Guide to IT Headhunters

A top IT headhunter explains how to use job recruiters to find a more lucrative tech position.


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In the bad old days of 2001, tech headhunters (also called “job recruiters” or a “placement specialists”) were driven out of business. No one was hiring, so who needed recruiters?

But as tech hiring has picked up, headhunters are once again glued to their cell phones.

“Now everybody and their brother is getting back into the business,” says Stuart Taylor, co-founder and chairman of Integrated Search Services, an IT staffing organization.

In fact, “There are lots of people in the [job] search business who weren’t there 15 minutes ago,” he tells Datamation.

Which means that before a tech professional uses the services of a headhunter, that IT pro should know the rules of the game. In other words: buyer beware.

Rule One: Don’t Ever Pay a Headhunter

An IT professional should never pay a job recruiter, Taylor notes. It’s employers who pay the headhunter’s fees.

"For information technology people, there should be no circumstance under which the candidate would ever pay.”

Not that some firms won’t try to charge tech workers. Some companies, referred to in the job placement industry as “retail outplacement” firms, charge hefty fees.

“They charge you a bunch of money and they tell you how to put a resume together and claim they’re going to put it in front of hundreds of employers – that’s not what you want to do,” he says. “

These firms “are for people who are dazed and confused and want to determine if they want to start an herb farm.” They’re not for technology workers.

This no-pay policy is particularly true in today's tech hiring environment, in which the demand for workers exceeds the supply. In 2001, in the wake of the tech collapse, it might have been worth considering paying, “because there wasn’t any work, but even then, the market didn’t shift," Taylor says.

In fact, “If anyone says, ‘we’re going to charge you money,’ hang up the phone.”

Spread It Around (But Not Too Much)

Since tech job seekers pay nothing to headhunters, it’s in their best interest to get their resume into the hands of as many headhunters as possible. Especially since these various recruiters are probably not plugged into the same opportunities.

But don't spread it around too much, Taylor notes. “If there’s a big employer in town who works with a bunch of recruiters, suddenly your resume comes from five or six different places.”

(But this downside, he notes, is a slight one, far outweighed by the benefits of widely distributing your resume.)

GIving your resume to, say, six different recruiters is a reasonable number, he says.

Remember, too, that no matter how many headhunters have your resume, search firms offer no magic solution. By Taylor’s estimate, only about one third of tech jobs are filled by recruiters.

“Meaning that two thirds of the time you’re getting hired by people you know or people to whom you were referred,” he says.

The point: Your best “headhunter” is often the colleague in the data center next to you.

Next Page: The Different Types of Tech Job Recruiters

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