company is fast expanding and has a great reputation. They just open up a new role, a brand new office blah blah blah…..come and meet me and we shall talk” Now, what is the objective? Has the Headhunter engages you – for example ask what you are looking for, what your job priorities are?

With no sufficient details on hand, will you be prepared for a productive chat with the Headhunter? Chances are, you may be sold into a story that is not catered to your next career pathway. You enter into a meeting with a blank, knowing the Headhunter’s name. (unless he or she is a popular figure you want to meet!)

Let’s move on to this same situation. Nonetheless, you find it strange and decide to do your own research. This is the second shock. Be prepared. You login to Linked-In and found that the same position is indicated, the specifications in full. In other words, this same job offering has been pasted online with the complete set of information.

Questions arise – why didn’t the Headhunter send you the entire details? Why is the Headhunter not being transparent with you? Where is the level of professionalism? Lastly, is this job offer exclusive to the Headhunter (as he claims it to be?)

Second scenario…..misfit

Assuming you has a credible portfolio and track record, with over 10 years of experiences as a Senior Executive in your organization. A recruitment firm contacts you. Similar initial conversation happens. But, the Headhunter did not start a worthy chat with you, asking whether you will like a new change of position, new career or where you like to be, or if you are unhappy with your job and why. The Headhunter did not really check your profile in Linked-In (you have placed your details right up).

Instead, the Headhunter tells you about how great this company is. You ask him to email the job description over and…..

Presto! He sends you an entry-level position. A role suited more for candidates who just start from scratch.

Note that it’s same scope, same responsibilities, similar occupation (you can call it whatever) but a different firm only. A role where you have been there, done that, toiled and work hard and smart 6 years back. You are completely taken aback. A complete misfit. Not just that, a very poor reflection of how the Headhunter deals with people from different stages of their career pathway. Looks bad on the Headhunter for sure.


What I just mentioned is a stark reflection of how some wayward recruitment firms handle people. These are real life experiences which I gather from my clients. As a Career Coach, I understand how they feel after reading the correspondences between the Headhunter and my clients. Please don’t get me wrong. There are excellent Headhunters out in the market who did wonderful jobs of placing people in the right place, right position. However, as the barrier to entry of setting up a recruitment firm is low, several may just get a serviced office, be an internet expert (sniff out job advertisements in the open) and try to close the deal off without proper people-to-people communication; much less caring much about your career health. You will get frustrated. The point is, be mindful and keep a list of reputable Headhunters that deserve a tick in your checkbox. Spend time building relationships with credible recruitment firms (the same for the Headhunters with you) while second and third tier ones are at the back of your funnel.

Headhunters exist for a reason to smoothen the process, giving benefits for both the hiring company and the candidate. Some of the Headhunters are specialists in the industry, having gain experiences in the past before. This is crucial. Certain sectors require technical expertise that the professionals will know, thus facilitate the expectation on both sides. Although the best option is to go direct to the hiring source, for some confidential higher-level occupations, an experienced and credible Headhunter is needed to place the right talent for the job. If the Headhunter does a good job, for sure his or her name is known in the inner circle.

That said, at a glance for mid-management roles, Career Coach like myself is able to bridge in the gap - the difference in knowing what you need and how you feel. Most importantly, find out your aspiration before working closely together to draw up action plans and leveraging on external resources. This explains my answer about the role of a Career Coach, which some of my clients may ask. Recruitment firms won’t spend the next 2 hours engaging with you, extracting in-depth intelligence about your career development. You need this because you may need certain advices for strategizing your pathway before looking for potential jobs in the market. You can read up articles and books. However, this may give you a platform without the personal touch. If you need a coffee chat in career management, feel free to contact me at my website, KT Academy.

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