Turning the tables on headhunters: Page 3


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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Take that call! Experts agree that trust is vital when working with a headhunter. Here are some recruiting firms whose long histories and strong reputations make them a good bet:

Korn/Ferry International.
This universally respected search firm, headquartered in Los Angeles, serves all professions. But its Advanced Technology arm focuses on IT.

Pencom Systems Inc.
Based in New York and with offices everywhere, Pencom specializes in technology recruiting. Its recruiters work on salary, not commission.

RHI Consulting.
The technology branch of Menlo Park, CA-based Robert Half International Inc., specializes in placing consultants rather than permanent employees. If you've ever had the itch to go freelance, RHI is highly regarded.
Here's the funny thing, though: Sometimes, even being honest doesn't get you anywhere.

Exhibit A: Brent Ozar, who's now a Web developer at Telman Decision Information in Houston. A while back, when he worked elsewhere, Ozar e-mailed his resume to a Memphis recruiter, "making sure to be totally honest about my qualifications. I didn't want to bite off too much, and I wanted a position where I could learn Web technologies from someone else."

Two days later, the headhunter called with what he swore was the perfect position. Ozar went for the interview, only to find out immediately he was "way underqualified." He explained this to the headhunter, who nodded sympathetically. And then proceeded to send him on four more interviews for jobs that were way out of his reach.

Moral of this story: "I'm sure there are IT folks out there who'd be happy to have an overachieving headhunter," Ozar says. "But these days, with so many IT jobs open, it's a pain in the butt. If we wanted a hundred interviews, we'd go through the Help Wanted ads!"

Overselling is a common theme in headhunter horror stories. The best way to head off the problem, experts say, is to make sure you're working with a decent recruiter in the first place. Any reputable recruiter will be happy to tell you his or her name, organization and client company.

And the better recruiters will be able to speak the language you use every day. Ask some reasonably involved questions about the position. The headhunter won't know as much as you do, of course, but ought to display better-than-average knowledge of key phrases and technologies. Recruiters who don't know the jargon are lazy, spread too thin or not sufficiently briefed by the client company. You don't want such a person to be your advocate.

A mile in my moccasins

Recruiters are painfully aware of their reputation--and the reason it exists. "I've seen recruiters who'll do anything to make a commission," says Pencom's Hale. "Anything from spinning to outright lying." What would he like IT pros to know about recruiters? "That we don't work that way. We're not all bad guys."

In the interest of equal time, the last story goes to recruiter/entrepreneur Quittel. "I was working on a search for Oracle," she recalls. "They were looking for a certain expertise. I found the perfect person at Dataquest [Inc., a market research firm since acquired by Stamford, CT-based Gartner Group Inc.]. "I knew he'd be underpaid as an analyst," she says, savoring the thrill of the hunt. "I called and said, 'I'm gonna change your life.' And that's exactly what I did."//

Steve Ulfelder is a freelance writer in Southboro, Mass. He can be reached via email at ulfelder@earthlink.net.

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