As a headhunter, I have to constantly explain what I do. Most people have never heard of this career, industry, or met one in the flesh! Colleges don’t talk about headhunting and recruitment as a career track.
Even though recruitment and headhunting are crucial business functions that every modern day professional NEEDS to know about, many don’t even understand the basic premise of what headhunters do or are used for!
Here is a basic rundown of what is a headhunter:
#1. Headhunters recruit staff (permanent or contract) for their clients and get paid a fee. This job is 100% sales on not only the client side but also the candidate side. Thus, unlike any other sales job, headhunting requires 2 parties with vastly different incentives to come to an agreement and execute on their promises to each other.
#2. The job of a headhunter is NOT related to Human Resources. This is constantly misinterpreted and quite insulting to both HR and headhunters. In reality, headhunters and human resources are mortal enemies. Headhunting is an outsourced and external business function that is in direct competition with HR. Because companies need to pay headhunters an expensive fee per hire, HR avoids headhunters like the plague.
In many markets where candidates are far scarcer than the amount of jobs available (candidate-driven markets), headhunters profit immensely due to HR’s inability to cover their internal hiring needs. It’s not HR’s fault that they can’t generate the right amount of candidates to satisfy their hiring managers’ needs. The real issue is the labor force. In many markets, there are simply not enough candidates to go around.
HR has no choice but to pay headhunters their pound of flesh to get the job done.
#3. Headhunters are NEEDED to persuade candidates in candidate-driven markets to leave their current employer. Internal recruitment and HR, as hard as they may try, can’t just start calling their competitors to poach staff. Headhunters are needed to maintain decorum and minimize the drama that comes with essentially taking from Peter to feed Paul. Again, the problem lies in the labor force being too scarce in specific fields and industries.
Headhunting is an extremely lucrative career that no one ever tells you about because there are no regulatory bodies that govern it, promote it, or educate the general public about it. Unlike other sales businesses like real estate, financial planning, stock trading, selling of medical devices, etc., the headhunting industry has no governing regulatory body nor collective incentive to spread the word about it.
Part of the reason why headhunting fees are so high is because very few headhunting companies actually know what they’re doing. Even within the firms with the best reputations, only a very small percentage are top-billers and they produce the majority of profits within their firm. Ironically, talent in our own industry of headhunting is so rare to find, develop, and retain.
If headhunting as a career is interesting to you, connect with me on LinkedIn to find out more information.
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