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HUMAN RESOURCES

How does a headhunter operate?

Last month's article about the role of headhunters luring away your key people resulted in dozens of reactions both corporate and personal. In general, the corporate reactions were about wanting to know more about the way recruiters operate. Personal reactions were mainly about what a recruiter can do for people looking for a job.
To start with answering the last question, I will have to disappoint the job seekers among you. Recruiters are rarely a great source of help in finding you a new job. Why? Recruiters are looking for applicants according to a very strict profile for a limited client portfolio. Their possibilities are limited, their job offers strictly related to their client base and most of them won't give you tips on where to find a job elsewhere if nothing is available with their clients (apart from some very positive exceptions).
The basic principle behind this is that the company pays the recruiter to find qualified professionals, while the job seeker does not pay the recruiter to find him or her a suitable job. Although in many Western countries specialised agencies do help individuals to find a suitable job, I have not yet seen this kind of service in Slovakia except for the traditional outplacement activities, where agencies help redundant personnel to find another job.


Gerard Koolen

Last month's article about the role of headhunters luring away your key people resulted in dozens of reactions both corporate and personal. In general, the corporate reactions were about wanting to know more about the way recruiters operate. Personal reactions were mainly about what a recruiter can do for people looking for a job.

To start with answering the last question, I will have to disappoint the job seekers among you. Recruiters are rarely a great source of help in finding you a new job. Why? Recruiters are looking for applicants according to a very strict profile for a limited client portfolio. Their possibilities are limited, their job offers strictly related to their client base and most of them won't give you tips on where to find a job elsewhere if nothing is available with their clients (apart from some very positive exceptions).

The basic principle behind this is that the company pays the recruiter to find qualified professionals, while the job seeker does not pay the recruiter to find him or her a suitable job. Although in many Western countries specialised agencies do help individuals to find a suitable job, I have not yet seen this kind of service in Slovakia except for the traditional outplacement activities, where agencies help redundant personnel to find another job.

Does all this mean that sending your CV to recruiters is a waste of time? No, on the contrary. Serious agencies will certainly invite you for a personal interview and they will inform you about present labour market conditions, personal possibilities and current salary ranges. And, if you qualify for a certain profile, the chances are you will get good job offers.

All corporate questions were more or less about receiving more information on how headhunters operate. First of all, beware of the name! Many headhunters, especially those firms calling themselves Executive Search firms, like to see themselves as (personnel) consultants and will feel undervalued if you call them a headhunter. But believe me, the job requires limited consulting, as the essence of the job is to come up with the best fit for your vacancy.

How headhunters operate and how you can check whether you are working with the proper company was the general corporate question.

Headhunters have many tools to introduce the right applicants for a job, these being their database of registered applicants, direct search techniques, advertising support, media monitoring and the Internet.

If your recruiter advises you to use a big advertising budget then beware! They probably have no clue where to find the suitable applicants and they will use your money for expensive advertising. In this case, it's better to advertise yourself and avoid paying their fees.

Direct search techniques are essential and also the most time intensive. A lot of experience and labour market know-how is required. Let your potential headhunter inform you in detail how they execute their direct searches: Do they have specialised searchers per branch? What does their network look like? Do they have a good overview of companies established in Slovakia by branch? Do they execute field searches, and if so how? Can they show you a detailed track record? Be critical!

The fourth tool is media monitoring services. Do they read all relevant publications concerning influential people in the relevant field? Do they know the opinion makers in your field of expertise? Do they know which companies are in financial problems etc. This service is essential for headhunters when working at the top- and middle-management levels. If this is missing, do not expect too much from your headhunter.

Last but not least is the Internet. This medium is gaining ever more importance in finding qualified applicants, and if your recruiter does not provide you with a solid Internet strategy there is something crucial missing in the search strategy.


Gerard Koolen is a partner at Lugera & Maklér. His column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to gerard.koolen@lugera.com.

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