Monday, May 11, 2009

Am I a Headhunter?

A couple of weeks back, I was at a friend's housewarming party. Her significant other, Kevin, asked me what I did. It's interesting; when I say I am a "recruiter" or a "technical recruiter" (and especially when I throw on "...with an IT consulting firm"), I get a lot of blank stares. Everybody understands the words, but few really have much of an idea as to what it is that I do. (Another friend noted, this weekend, that it seems like a job that anyone should be able to do, but probably can't - a fair assessment, and maybe a topic for another post.) Anyway, back to Kevin...

Kevin didn't know what, specifically, I did, but he knew enough to ask, "would you be considered a Headhunter or is that a derogatory term?" I had to think on that for a second or two.

My response was, "that wouldn't be a completely inaccurate description."

A while back I had a meeting with an experienced recruiter in the city. He runs his own shop which specializes in placing HR and recruiting personnel. We were chatting, and he asked if I would have a problem with headhunting. I had never thought about it at the time. Headhunting seems so very distasteful, and I'm at a point in my career where I can pick and choose a bit, and avoid tasks and positions that I have a deep moral objection to. My instinct was that I probably didn't want to be a Headhunter.

However, instead of giving a definitive answer, I discussed what was meant by headhunting. In the end, I said I'd be willing to be a Headhunter. In fact, through the course of my day, I'm regularly headhunting.

We get into a problem of definitions here. There are some very unsavoury tactics that Headhunters have been known to use. I am not willing to lie or manipulate in order to steal away the top talent from other organizations. Further, I'm not going to hack into another company's database to harvest all their resumes (of course, I do not have the technical skill to do that, even if I wanted to).

But I'm willing to headhunt.

Through research, networking and any legitimate recruiting tricks, I will do what I can to find the superstar candidates. When I find these people, I will be diligent in my attempts to bring them on with my company. Again, no lying, no misrepresentation, no harassment - just a straightforward dialogue (with negotiations, of course) to let them know what kind of opportunity I am presenting.

These people are not slaves. They do not have an eternal debt to their current employer. Very few of us will stay with one company our entire careers. I would never ask someone to renege on a contract, but if the contract has an "out" clause (eg giving two weeks notice), then it is up to the candidate/employee to decide on the appropriate option.

People want to be found by recruiters. They're on Monster or Workopolis or LinkedIn. They have their own blog or online web site. If they publish their professional profiles on something as public as the web, recruiters will find them - and they might have a great job to offer.

One of the reasons I decided to focus on recruiting as my career was because I liked the idea that my job was to find jobs for other people. I have found jobs for people who were in desperate situations, hadn't worked for a while or had some other obstacle to gaining employment. I always enjoyed helping these people. I still enjoy helping people get the next great opportunity.

For me, this is what headhunting is about, and I'm fine with it.

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