Let’s talk about the different types of search firms (recruitment agencies) first, which will help you better understand why not all headhunters are equal. There are predominantly two types of executive search firms: retained and contingency or both retained and contingency which we call hybrid model search firms. Retained firms are usually focusing on senior level placement or fairly high paid mid to junior level positions too as long as it justifies their search fee. They get a retainer before the search start. Contingency firms don’t get paid till successful placements. The fee model decides contingency firms are usually very performance driven as their revenue is tied into performance. Contingency firms usually fill positions at all levels as a result of their fee model. The real search firm focus on searching for the best fit candidates for their clients through all channels but not just rely on getting active job seekers through advertising. Active job seekers only represent about 20% of the candidate pool. Recruitment agencies that place mainly junior or lower paid jobs are like job centre to me and their approach is not “search” but more advertising and search existing database to get active job seekers for their clients.

When you need to work with recruiters, make sure they are a true headhunter not database jockey, meaning they can only find candidates the easy way. Else, not much value as I don’t believe they are qualified to be a recruitment consultant but more a job sales.

Headhunters approach you because they think you may be a potential candidate they can place. Please help them to help you. By helping them I mean do your best to help you to figure out who you are, what you can do, what value you bring to a potential employer not only talk about what you want first.

How do you discern the good from the bad ones? A good headhunter is a DIG specialist. DIG represents discipline, industry and geography. They should know the majority of people in their niche by constantly mapping out the market, talking to the candidate, build their industry network and knowledge. Good head-hunters are specialist not generalist. They always make effort to understand your background, discover your value proposition and what’s your passion and desire first. They will never “sell” you an opportunity as soon as you pick up the phone nor should he ask you for your CV even before he/she has assessed you. The good headhunter acts as your consultant not only matching you with the right opportunity but also giving you good advice and acting like your career strategist along the way. There are plenty of recruiters out there who are more a telesales than recruitment consultant. They treat you like a product. They quickly jump into asking you for your CV. Or they sell you a job without knowing whether it is a fit or what you want. If you like to take control of your own career, never work with these kinds of sales guy. If you are too eager to get a job and easily give away your CV, then you might end up in danger your current job as well as not getting a new job. Why? Not every recruiter is responsible. There are recruiters sending out candidates’ CV hoping to get a placement without getting your consent. I’ve seen and heard CV of the staff in a company was sent to his/her own boss or his/her peers! Do you due diligence on the headhunters before you work with them.


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