Sunday, September 24, 2006

Headhunters, such a shame...


In light of the great performance of the Dutch economy – more and steady job biddings on the market; a crackdown on unemployment, 400,000 new jobs between June and August (5.3% unemployed compared to a 6.5% a year ago); uitkering (individuals on unemployment benefits) has drastically plummeted down; higher buying power, I think an increase of 1%; crime has been low in the meter too; and a 0.2% unspent fund from the governments budget *shock look* - can you actually tell me of another country who spent below their budget!?; anyway --- those are not really what I’m going to write about in this post. I will, however, talk about their consequence, particularly on the simplest significance, these positive economic indicators has brought to the trade and industry climate of the Netherlands, from a regular civil servant-worker perspective.

Foto by learnovation.com

Job mediators, job placers, job recruiters, headhunters, whatever the names you wish to call them, they come in 3 popular groupings in the Netherlands:

(a) Uitzendbureaus [job placement agencies for all sorts of jobs], (b) Werving & Selectie [headhunter agencies for corporate jobs] and (c) Detachering [contractual corporate jobs handled by agencies].

Because of the bullish market pull, loads of jobs can now be found online. Job banks and these job placement agencies on the internet are at this moment trying to figure out if this boom is only temporary or not, which apparently, lead to a supply of articles on local newspapers and magazines with titles such as, --- “How to get a job”, and --- “How to get past that first impression during the interview”

My take on this subject: Why is it that the job hunter is always the one being put under the microscope? Why is it that the job hunter is always standing vulnerably on glass walls, floors and ceilings?

It is unfair and it is one-sided.

Well, why don’t we try something else?Why don’t we try to turn the tables around. Why don’t we sit on the other side of the fence and face these job placers, recruiters and headhunters and tell them something that they probably do not want to hear, --- “How to get the right candidate” --- “How to become a competent headhunter”, and --- “How not to act like a clown when interviewing a candidate”


I only have real experience with the Werving & Selectie [headhunter agencies for corporate jobs] types of companies so I will focus my subject matter here.

These are some of my personal collections of observations that headhunters should be warned of, and should be ashamed of:

Do your bloody homework

I know you headhunters read a hundred CV’s a day, perhaps some of you even read more, say about 105. But, when you do qualify a candidate for interview, and please, even before you call or email the candidate, will you kindly read the person’s CV, carefully? It only takes 5 minutes of your time, really.

It boggles me to find out, when faced-to-faced with headhunters that they actually have the wrong candidate sitting in front of them! Some have exchanged emails and telephone calls, for days, with the candidate, and still, surprise hit them hard on the table during the initial interview. Between the candidate who wants a job and a headhunter who wants to fill-in a job, whose fault is it?

I would probably forgive the headhunter if he or she is a newcomer, say, someone young, in his or her late 20’s, but someone who’s experienced, and balding? How pathetic is that? I would kick your ass, and since you got no hairs, I will drag you by your two large ears, to a course called: The basics of pre-qualifying a candidate.

You are not only wasting the candidate’s time, but you are wasting your own time, and your company’s time and resources too, you sloppy worker.

Stop the laziness, please...

Do people actually know that Microsoft outlook has a spell checker? And if so, do people ever care to use it? Anyone, care to enlighten the befuddled me?

I don’t know how many times I have stressed this out. It is NOT an excuse being in multi-lingual mainland Europe, to NOT spell-check and to NOT grammar-check our English business correspondences. Perhaps, it’s humane to commit a mistake or two, but if every paragraph, an eyesore sticks out, I don’t think it’s an encouraging sign for your prospective candidates to take you seriously, mister and miss headhunter.

Spelling and grammar is very important in business correspondences, especially on a high corporate level where you are trying to place a specialist, manager or director, a job that they may not like, want or need.

Do not be lazy. If you headhunters judge the spelling and grammar of our CV’s, we also judge the spelling and grammar of your emails.

Are you really that incompetent?

This is a pet peeve of mine. There are headhunters out there who have the cheek, to set up a preliminary kennismakings [getting-to-know] interview for a certain job you applied or they have proposed, and yet, they do not even have a basic concrete picture of what the job is all about?!

Let me ask you a question: What is your job?
Answer: A headhunter

Let me ask you another question: What does a headhunter do?
Answer: Place individuals for work in a company or organization

Let me ask you this one last question: Does that mean you should, by default (even the basics - apart from the vague job description), be informed about the job, before you can place an individual?

A soldier never goes into battle without his bows, arrows, sword, gun, tank, F-16, take your pick.

Headhunter, please... it is extremely irritating to be sitting in this small conference room with you, answering all your thought-out questions about me, and when it’s my turn to ask about the job, you cannot even supply me the basic information?!


Which leads me to my next item...

It’s confidential - sorry!

Job seekers, does it annoy you when headhunters say --- “I’m sorry, it’s confidential, I can’t tell you at this stage the name of the company”.

Uh-huh? WTF! Why are they hiding this crucial information?


Do you as a candidate want to waste your time doing the rounds of interview with these headhunters without having a clear-cut picture of who the company behind this one hell of an interview is? For sure, you want to know who your future employer is, right?

Surprise headhunters - job seekers, too, have the right of refusal!

Or, perhaps, it is because there are so many of them headhunters pecking in the same pie?

Some that I encountered actually reasoned out that they need to protect their business interests. The job seekers themselves go direct to the hiring company, cutting them off the loop. Well, well, isn’t that what business is all about? Its time to be creative and to think of a better value proposition on how to make your 2 customers (the companies and the prospective candidates) not put you out on the street.

True, it’s a jungle out there. The jungle is not only filled with hungry hyenas, but the sharks themselves since centuries ago have grown their own two sets of legs and have migrated to live on land already.

Agenda fillers

Ah, there they go again... they pretend to be always on-the-move. They have appointments here, there and everywhere, they are just fully-booked! Oh, wow, how amazing, how hardworking! Eh? No, they are busy-bodies. They are nothing, but, agenda fillers. You, the candidate is but a Tuesday, 9am to 10am schedule in the agenda.

The reason why you are sitting across these headhunters in that table is because of a selfish reason: to make them look good (busy) towards the internal management.

Candidates, beware of these types of headhunters. They are users and they abound in great numbers. Don’t let them waste your time. The challenge here is how to spot them, quickly.

The optimist because of the target

Having a headhunter that is so optimistic about you is just groovy. It’s exactly what you need, someone who believes in you. Wahoo! Jackpot! Finally, someone sees you as a real talent! You could not have asked for more.

But, slow down dear, there is a thin line between being “qualified” and being “qualified but...”

If A.B.N. [Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands, in other words, fluent business Dutch] is a primary requirement in this job, then please don’t make me fly on the wings of faith that your customer, my supposedly future employer, will ignore my less fluent Dutch, and be totally mesmerized by me, just because my credentials are very impressive, I have a sweet charming smile, and that, you badly need to hit your target for the quarter.

If you are just honest to yourself, you would have found out that there are other candidates on the side lines waiting for you to help meet your targets.

As simple as this: Honesty is the best policy. You can’t change a fact unless you misinterpret it. Don’t be in denial. And, most importantly, don’t put all your eggs into one basket.

Please, don’t lead job seekers into a hopeless ring of hope. That’s just sooo mean.

Not following through

Finally, as a candidate, you have a string of interviews to look forward to. One after the other, you progressed through the corporate gates of future employment, but you had to scour through all the bad communication between the headhunter agency and the company. Sometimes, you feel like you are in the middle of the ocean, abandoned in a small boat, with a walkie-talkie toy to hug with that only functions half of the time.

So you ask yourself - what have I got myself into? What is actually the recruitment process? Who is actually responsible for updating me? Who the f*** is leading this?

Dear headhunters, you can only continue this kind of bluff if the candidates you have on your recruitment funnel are not employed. If they have jobs, you would have them in no time, backing out of your ambiguous placement process and shooting back at you their middle finger. You’d be left with no one to send for an interview to your customer!

Slop-shod style, and worse, when there is no follow through, turns-off many candidates. Professionalism should never be sacrificed due to your inefficiencies.

If the economy is good, just like the present condition of our economic climate now, no candidate would have the patience to follow through a job opportunity that is as messy as a plate of spaghetti. Remember, you are not the only headhunter on the block. There are a hundred, in fact a thousand other choices.

Keep your professionalism in tact, until the last breath of the recruitment cycle.

Disappearing act

Ah, this one has got to be the winner.


Has anyone of you ever been stood up by a headhunter at the later stage in the process? They, like what normally transpires during the twilight zone series, suddenly disappear into the dark night. Yeah, without a trace.

After a laborious round of interviews with them - you even had meetings with the company several times (in this case your future employer), they, all of them, to your mystification and outrage, abruptly fell into the abyss of a seemingly endless time warp zone of silence. Where all of a sudden, they forget they have emails and telephones sitting right under their noses. They do not call you back. Not one single drop of email came through.


You wonder --- What the hell is going on???!

Can we be honest here? If the candidate did not get the job, please, have the decency to inform them by (a) calling on the phone – this is highly recommended, or at least (b) a short email would suffice with an explanation.

Don’t just disappear like an ash into the harsh wind of reality. After all, these candidates, JUST LIKE YOU, also need a job to feed themselves.

Tie the ends, okay? It only takes a minute or two to do so.

>>>My Facts:


The 3 jobs I have had in the Netherlands I got directly from the companies who employed me. Actually, I only had 2 real jobs, as my first job I only spent 2 weeks with them then I quickly hopped on to the second job (the first real job) because they gave me an offer I couldn’t resist.

SO, WHY AM I ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT HEADHUNTERS WHEN ALL THE 3 JOBS I HAVE HAD (and 1 I still have, of course) WERE DIRECT HIRES AND DIDN’T GO THROUGH THESE AGENCIES?

Well, of the 100% effort I put into job searches, I’d say that close to 90% was spent dashing and ducking in between headhunters, some had the gall to let me sit for like hours taking some WTF kind of psychological exam, while 10% was spent directly with the hiring companies who advertised.

That’s why I can rant a long page on this topic because experience fed me. However, it also shows that 90% of my job search was all for nothing. I just wasted my time.


Disclaimer: Reality check - this entry does not mean all headhunters are morons.

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