The term headhunter is used to describe a wide array of individuals and firms. To fully understand the job placement industry, realize that there are three tiers of job placement firms:
1) The million dollar firms These placement firms for instance, Korn Ferry find jobs for CTOs and other upper level management who command salaries in the $500,000 and higher pay range.
2) Mid market firms These organizations find positions for tech professionals who work in the $100,000 to $250,000 range.
3) Broad market firms These headhunters find jobs for professionals in the $50,000 to $125,000 range.
The majority of IT professionals will, of course, be working with headhunters in this third category, who locate jobs paying $50-125k. Within this third level of headhunters there are, again, three sub groups:
A) Contingency search organizations These firms get paid if they find you an IT job; they receive no pay if they dont place a worker. What theyre doing is marketing your resume to the existing [hiring] relationships they have contacts with, Taylor says.
B) Retained search organizations These firms work for employers (often big employers) that hire tech workers. In essence, retained search firms are outsourced recruiters for big IT companies.
C) Consulting firms that do job placement These are regional and national firms that supply IT workers on a limited-time contract basis, ranging from two weeks to six months, or longer. These consultancies are sometimes called staff augmentation firms, meaning they augment a companys staff on a short term basis. These firms sometimes find permanent jobs for tech workers. (Alternately, some consultancies are project firms, meaning they handle short term IT projects and hire their own short-term tech staff as needed. Project firms rarely find permanent jobs for staffers because they dont want to lose staff.)
Resources for Finding Job Recruiters
As mentioned, one of the best ways to find a headhunter is to ask friends (but dont ask too many friends at work, Taylor cautions).
Additionally, he recommends logging onto Monster and CareerBuilder and looking at the ads, with an eye toward finding a recruiter in your location and/or specialty.
There are also two particularly good resources:
This is a extensive list of job recruiters, accessible for a fee online (or for free at the library). You spend $50 and you get access to a relatively sophisticated resource that tells you where these people are located, what they specialize in, etc.
This organization offers a free guide to the recruiters who are their members. Click on Membership Directory and search by location or tech specialty.
These two resources arent exhaustive, Taylor says, but if you use those two things, you can at least get a reasonable start.
Coming in Part Two: What to beware of when dealing with headhunters, and how to chose recruiters based on location and your specialty.