Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Headhunters – right in harm’s way

My twenty or so years in the aviation trade have seen me using a number of times the assistance of a recruitment firm. Sometimes I was the job seeker, and other times I had a position to be filled. The big difference between the two situations is that in the former you hardly get an acknowledgment from the headhunter, in the latter you get swamped with references to 'ideal' candidates that most of the time do not even know how to spell aviation. The most bizarre incident of a skewed trade perception happened when a headhunter – one of a very, very highly reputable executive search agency, I might add – called me to ask if I were interested in expanding the firm's aviation department. Not knowing an awful lot of this side of the consulting industry, I prepared a number of questions that I would have liked to discuss. And guess what, the reply I received by the headhunter was short and crisp: "I don’t have time to answer these questions, good luck with your future career." Needless to say that this executive recruitment firm does not figure high anymore on my company's preferred supplier list.

This incident, certainly one that made my library of anecdotes that I tend to spill over startling party guests, made me think: what is nowadays the added value of a headhunter to one's organization? Regardless the side of the desk you are currently at, we all are witnesses of the current labour market situation, especially in the aviation industry. There is an abundance - and I do mean a large, large quantity - of qualified resources at all levels available, all desperate for a (near) quality position. And with internet platforms easily accessible, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and to some extent even Facebook, it is easier than ever to connect to a company on the other side of the world and pop the question.

Of course, there are a few headhunters that do go the always promised extra mile for you. Similarly, there a few that are the preferred supplier for certain companies and thus are capable of offering positions unknown to the outside world. However, and my experience as somebody within an organization who actually tries to attract quality staff seems to underline this, most recruitment agencies seem to connect to an endless number of companies and individuals in the hope that someday these contacts might come in handy. By following this strategy, these particular recruitment agencies not only do not add any value to the recruitment process, they – maybe more importantly – tend to give a bad name to the industry as a whole.

After all, it is as easy for me nowadays to connect with Far Away Airways via the internet as it is to connect to the flying club across the street. And when I am looking for a new position, I certainly would network the heck out it, wouldn't I? And by providing a large number of questionable – to say the least – resumes when asked to search for a certain quality professional, the respective recruitment agency most likely upsets the hiring manager to such an extent that the latter will reluctantly utilize the services of any headhunter in future. In the end, as Human Resources I would like to get pre-screened professionals, hopefully all more than capable of performing above standards. And don't forget that with virtual job fairs on the internet, it is as easy for the organization to connect to prospective candidates as it is vice versa.

So what would be a solid strategy for the impasse the recruiters are in nowadays? Consolidation of the industry as a whole? Hopefully not, we all have seen where consolidation leads to and quite honestly, nothing seems to be a bigger paradox than a headhunter looking for a job.