The real truth about working with headhunters

  • Post published:28/05/2015
  • Reading time:8 mins read

So let’s start by addressing the biggest myth in recruitment; that of recruiters finding jobs for people. I’m sorry to tell you, and to be blunt about this, but it’s not only a myth – it’s totally nonsense. Recruiters and headhunters do not find jobs for people; they find people for jobs!

  • Finding people for jobs
  • Finding jobs for people

2951_thought_redWhen you think about it, these two models are very different concepts. They are so far from each other that I wouldn’t even use the popular Thai expression, “same same but different”. In this particular case, they’re very different concepts and not the same at all.

If you have ever been approached by a recruiter or headhunter about a new job opportunity, you know that recruiters are not paid by the candidates but by their client companies. Clients pay recruiters to identify and present suitable candidates for very specific positions, with very specific and hard-to-find requirements. Yes, we help clients find candidates they cannot.

It’s really hopeless, and a waste of your time, to contact a recruiter with your unsolicited resume, and ask if the recruiter can help you find a job. Honestly, most recruiters will never respond, because they are too busy working for their clients.

You will understand the reason for the recruiter’s behavior when I tell you that recruiters only get their second and third fee payments when they find great candidates who their clients want to meet and eventually hire. Time used by the headhunter to talk, email or engage with candidates who are not a match to what their clients are looking for, will simply steal valuable time away from what they are paid to do, i.e. find, assess, influence, and help recruit the best.3504_abacus_color

The name of the game in the recruitment profession is matching your professional and educational background to what we are currently working on for our clients – that is what we get paid for! If your profile appears to come close to what a client has requested, you will be the first to know – trust me. On the other hand, if the recruiter does not have a client requesting what your experience offers, well I’m sure you get it.

Celebrity, Donald Trump, is famous for his mantra, “It’s not personal, it’s business”. It was the tagline used in the popular TV series The Apprentice. So my apologies on behalf of all us recruiters, it’s not personal, it’s business. And time is money.

So, let’s count down the top 10 faux pas, as they say in French, of etiquette rules and social norms when working with headhunters, executive search firms and recruitment companies.4152_drama_masks_green_purple

Dear Bob when my name is Tom

Wrong: Do you too get upset when people call you Sombat when your name is Annan? Or getting an email: Dear Bob when your name is Tom? Does it not show some level of attention or rather lack of attention to details? When someone can’t be bothered double-checking that they’re addressing a person correctly, what else does this person get wrong? Probably a lot.

And it’s annoying to receive an email and resume that has more than likely been sent to a large group of recruitment companies and executive search firms.

Resume of too many pages

Wrong: A resume with too many pages will still get a maximum of six seconds of attention. Placing personal information and a photo on top of page one, writing about your responsibilities instead of your achievements, and including details of what you did 20 years ago, will not help you get more attention. Remember that the purpose of a resume is to get someone to call and invite you for an interview.

Dressed up for the Saturday night disco when going to an interview

Wrong: There is a big difference between going to the disco on Saturday night and attending a job interview. The mini skirt, high heels and red lipstick are all fine at your local dance club, but that’s where it stops.

If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail

Wrong: One of the most common openings in an interview is: “what do you know about our company?” If you really have no clue, stand up, apologise for not preparing for the interview and ask to be excused, then leave. You have no chance to save that blunder.

Claim you got an MBA when you actually didn’t

1324_numbers_colourWrong: It was not many years ago that the Internet giant Yahoo’s new CEO falsely claimed a computer science degree on his resume. He didn’t get away with it and was fired. According to research conducted by the Society of Human Resource Managers a few years ago, over 50% of individuals lie on their resume in some way.

You forgot to mention that allowance of 25,000

Wrong: At the end of any recruitment process we start negotiating compensation and benefits. The headhunter will usually liaise with both parties as a buffer, just to prevent any hard feelings being brought into the employment because of some tough negotiations.

Once you have tabled all details of your current package, it’s a killer in any discussion to suddenly, and late in the process, to claim that you forgot to mention the 25,000 baht allowance you also receive every month. Honestly, we all look stupid in the eyes of the prospective employer who no doubt will see this as a scheme to deceive or outwit them.

Merge two jobs into one period and one company name

Wrong: Job hoppers are usually perceived as negative because they have switched jobs too many times. But even so, it’s career suicide to merge two jobs into one by combining the length of the two jobs into one period. And then use one company name and title as a header.

Say one thing to me and something different to my client

Wrong: Presenting a resume with a current job is one thing, talking with the recruiter and implying you are still working there is another thing, but even more disturbing is suddenly revealing in the interview with the employer that you haven’t been entirely true and in fact you have left that “current” company and are now unemployed. What exactly is the message you’re trying to send by doing this? Because all it shows is that you’re willing to fabricate the truth in order to get where you want or need to be. And, if you’ve done it for one thing, what else have you done it for?

Cancel an interview at the last minute or not show up at all

Wrong: OK, so we have set you up to meet our client’s CEO, but you call us in the morning to say your boss has asked for an urgent meeting. You can’t go. Never mind that our client’s CEO is a regional manager who came in the night before from Shanghai just to meet you.2409_arrow_up_down_green

What could be worse than that? Only one thing is more inappropriate and selfish, and that’s staying away without letting anyone know you do not intend to come for the interview. No-show and totally incomprehensible. And yet it happens.

Accepting a counter offer from your current employer

Wrong: The Number 1 mistake that will get the headhunter really hating you is the dreaded counter offer. Here’s the picture:

“Sorry, but I don’t think I can join your client. I know I already signed the employment contract and that I promised I would never change my mind. But you see, my boss has given me a new big important project. He told me I’m the only one in the company that can be trusted to carry this sort of responsibility. They are all so nice to me and I’ve also been given a new title.” Me (after he hung up): Aaaaarrrrggghhhh !*$#@#$*!!!

Accepting a counter offer is a shortcut to a career detour. It’s as bad as having an affair with the boss. The counter offer is an insult to your intelligence. You have been bought and it should be a blow to your pride.2235_stop_red

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.