As a headhunter for headhunters, I constantly see how headhunting companies sell the dream to woo candidates to join their firm over others. Most junior headhunters (like me when I started out) took the first offer that was offered. Despite my success as a headhunter, I wish I knew what I know now about how to judge headhunting firms.
For junior or aspiring headhunters, consider these factors before you take an offer:
#1. Management. When you first start out as a headhunter, your manager is your lifeline. Why? Because you learn how to headhunt from them!
Just like how a baby lion learns how to hunt from mama lion, when you start out, you are only as good as your mama lion!
Headhunting is not easy; there’s an art and sophistication to it. If your manager has never billed over at least $500k a year, they won’t be able to show you how to! Top-billers should have at least billed over $500k as a bare minimum; if your manager was never a top-biller, they won’t possess the volume of client and candidate knowledge necessary to run a successful headhunting business sustainably.
They themselves are not successful, therefore they won’t be able to teach you success!
I was very lucky to have landed in the lap of one of the top-billers when I first started my career. Since he had experienced what it took to be a top-biller, he could teach me the model and mindset of what he employed to succeed. Moreover, I was able to emulate his communication hacks and style to improve my persuasion skills.
Due to my lack of experience when I started, sometimes my manager would step in on my behalf to handle sensitive conversations with difficult clients or candidates. When I became a manager, I similarly led from the front by handling any challenge that comes my staff’s way. If you have a weak or unsuccessful boss, you won’t be able to rely on them for any help! They’ll be so busy dodging your needs that you won’t actually get half the support or role modeling you need to succeed.
#2. Training. If you found a great manager but they don’t take the time to train you, you’re still in trouble. Training is crucial for obvious reasons. You need to have a system to not only learn the business, but to also receive feedback for you to tweak your style and daily habits.
My manager used to listen into my calls to make sure I was doing everything I could the right way to succeed. Although it was nerve-racking to be eavesdropped upon, the feedback accelerated my learning. Company-wide training programs also work wonders on your career because you’ll be learning with colleagues in the same boat. That type of camaraderie, while not the most important, certainly creates friendships and helps motivate you do your best in the face of competition.
#3. Decent chance to make decent money. A good manager and training system is meaningless if the firm you’re working at can’t make you rich! Headhunting is sales. People go into sales to make money. If there is not enough money to be made, what is the point?!
3 issues could be the culprit here: (1) Your market sucks. You could be on a market that is low value. Your market might be incorrectly split up where you’re fighting with your colleagues over the same clients and candidates. Your market is too big and unfocused where you’re not getting economies of scale for your efforts. (2) Your commission schedule is below industry average. You should take home AT LEAST 25-30% of your total billing in a year (including your base salary). (3) You’re stuck in a lowly candidate-only role in a split-desk recruitment model where you report into client account managers*.
*Not only does that stunt your growth as a headhunter, you won’t be able to make as much as you could have in a role allowing you to manage clients as well (more true on permanent as opposed to contract recruitment).
Outside of these main factors, you should also consider what else is important to you. In hindsight, I wish I joined a private firm where I could have received equity. If the company decides to sell, that additional equity materializes into a sizable gain. Perhaps, working from home is important to you? Location might also be a factor – if you’re someone who wants to travel to other offices, maybe consider a global headhunting firm that allows for those opportunities.
Whatever your unique situation and requirements are, make sure you make as informed of a decision as you can so that you’ll have fewer regrets down the line!
Dandan is a headhunter, career coach, and speaker featured on Huffington Post, Inc.com, Apple News, Monster, and Time.
Contact Dandan Global if you need career coaching, especially if you’re interested to start or continue your career in headhunting!