Take Two Advil and Call a Headhunter

Businessweek has a semi-interesting article about Headhunters titled Avoiding Headaches with a Headhunter.

The article is basically full of stories about the bad things that headhunters do. Well to be more specific it is about the bad things that crappy contingency firms do. In fact I am shocked that there are still people out there conducting themselves in the manner outlined in the piece. It sounds like stuff that used to happen in the '80s.

For example:

Or let's say an employer has a job opening listed on a Web site or in the paper. If a headhunter you've authorized to represent you gives the company your résumë before your own response to its help-wanted ad arrives, the company won't deal with you directly. That's because if it hires you, it'll owe the search person a fee. The hiring manager may like your résumë, but not enough to pay a fee, when plenty of qualified candidates may be available without a fee. If you're "owned" by the search guy, then it's too bad for you

Ok that would never happen with a retained firm. Because we don't "chase" openings. We often are involved in managing ad response for clients though so it wouldn't be a problem. If you do give your resume to a headhunter make it clear that you don't want him or her to send it anywhere without calling you first. Also make it clear that you don't want it sent to companies that are advertising in the paper. But also realize this. If you really stand out from the pack the company will hire you regardless of the ad response. If your resume doesn't get noticed because it came through a recruiter then it means there were other BETTER candidates that came from the ad. I have managed plenty of ad campaigns in my time and trust me if you are that ordinary whether you come from the headhunter or not the only thing you are missing out on is possibly going through the phone screen process.

However if you are convinced you are qualified and are worried about a recruiter having sent your resume in already here's what to do.

First apply to the ad directly. Then phone the hiring manager to make sure your resume has been received. On the voice mail make it clear that you have given no recruiters permission to send in your resume and you wish to apply directly.

Some companies I work with have a policy whereby they don't accept unsolicited resumes from recruiters. If they receive one it is promptly sent back to the recruiter with a letter explaining that they do not accept resumes from firms that they do not already have a signed contract with. I have never seen them have to pay a fee for an unsolicited resume yet. So the article might be a bit extreme it it's contention that once a recruiter sends a resume in to a firm it "owns you". As a recruiter who has been stiffed on a fee before I can tell you it's not that clear cut. First of all as a recruiter you have to prove that you sent the resume in and that the company was aware of it. You would have to depend on the candidate to corroborate this and if they didn't get permission they certainly wont do that. I have been in business long enough to know that I never do work for hiring companies without a signed agreement. That has always been the best guarantee that I will get paid. Otherwise I used to get ripped off constantly. I don't know what the laws are like in the US but here in Canada it is not a sure bet that you will get a fee just for floating an unsolicited resume to a company that is advertising.

Another myth in the article:

One more thing: For politeness' sake, don't use the term "headhunter" in front of the search person, at least not at your first meeting. Some of them are a little sensitive about that!

No we aren't. See the title of the blog. Why do people assume we don't like that term? I have NEVER EVER EVER met one headhunter who told me the term was offensive. I prefer it to "agency" "placement firm" and all the other terms that are used to describe us.

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