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.    

If you think that all recruitment companies have different databases and that you will increase the likelihood of filling your vacancy by 300 to 400 percent, I’m sorry to bring this to you. It is not so. If you spread your business to several recruitment companies requesting that the assignment is not exclusive and your payment of a fee is contingent on hiring one of the candidates, read what happens to your assignment.  

The recruiter will know three to four people off his head. The recruiter will find another two to three more people in the database that appears to come close to your required profile. The recruitment company may even spend 4,000 baht of his own money to post your vacancy on JobsDB or another internet job board. He makes six to seven phone calls and finds that two guys have already taken other jobs, two are not interested for what ever reason, one or two are not really matching the profile. So, they may get you one or two active job hunters. This is what we call shopping on the internet and in the database. Hunting and executive search is a very different animal.

The dirty little recruitment secret is that most of these active job hunters are on all the lists or databases. In other words your company and vacancy is not exposed to 40 people but perhaps just 10. Now, compare that to the 200 or sometimes over 400 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 500,000 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. The business model is not geared to spend weeks or months on your job. As executive search firms do (hence the different fee structure).

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 had been interviewing 20 plus people but still didn’t hire any. Think about the important tasks that meanwhile were left unattended on his desk. The top of 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.