Headhunters or Headless Hunters Part II


By Harish Pillai: The world of job hunting has transformed completely. The traditional hand written Bio-data has transformed into sophisticated, pretentious, cut and paste Resumes or Curriculum Vitae (CV). Employment news papers/wanted sections and job boards have given way to virtual portals or internet sites. Personal face to face interviews have paved way for across the seas telephonic and virtual staged video conferences. Physical knocking on office doors is no longer effective. Internet site hopping and virtual gate crashing is the order of the day. Old school job hunting techniques today need a complete paradigm shift!

Let’s get into the reverse and peep into the past. In the 1950 to 1970 (my fathers’ times) the only way you searched for a job were:
• Flipping through all the news papers.
• Putting on a well ironed shirt, a matching tie, polished shoes and in your hand is a file with certificates and  recommendation.
• Then hitting the road.
• Looking for “wanted” boards outside offices.
• Networking.
• At the end of it all come back tired into the loving arms of your mama and a cold glass of refreshing Lassi.

One of the most popular ways of searching for jobs was browsing the newspapers. And the most popular of these was the “Employment News”. Everyone also eagerly awaited the Wednesday edition of other newspapers. The wanted and jobs section stretched for three pages. I remember my cousins pouring over those pages and making circles around small columns. Then looking for envelops and stamps and then with a prayer posting their applications in the nearest post box. All the while wishing and hoping that the postman would come knocking and liberate them. Job hunting was a demanding and stressful process.

Selecting a candidate too was no easy task. Candidates’ application always reached the indented offices, thanks to an efficient postal system. I remember my father bringing home applications of potential aspirants. Screening each application to the minutest detail and then drafting replies to selected candidates for interview request. Everyone was personally screened. I have to mention here that it was mostly the fresher who applied for jobs. The already engaged, stayed put, not wanting to experiment due to scarcity of opportunities.

In 1994 it was Mr. McGovern who revolutionized job hunting with NetStart. Then in 1998 he started CareerBuilder. Hot on the heels came the portals Hotjobs, Monster, Naukri etc. Everyone joined the portals.com bandwagon. Job portals or web sites mushroomed in the World Wide Web. Job or employment portals are internet sites that facilitate two way interactions between the employer and the employee. These sites ranged from all inclusive to niche portals. Many of these job sites are simply search engines. They collect and index results from multiple job boards. These portals do automated Meta and Vertical searches. Many of them also hosted a section on employer reviews. Most companies have a section on careers in their own websites. This was a time when a company in need of a candidate had to just post it on its website. The physical knocking on door, the hard application forms and job boards were replaced by electronic applications and virtual job portals. The job accessibility for the aspiring candidates increased as well.

These employment websites first started off as non-profit centers. As time passed the market and world of employment expanded exponentially. Today there are thousands of employment websites, millions of expectant aspirants, millions of visible jobs and millions of hits on these. Though the supply of these portals is in plentiful, their demand does not seem to wane. This is in contradiction to the basic supply-demand theories of economics. With the popularity for headhunters increasing, Pay for Performance (PFP) started. The headhunters started to demand a fee for the basic services and all other activities they had bifurcated into. They were charging for:
• Tweaking up your resume.
• Finding an employer for an employee
• Finding an employee for the employer
• Providing HR management support and consultancy.
• Providing immigration support
• Retirement support

The list is a never ending one. There is enough money involved with the PFP system. This industry is today worth about US $ 20 Billion. There was another kind of mushrooming – “independent headhunters”. Anybody who wanted to make an extra buck sitting at home joined the head hunting band wagon. For the independent HR or employment consultant there is enormous and limitless resources available on the internet. You do not need to have any kind of networking or even host a website or be qualified in recruitment. There are sites where you register as a consultant or an employer and you will be flooded with resumes. Otherwise All you have to do is fish out the names and emails of aspiring candidates and then browse the career section of as many company websites as possible then with a hit an a trial technique make a connection and if you are able to snare both an employer and a potential employee you have hit the jackpot. Most companies have an HR component built into their organizational structure. This system is actually best for both the employer and employee. We will not get into too much of the why and how of this system. In many companies this has not succeeded or has become defunct. The HR departments seem to neglect this component and depend heavily on the third party brokerage system of headhunters. In a technical and specialist industry this can be disastrous. The money charged is not the issue. Though the amount is substantial (20-30% of the executives first year salary).

There are so many different types of headhunters today that you will be excused if you get confused about their actual roles and type of functioning. I have come up with a list of “types of recruiters” floating around, trying to bait job aspirants. This list was finalized after having tried different search combinations on Google and Wikipedia:
• Just Recruitment agents – Go for all kinds of fish
• All inclusive Recruitment agents – over and above their fish catching adventures they also indulge in other HR activities I have mentioned earlier in this article
• Contract worker Recruiters – As the name suggests
• Permanent employee Recruiters – As the name suggests
• Contingency Recruiters – Average size fish catchers (Mid level managers)
• Executive recruiters – Big fish anglers (VP’s, senior managers etc)
• Executive search consultants – Bigger fish anglers (Directors, MD’s, CEO’s etc)

With all the confusion that surrounds them I have come across very many websites and articles by headhunters who take great pains and go to great lengths in explaining:
• Their perceived and expected roles
• How and why they operate the way they do
• How to present your resume to catch their attention
• Ways and means to interact with them
• Reasons to know them
• Their whims and fancies
• What turns them ON or OFF and
• Why they are rude many times with job seekers
• Why the aspirant should not be rude when the headhunter does not understand the resume

With all these forced rules, whims and fancies you are a little cautious and intimidated when interacting with them. Every headhunter seems to be scurrying around trying to be the first to snare the job seeker and job listings. In all this hurry, grabbing the money and dog eat dog world both the employer and employee lose out. There is too much of dilution in the form of unnecessary discarding, filtering and rejections. A few of the many ways that resume neglect or dilution takes place are:
• Many hiring managers only want to view stripped down versions
• Lack of inclination to go through the entire resume.
• Rejections based on current market trends and not efforts put in by headhunters.
• Many times cover letters are given more importance. The meat of your resume is the headhunter’s last priority.
• Resume file names assuming more importance towards visibility.
• The headhunter gets turned off by the subject line of your email, font, cover letter, format style or P.S. Statement.
• You did not use good marketing language.
• If you do not have a current job you are considered a loser and someone with lesser market value.
• Even with one rejection they drop an aspirant like a hot potato and put their resume into a cold storage.

I am not qualified enough to set a system rolling that will resolve all issues that plague the methods of recruitment today. Its time that the headhunters muster up all their hunting senses and not only hunt heads, but also jobs for them. There are many issues the headhunting community needs to address by putting their heads together like:
• Many headhunters are not qualified enough to be recruiters.
• In many cases Headhunters have no practical experience or understanding of specialized jobs.
• Resumes on job portals are seldom updated
• There should be a system that issues a license before anyone can jump into headhunting
• Headhunters often act more like brokers, middle men or post offices. The professional touch is lacking.
• The headhunters have their fingers in very many different kinds of pastries
• No rules or regulations govern their activities. They dictate terms and conditions as per their whims and fancies
• Diluted and obsolete Applications Tracking Systems(ATS) used by companies. The companies which use the ATS should ensure that the system is effective and should rely on their own HR expertise to select candidates.
• Its time they dropped their whims and fancies and got down to some service in the real sense
• Head hunters should be concentrating on Younger generation. The unemployment rate in this section is steadily rising.
• The Executives can be given second priority as they only want change in career paths. The Executives should look for an alternative career with their own experience and networking

Read Headhunters or Headless Hunters Part I…