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Headhunters get no respect—and no press

Jordan Greenberg //April 21, 2010//

Headhunters get no respect—and no press

Jordan Greenberg //April 21, 2010//

Every once in a while, I get really frustrated at the lack of respect and, more accurately, the lack of attention my profession gets. After all, the perspective that a third-party recruiter has regarding our national employment picture is unique.

Headhunters interact with both the supply (candidate pool) and demand (employers) sides of the hiring equation for our livelihood. Yet when is the last time you read a quote from any executive recruiter about employment trends or topics?

Then again, executive recruiters/headhunters are by definition behind-the-scenes change-agents. Most hirers who engage our services do so confidentially, especially at the management level where a superior may need to upgrade or top grade a lower level to achieve better corporate results. Certainly, the gainfully employed candidates “searchers” reach out to need to keep our contact completely secret from their current employers or be subject to immediate termination for having the appearance of seeking a better job.

Nonetheless, our accomplishments should not be diminished. It is widely known that most CEO’s in our Fortune 500 Companies are either tapped (i.e. actively recruited) or recommended and evaluated by an executive search firm. But when is the last time a search firm got glorified for its role in the building of corporate America?

The reality of the matter, whether it’s right here in Denver or in New York City or San Francisco, is that most major appointments at a huge percentage of companies are impacted profoundly by the search and placement business. So don’t let the notion of privacy limit your awareness of the power and fortitude of my professional colleagues.

Fanfare, we may lack; but for substance, we shine. Headhunters first have to sell themselves and their capabilities – in the form of personal, professional services – to key hiring authorities of our chosen prospect base. Once we garner a commitment from the new client, genuine executive recruiters then go directly into the target marketplace where the ideal candidates work and gently nudge them to consider an interview opportunity with the decision-maker.

Often times, especially in today’s market of risk-averse but well-credentialed professionals, the candidates we pursue are not even considering a job change. We are pure sales professionals, largely paid by commission only. Most of us earn nothing until we gain a “start date” of new employment for a candidate we identify, screen, recruit, coax, manage through interview after interview; and persuade (if applicable) to accept our customer’s offer.

Gratified perhaps, congratulated occasionally, we create this momentous corporate mobility without ever being mentioned in the Monday morning intro meeting. Our function fulfilled, our integral role in the hiring process a success, we retreat to anonymity until our next conquest.

So nary a word gets written about us or publicized over the airwaves. Is there any other industry whose business is so creative and productive, yet so under the radar? Perhaps not.

But if it’s results that count, we can rest easy.

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