Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What's a headhunter?

Dear Career Services,

I graduated recently and I’m not having much luck finding a job. My dad suggested I contact a headhunter. I have no idea where to find a headhunter or if this is even a good idea. I'm clueless.

1 comment:

USDCareerBlog said...

Dear Clueless:

Great question. Many people confuse “headhunters” and “staffing (or employment) agencies.” If you are a typical college senior or recent graduate, don’t waste your time on headhunters - they’re not interested in you. However, using a staffing firm can be a good way to make the transition from school to a first job, allow you to test the waters, and gain some experience. But please remember – you should never pay any money for the services of a staffing agency.

To understand why it’s probably not a good idea to contact a headhunter, you need to know how executive search firms operate. An organization may have one or more middle or upper management positions they need to fill. They may post the position on their website, in trade periodicals, with professional associations, and with job sites such as and They may also contact one or more headhunters to identify qualified candidates.

Headhunters work feverishly to identify qualified candidates, refer them to the companies, and prepare them for the interview. They work quickly because they want their candidates interviewed and hired before the company identifies candidates through other means.

Headhunters often specialize in a particular industry and will know the “players” in that industry. They contact prospective employees, often from their client’s competitors. The individuals they contact are called “passive clients” because they are typically employed and not necessarily actively seeking employment elsewhere.

The bottom line: Headhunters work for the companies that retain them, not the candidates. They typically seek currently employed candidates with many years experience. Most headhunters will not accept unsolicited applications, especially from entry level candidates. Is there any harm in your submitting your resume to a headhunter? No. Is it likely that you will find employment this way? No.

USD Career Services