Hunting for headhunters

Nancy Garrison Jenn’s guide for organisations and individuals seeking headhunters is relevant in India too, says Rajshree Kukreti.

When talent is at a premium, headhunters can make a killing. Thanks to a robust economy that has changed the entire demography of hiring and talent search, headhunting is a Rs 4,000-crore industry in India today. But who needs headhunters?Headhunters and how to use them

Everyone. From the job seeker to the job giver, everybody is looking for that perfect position and person fit. More so in a corporate environment where new industry verticals demand people with very niche skills.

Since talent search companies help one zero in on to that dream job, reaching out to the right one becomes very important. And it is not just people- specific but also for organisations scouting for the right employee.

This is where The Economist guide— Headhunters and How to Use Them by Nancy Garrison Jenn, comes handy. The book is meant to help organisations and individuals decide which headhunting firm suits them best and how to extract the maximum from their service.

With a detailed list of 20 top international headhunting firms, 14 of which have already set shop in India, the book helps find method in the madness of a market that’s packed to the gills with online job search portals, one-room placement shops and fly-by-night operators.

The first chapter explains the search business and job profile of headhunters, tracks their growth in various countries and analyses their current status, outlook as well as the trends and regulations guiding them. But its regional trend outlook on India is vague. Sample this: “India is one of the fastest growing markets in Asia with Mumbai and New Delhi being important centres for executive search...The most buoyant sectors in the Indian economy are business process outsourcing, engineering and manufacturing, IT, pharma and health care.”

Chapter two encapsulates advice for organisations that use headhunters or are planning to do so. Starting from why a company needs a hunter to how to select one and even how a headhunter gets it all wrong, it explains in detail what kind of firm will suit a particular organisation.

On deriving the maximum benefits from this relationship, the author insists that organisations should have an upper hand: “Ask for updates and say cleverly when you want progress reports.” The suggestion on having a senior partner of the search firm as part of the internal team sounds interesting as it would help the consultant understand and appreciate the culture and needs of the organisation.How to choose a headhunter

The author rightly remarks that a headhunter’s role in the current scenario goes beyond just hiring people. They can assist with coaching, training and benchmarking. “But these allied services are yet to pick up,” she adds.

Probably the most interesting part of the book comes in the next section. This chapter talks about how, when and what to look for in a search firm. Guidelines on writing a cover letter and curriculum vitae are quite superior to what one gets to read in magazines and newspapers. Tips on how to network with a headhunter and the tidbits on what they look for in a candidate profile are quite valuable.

For instance, one of the set of 12 networking tips talks about asking for career advice from headhunters, a mistake common to most job seekers. The author quotes headhunters dreading clients unsure of their career direction when they are out to find a job in a particular field that they are eligible for and interested in.

The next chapter gives the biodata of the world’s leading search firms. The 20 firms have been selected on the basis of their search format (one indicator of which is high revenue per consultant) and global appeal.

Starting with names of senior management personnel, the details include the headquarter address, various office locations (just names of the cities), brief background of the firm and ends with a detailed list of the sectors and specialists in various countries with e-mail address.

Though packed with information there are quite a few glitches here. While the consistent email address of the consultant (e.g. has been mentioned, where it varies within a firm it has been omitted. As a result we know there is a Raju Kapoor looking after placements in the financial companies at Penrhym International in India but how one can contact him is missing.

One option is to log on to the firm’s website to locate the contact but doing this would negate the need of the book to a large extent. Moreover, four of the firms mentioned have a presence in India but they are missing from the detailed profiles.

The last chapter is on sector specialists listing boutiques (small firms) and bigger players classified according to the industry sector they specialise in. But again none focus on India. It also includes a glossary which is helpful. Even though an index is missing, navigation through the book is quite easy.

One should remember that using the services of headhunters does not mean stopping personal job search efforts or networking. But if you are hunting for the right headhunter, your search stops at this compilation.

Read our review of the book Economics on Type “start-up investors” in the search box.