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HEADHUNTERS:  Who are they - what do they do - are they for you?

        by Lois L. Lindauer, Director, Lois L. Lindauer Searches,

      Simply said, headhunters are recruiters, but not all recruiters are headhunters.  Another term for the work that headhunters do is "Executive Search" as headhunters literally search for candidates, who are usually, but not always, executives.  The Executive Searcher's client is always an organization or a company, never an individual.

      Headhunters are paid by clients on either a contingency or a retained basis.  Firms who accept contingency searches get paid only when a search is completed and the hire is on board.  Companies that work on retainer usually get the bulk of their fee before the search is complete.  Contingency fees are, generally, for lower level positions and retained fees for higher level searches.  According to industry standards, fees, contingency or retained, range from 25 to 33 percent of the hire's first year compensation, which includes sign-on bonus, if any, base pay and estimated bonus or commission, if any.

      "Don't call us; we'll call you."  As you look at the many paths available to you to attain your ideal position, getting an interview with a headhunter is the least likely to move you closer to your goal.  Even if you should talk your way into a courtesy interview, it is not likely to be a fruitful exercise, as these recruiters are focused on finding candidates who exactly match the qualifications specified by their clients, not on finding jobs for even the most talented people.

      How do they find their candidates?  One way, which is how you are most likely to find your next position, is networking.  Advertising is another.  Research, through a variety of methods, including the internet and trade associations and other directories, plays a major role in locating candidates.

      People feel flattered when the headhunter calls.  And there is a valid reason for that: these folks fill many of the world's most prestigious positions.  On the other hand, if you are not called, it doesn't mean that you are not the best in your field.  It just means that either your qualifications are not needed for a position right now or they haven't heard of you, yet!