I have a kind of love/hate relationship with headhunters. Few of my friends happen to be headhunters and they helped to find pretty good jobs several people I know. So they can’t be that bad, right?
On the other hand I happen to deal with headhunters in my professional life. I can’t say any of these experiences left me thinking how valuable and helpful these folks can be. I’d even say the opposite.
The other day I was on interview with headhunter. I can understand the guy didn’t check my technical knowledge in details as he just doesn’t know much about all this software development stuff. He’s never written even a single line of code and I doubt if he’s seen any. I’m perfectly fine with that.
What I’m not fine with is how he verified my soft skills. If I say I’m a kind of guru team builder I expect a series of question how do I know and how could I prove this. Like sharing my experience on the worst hire I made, star programmer leaving the team, firing rotten apples, solving serious conflict or whatever. I heard none of these questions. Pretty good summary of the interview was an inquiry about my English. The question was asked in Polish. As every other question during interview. How exactly the guy verified my skills? Would it be that hard?
I may be unfair for some headhunters but they rarely verify any skills of a candidate. They gather some resumes, go through some small talk which only proves the candidate isn’t a complete freak and that’s all. Content of their resume may be a bunch of lies spiced with some wishful thinking.
Rule 1: Don’t outsource competency verification to headhunters.
What you will likely from headhunter get is a bunch of resumes marked “not a freak” and labeled with a price tag. Don’t expect more. Don’t pay for more.
Some time ago I was asked by my former colleague to give detailed references to his prospective employer. As it appeared it was a headhunter who called me. He found my colleague, run him through recruitment process and now, the final stage was gathering references.
I answered a list of questions trying to be honest and fair for both my former colleague and the headhunter. The problem was the headhunter was over-interpreting every word I said. Average meant good, good meant very good, I don’t know meant good or very good etc. At the beginning I didn’t get it. What’s the point?
Well, the point was the job search was almost done, the candidate was almost accepted and the client was almost invoiced for a headhunting service. The only person who could screw it was me, giving too weak references. They wouldn’t allow it to happen. I guess I would have had to say the guy is a thief and drunkard and knows nothing about programming (which obviously wasn’t true) to change the result of reference check.
Rule 2: Don’t outsource reference checking to headhunters.
If you can’t or don’t want to do it by yourself then don’t bother. Just trust your intuition. But if you care at least a bit about reference checking just do it personally. If you want to outsource it you may take your dollars, you’re going to pay for the service, and put them directly into the shredder. It would work equally well.
And yes, in general I’m not a big fan of headhunters, but I often do consider them as an option. Not the favorite one but still. However there are parts of the recruitment process I would never outsource to headhunters. It would be just a waste of money.
What’s your experience with head hunters?
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