How Did You Get That Job, Anyway?

May 5, 2010

Every once in a while I get frustrated at the lack of respect and attention in our profession.

After all, the perspective that a third-party recruiter has regarding our national employment picture is unique. Headhunters, immersed in the world of jobs, 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/whatever one chooses to call us, are, by definition, behind the scenes change-agents. Most hirers who choose to engage our services do so confidentially, especially at the management level wherein a superior may need to upgrade or top-grade a lower level in order to achieve better corporate results.

Certainly, gainfully employed candidates that “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 need not be diminished.

It is widely known that most CEOs 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?

I remember an article back in the 1990s revealing the inner workings of Heidrick & Struggles’ Gerard Roche’s influence on the emerging software/internet industry. And that was before the bubble burst!

Since then, my industry has largely gone unnoticed. The reality of the matter, whether its right here in Denver, or in New York City or San Francisco, 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.

For fanfare, we may lack; but for substance, we shine. Because headhunters first have to sell ourselves and our 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 our customer has defined for us work, and proceed to gently nudge said candidates to consider an interview opportunity with the decision-maker.

Often, especially in today’s market of risk-averse, but well-credentialed professionals, the candidates we pursue are not even considering a job change to begin with. And clearly, we are impacting the company that pays us our fees in a positive fashion or no money would be forthcoming, period, end of story, in this economy or in the best of times.

Thus, 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, and yet under the radar? Is there another profession, other than ours, that instigates as much positive change for middle and upper class Americans? Perhaps not. But if its results that count, we can rest easy. For there are dozens, if not hundreds“better” than me across this great land, and I have placed more than 500 Coloradoans for over 300 employers since the fall of 1981.

So, I will sit back and feel enormously gratified by my clients and candidates that I provide service for; and let the high-intensity lights shine on the athletes, politicians, and movie stars we all want to see anyway.

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