Career AdviceHow to work with headhunters

Which headhunter can help me?

I don’t know but I’ll teach you how to find the right one.

Look for an expert that handles exactly your target position. The headhunting market is extremely fragmented. There are literally thousands of firms. Even within each firm every headhunter will have a sub specialization.

You will only get a response if you are the perfect fit along the following criteria:

1) Geography: a headhunter in Singapore will not (usually) handle roles in New York City. However, some headhunters do run search regionally. E.g., a headhunter in Hong Kong might handle roles in Shanghai if he is extremely specialized.

2) industry and/ or function: some headhunters are focused on an industry; some are focused on a function. Very few are focused on both a particular industry and function. However, these can exist if there is a high volume in this niche, e.g., recruiting for pharmaceutical sales.

3) Seniority: headhunters usually focus on a certain seniority (measured usually by salary bands). Even if you fit the specialization, these firms will simply not handle roles on your seniority (you might be too junior or too senior).

➖ Roles over 300K USD total package: SHREK firms and boutique firms such as Helex. SHREK is an acronym for the big 5 search firms: Spencer Stewart, Heidrick & Struggles, Russell Reynolds, Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry. They are the most well known search firms in the world, but by no means perfect. A big problem is that the big 5 firms have a lot of hands-off agreements. So, their candidate pool is limited. That’s why some clients prefer boutique firms as they have a wider candidate pool. These firms usually work exclusive and retained.
➖ Roles 50K-300K USD total package: Mid-market firms (e.g., Michael Page). Often hire very young people as Consultants. They usually work on contingency = pure success. The meaning of contingent is ‘by luck’. This tells you a lot. Speed usually counts more than quality of service.
➖ Roles below 50K USD total package: mass market firms like Adecco.

So how to find the perfect firm?

Actually that’s the wrong question. You need to find a person, not a firm. Some firms have a particular focus in terms of industry/ function. But you still need to find the right person in that firm that handles roles at your seniority.

So how to find the right person?
✅ ask around : find people who recently started a similar role. Ask them for recommendations. Also ask friends and colleagues.

✅search on LinkedIn:
* search for a person. Easy to drill down particularly on geography here. However you might miss headhunters who recruit in your target geography but how are based elsewhere. Try many different key words.
* when you are on the profile of a suitable person, look on the right to the section ‘People Also Viewed’. This might not be visible as it can be deactivated. Often you find suitable people that somehow didn’t show up in your search (the search algorithm can be wonky).

✅search on Google: but, you usually only find big companies who have optimized their website.

– ask the career services/ alumni placement team of your university or company (if such a team exists).

– find job advertisements by headhunters that exactly fit your target. If a contact person is listed, look them up on LinkedIn and their company website. Headhunters without a detailed LinkedIn profile should be avoided.

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