I know. I should be overwhelmed with a sense of pride to be head hunted. After all it’s nice to be loved, but I can’t help my feeling of frustration. “Oh cheer up you miserable git,” I hear you cry but hang on. Allow me to explain.
Many of us have probably experienced the types of calls I’ve been receiving lately:
*Ring ring. Ring ring*
“Hello, Ben speaking”
“Hi, is that Ben” (said in best radio DJ voice) – By the way consultants are trained to do this. It’s not that they don’t hear you say your name when you answer your phone. They do it because hearing your own name is supposed to grab your attention. Its done (in theory at least) so you stop what you’re doing. It should give your brain a jolt so you give their call your 100% attention. Just thought you’d like to know some useless information. Anyway, where was I?… oh yeah:
“Hi, is that Ben”
“Yep, this is Ben”
“Hi Ben, how are you?”
“Good good. [*read I don' really care how you are*] Anyway, this is James from A N Other Recruitment Company Ltd”
“Ah ha. Go on”
“I’m calling on behalf of one of my clients who’s heard amazing things about you”
“Really! That’s nice. Who is this client you speak of?”
“Ah, I can’t tell you that. I’m sworn to confidentiality, breach of which would be punishable by death”
“Oh okay. Well, can you please tell me what they’ve heard about me?
“Oh, you know. Really great things”
“How…. How… How you’re the Recruitment & Training Manager of a global brand within the hospitality, retail and leisure sector…. “
“Didn’t you just get that off my LinkedIn profile? Never mind. I don’t suppose you can let me know who’s been telling your client these great things about me?”
“Sorry, I can’t do that either. They’ve asked for confidentiality also. Death wasn’t threatened this time but a severe kicking in a random car park was almost certainly guaranteed.”
“Oh come on. I’d really like to thank them. Who knows, maybe buy them a drink as a token of my appreciation?”
“But I wan….”
“No! Anyway, would you be interested in speaking about this incredible opportunity?”
“No thanks but I appreciate the call.”
“Okay. Thank you for your time.”
(It’s only fair that I add at this point, to inject some balance, that I’ve also received a couple of very good approaches from some consultants lately. The calls above, at a rough guesstimate, make up for 70 – 80% of the approaches I’ve received in the last 4 – 6 weeks)
In case you were wondering (and I’m guessing you weren’t) this is not a head hunting call. This is a contingency recruitment / speculative sales call.
Some would argue there are different levels of head hunting, from the purist form to the actually, this isn’t head hunting at all form. It’s contingency at best (see script above).
First the purist. In my opinion a pure head hunt is if someone in company X, either through a 3rd party or otherwise says, “Right. I’ve heard and witnessed great things about Mr / Mrs Smith in Company / Competitor Y. I want you to approach them directly and do whatever it takes to get them to join us”. Notice here the company looking to recruit actually names the person they want to be approached on their behalf” – For me this is true, targeted, specific, personalised head hunting.
Secondly the middle ground. Company X say they’ve heard good things about employees (in general) from company Y and want them approached. No specific individuals, just anyone from that company’s department relevant to ours please.
Thirdly, well, there isn’t really a third but this is the one many contingency consultants approaching me lately refer to themselves as. Here’s a possible reason as to why.
The term “Head Hunting” is a powerful one in recruitment land. In most cases it’s a hook that triggers some type of psychological reaction aimed at the heart at an individual’s flattery / ego / pride gene.
I would guess a high proportion of consultants know about the effect using the term, “head hunting” has on someone. They’re usually trained on how it works and how to use it when approaching candidates.
For candidates there is much greater sensation of pride or achievement (whatever you want to call it) to casually drop into conversation that you’ve been / were “head hunted” in to your new or current role (or maybe that’s just me [*cue sheepish look*]). It just has a better ring to it when informing friends, peers or family members. The latter becomes even more intensified if, like me, you have a mother of the Jewish variety . I can hear her now – “My son was headhunted don’t you know.”
I’ve lost count of the number of contingency recruitment consultants who say, “I’m a head hunter.” You’re not! (*Breathe Ben. Breathe*). You know you’re not. Perhaps you do it in the belief it sounds better than saying you’re a recruitment consultant (there is nothing wrong with being a recruitment consultant by the way [if you're a good one that is]) or maybe you’re saying it for reasons described in the previous two paragraphs.
When approaching me with opportunities you’re working on please don’t feel the need to blow smoke up my… Ask yourself the question, “is this really a head hunting call? Really?” If not please don’t dress it up as one.
Don’t get me wrong. I honestly don’t mind you approaching me with opportunities but I’m a pretty down-to-earth, shot from the hip kinda guy. There’s no need to wrap it up in fancy packaging. If the opportunity ticks the right boxes in terms of career progression, continual personal and professional development, company culture, lifestyle & remuneration then, like most passive candidates, you’ll probably get my attention.
Your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me. The force is strong in this one.
Am I missing the point? Am I being too harsh? Am I just venting my frustrations of a personal pet-hate of mine and contingency recruiters are perfectly in their right to call themselves head hunters? Or are there contingency recruiters and true, “purist” head hunters out there that agree with me? Either way I’d be keen to hear from you. Feel free to discuss and debate in the comments section below.
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