Welcome to the monkeyhouse.
When the economy is tight, the marginal members of the headhunting business get very nervous because the low-hanging fruit disappears. They actually have to work to make a living. Meanwhile, the best headhunters are busy with challenging assignments because The Truth About Speeding Trains is that while they may slow down a bit for a curve, they don’t stop. These companies keep hiring, but carefully.
You’ve probably heard me say that 95% of HR workers aren’t worth spit. And I usually put that in context by adding that 95% of headhunters aren’t worth spit, either. But look at the bright side. 5% of HR workers and 5% of headhunters have no competition.
Many “headhunters” don’t know how to find new clients, and they sure don’t know how to find the best candidates. They pick the low-hanging fruit and call it a job. Let’s take a look at what this means, and how it affects you.
Don’t give us low-hanging fruit.
A headhunter recently wrote to me, complaining that her corporate clients don’t want her to submit resumes of people whose resumes are already plastered all over the job boards.
We have seen a couple of clients indicate that they do not want to see resumes of candidates who have been sourced on the popular job boards (even if they have not sourced the candidate themselves). [“Sourced” means “found.”] We always clear the candidate on the client company to determine if they have been contacted or applied to the company. We would never submit a candidate who has indicated contact with a client company.
Translation: We find resumes on Internet job boards and we send them to companies, hoping to get an interview, a hire, and a fee.
The headhunter continues:
Here’s a typical statement from a company: “We are not interested in seeing candidates whose resumes have been sourced or posted on the job boards. Do not present our opportunities to them. We are interested in candidates that come from your firm’s personal network to whom we would not otherwise have access via the job boards or our network.”
Translation: This employer doesn’t want headhunters to submit resumes that are plastered all over the Internet job boards. The employer’s HR monkeys are already crawling all over those resumes.
We own the low-hanging fruit.
The headhunter goes on to criticize her clients, and to ask for advice:
We feel that corporate recruiters are making these statements because they have been told that it is their job to find these people on Monster, Dice, etc. We know for a fact that they oftentimes do not contact all the candidates on these job boards that might match the requirement. We also have people referred to us through our network and they just happen to have their resume on Monster.
My question is this: Do you have a good response to this particular objection? In my opinion they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. Thanks.
Hmmm. Employers don’t want to pay $30,000 fees for people whose resumes are already all over the Internet. And this headhunter wants advice on how to compete with its HR clients for resumes that HR can get on its own for free.
The fruit is, ah, rather RIPE.
Here’s my reply and advice to this headhunter:
Sorry, but I agree with the employers on this one. Why pay headhunting fees for people who are on the job boards? In fact, why pay anything for people who spread their resumes all over kingdom come? Those resumes are free — and rather overly-ripe. In fact, most of them stink. The problem with those candidates is that their motivation to work for your own client is about as thin as the credibility of the job boards. (See CareerBuilder is for Dopes.) They have posted their resumes because they want a job, any job. My clients wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. My clients want people who want to work for them, not for any company that comes along.
If your corporate clients pay internal recruiters to pick over resumes on job boards, someone ought to tell the board of directors that the flushing sound it hears is the recruiting budget going down the online toilet. Anyone who sources candidates on job boards should get out of this business. We get paid good fees to go find good people who are so talented that they’re not looking to jump on every “opportunity” that comes along. Just because HR is lousy at recruiting doesn’t give us an excuse to send a check to CareerBuilder every month and put our feet up.
Monkeys competing with monkeys
The problem you’re facing should make your firm realize its business model is founded on mediocrity. Armchair recruiting is not worth big fees. Racing your client to find resumes on the job boards “that match the requirement” is not a business. It’s monkeys competing with monkeys for low-hanging fruit.
Meanwhile, I advise every job hunter with a brain to get out of the monkey house.
The good headhunters are out in the field, finding and meeting the best-of-breed in the industry, and building relationships with them. Five years later, they may recruit those people — while you’re sipping a Diet Coke and filtering buzz words on Dice. 40%-70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Those contacts take years to cultivate. That’s why headhunters get paid $30,000 to fill a $100,000 position — not because they surfed Monster.com and beat a personnel jockey to candidate #30984213.
It’s appalling that headhunters rationalize using The Job Board Dump to fill positions for their clients. Your business is in jeopardy because you’ve been pretending your monkeys are better than your client’s monkeys. Now, what should you do about your corporate client who doesn’t want you to send the drek that her staff is already sifting through online?
Do what you get paid for.
I’d respond to the objection like this:
“Our firm doesn’t use job boards. We spend our time among movers and shakers in the industry — getting to know them and their friends. The people we’ll refer to you are the ones who won’t risk their identities on Monster.com. When they want a new job, they quietly turn to people they know and trust. They get hired quickly by companies who meet them through personal contacts — and that’s our stock in trade. By the way, we charge premium fees for our services because we have no competition. Including the team of monkeys in your personnel department.”
When the economy tanks, the best headhunters are still busy filling positions for hiring managers whose standards just keep getting higher. (Those managers often turn to headhunters without notifying their personnel monkeys.) The question is, how will you define your firm?
Like I said, when the low-hanging fruit disappears, 5% of headhunters have no competition. The monkeys send threatening notes to one another about who is in charge of the low-hanging fruit. Meanwhile, Monster and CareerBuilder keep collecting fees — and the monkeys are falling out of the trees.