Steps to a New Job
Executive Recruiters: Your Job-Search Commandos
Headhunters: The Missing Link
Headhunting is a multi-billion dollar international industry that acts as the missing link between a half
million job seekers and employers each year. At last count, there were over 125,000 executive search
practitioners in the United States, according to The Fordyce Letter, the industry's leading trade
There's hardly an industry or profession that hasn't spawned its own coterie of recruiters. They cover
every conceivable pocket of the job market, from food sales to machine design to motion picture financing
to mortgage banking to freight hauling to data communications to haute cuisine to college administration
to city management.
Generally speaking, headhunters work within well-defined niches. To make sense of a complicated employment
market, headhunters classify their candidates according to:
- Title or function, which refers to their descriptive title or rank within the company, such as
president, plant manager, staff accountant, director of nursing, and so on;
- Skill or application, which refers to their specialized abilities, such as tax accounting, IBM AS/400
systems programming, secured lending, and the like; and
- Product or service, which refers to the industry in which the candidates do their work, such as
plastics, minicomputers, industrial tools, public administration, hospitality, and so forth.
To give you an example, a recruiter might place project engineers (title) with computer-aided design
experience (skill) into positions with companies that built submarine hydraulic systems (product).
Other headhunters might place CEOs (title) with plant management experience (skill) who work for companies
that process frozen broccoli (product); or district sales managers (title) with marketing degrees (skill)
who work for companies that make high-top leather sneakers (product).
Think of your own experience. How would you classify yourself? Your answer will not only help you put your
career into perspective; it'll help the headhunter determine whether you "fit" into his or her market
Of course, recruiters can use other means to define their markets. Some take an industry-specific
approach. Let's say you work in the retail industry, or in construction. You'll probably find a recruiter
who doesn't care what your title or function is, as long as you have experience in that target market. I
knew a recruiter named Jim, who specialized in the printing industry. No matter what you did in the past,
if it had anything to do with printing, Jim would gladly take you under his wing.
The opposite approach is taken by the skill-specific recruiters. To them, the product or service of the
host company is secondary to the skills of their candidates. This is the preferred method of recruiters
who specialize in placement of data processing, accounting, or clerical personnel.
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