Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Changing World of Headhunting (Part II … continued). How it is impacting the Candidate-Recruiter Relationship.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Last time I described how much things have changed when it comes to the availability of information about candidates and job opportunities. So what does this mean for Candidates and how does it impact the Candidate-Recruiter relationship?

For the most part, the changes are positive for candidates. If you so choose, you can be found by a lot of employers and search firms. If you so choose, you can receive vast amounts of information regarding job opportunities that meet your specific criteria. But, there is a downside to all of this transparency. Everyone has the information. Many do not know how to use the information. And some will use the information against you.

So we see job postings generating hundreds or even thousands of responses. If yours happens to be one of them, good luck getting noticed. It has become such an issue that we now include language in our agreements with employers to the effect that if we submit a candidate who is already in the employer’s database, but not “active”, that candidate is ours and we are due a fee if they decide to hire the candidate. We’ve gotten some pushback from clients, but it does open the conversation regarding the fact that they are so overwhelmed with information that they don’t even know what they have in their own database. Some large employers with aggressive in-house recruiting operations are actually “linking” with candidates and creating records in their applicant tracking systems (ATS) based on LinkIn data or other online information. They often fail to notice qualified candidates right in their own database, but will claim that they “already have the candidate” when a search firm submits that candidate for a specific opportunity. Bastards.

Increasingly I hear complaints from candidates who say they have responded to job postings for which they are clearly a match, but never even get an acknowledgement, much less an interview. In some instances, the candidate has been overlooked. But in others, they just did not appear to be as good a match as some of the others who responded. The more competition you have for a position, the tougher it is to stand out. Sometimes it simply comes down to which keywords the ATS is looking for or perhaps an entry level HR person has been instructed to give priority to those candidates who have worked for XYZ company or held certain job titles. Welcome to the jungle.

Then there is the fact that your current employer can see your online activity. I would not call it a trend yet, but over the past year I’ve spoken with candidates who have reported being questioned by their employers regarding their LinkedIn activity. “Hey, I see that you’re connecting with some headhunters and/or competitors. Are you looking to leave?” As a result, some candidates are dropping out of the “social network” or significantly edited their online profiles. Again, it’s not yet a trend, but I think as the economy improves and companies put more effort toward retaining their best talent, there will be more discussions about online “self marketing” and job hunting.

So how is all of this impacting the Candidate-Headhunter relationship? First of all, search firms are starting to seriously evaluate how much time they invest with candidates who are “over-exposed”. Candidates are going to have to pick their poison. They can be all over the internet with a big network, responding to everything and everyone, hacking through “the jungle” so to speak; or they can be more selective. This is not to say that a search firm will not recruit you, or accept your resume or submit you for an opportunity even if you are “over-exposed”. We’ll take the shot where it makes sense and sometimes we’ll be successful. But, we cannot afford to invest a lot of time with candidates who are power-shopping the online job market. Ultimately, search firms are paid to source, evaluate, recruit and negotiate the employment of candidates with their client companies. To the extent that companies can do this on their own without using a search firm, that is exactly what those companies will do.

If I were a candidate these days, what would I do? It depends. Assuming that you are employed and wish to maintain some level of discretion, I would avoid putting too much out there. I think it does make sense to have a presence on LinkedIn with enough information that you will be identified for job opportunities, either by companies or search firms. It’s probably ok to have your personal email address on the profile. I would not list a phone number nor would I indicate an interest in “career opportunities”. I would not post my resume on line. Be like Fonzie. Be cool. Also be cautious about responding to inquiries whether they come from headhunters or directly from employers. Make sure that you know the who, what, where and why of the inquiry. Regarding relationships with search firms, I would limit it to no more than three. Pick firms that work in your industry and routinely fill positions that would be of interest to you. Work with reputable firms you can trust. Build long-term relationships by being open, honest and offering to help with referrals and recommendations.

If you are unemployed, then you have to get more aggressive. This is where search firms are becoming less of a factor. We don’t find jobs for people. We find people to fill jobs with our client companies. However, if you are a senior level executive, I still think it pays to be like Fonzie. Be cool, even if you are unemployed. If you get over-exposed too quickly, most search firms will ignore you. And many higher-level positions are still “under the radar’ being worked by search firms. When I am included in a blast email where someone is sending their resume to dozens of search firms or “undisclosed recipients”, I usually just hit the delete button. My guess is that most experienced headhunters do like wise.

Next time, we will look at what this changing world of headhunting means for Employers and the Employer-Headhunter relationship.

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