Most hiring managers are not educated in what headhunters really do. OK, go ahead and blame the headhunters for that. Blame me too for not writing about it earlier. When clients ask me to name our competitors my answer is always: “I don’t know. I should ask you!”

You see, it is not really important what I think and who I see as competitors. Much more important is what you think. Who do you see as competing for your business in the executive search market? Management guru Tom Peters said that perception is reality. So true. Honestly, my experience over the years has shown me that most hiring managers see recruitment companies as a supermarket where you buy resumes. Nothing more nothing less.

The dirty little recruitment secret is that most active job hunters are in most recruiter databases. In other words your company and vacancy is not exposed to 40 people but perhaps just 10. Now, compare that to the 100 or sometimes over 200 people that executive search firms typically contact over the weeks or months they have resources dedicated to identifying great people for you. Before you ever see the first candidate on the shortlist, the executive search firm has easily invested 400,000 baht in man hours.

The lesson is, if you haven’t seen any resume from your contingency database recruiter within the first week, start to be concerned. The chance of ever getting a resume has dropped to almost zero. A contingency recruiter will alone typically handle 10, 20 or more jobs at any given time. If they don’t get a match within days they move on to the next assignment and client.

Over the last 12 months I have personally talked to many companies who have wasted months and months waiting for resumes. They were lured into the belief that low fees would uncover the hidden and passive talent. Hellllloooooo! I also talked to one executive the other day who interviewed 40 people but still didn’t hire any. Think about the important tasks that meanwhile were left unattended on his desk. The irony is that by now, desperate hiring managers call us for help, and they quote fee, terms and conditions which clearly have failed to provide the talent they so desperately need.

I read this great article some time ago. The ailing executive was quoted: "When I need a heart by-pass, rest assured that I won't select my surgeon on the basis of what he charges."