Thursday, February 23, 2006

More on head hunters

After yesterday’s post I had a number of comments and a few emails about people’s experiences with those "employment service" folks we love to denigrate as head hunters.

They’re not all bad, you know. In fact, one of my sons-in-law is working for a major, nationwide search firm in Chicago. If I mentioned the name, you’d know it. And he is very professional in his dealings with both client companies (who are looking for qualified employees, and willing to pay 30% of a year’s salary to get them) and client job seekers.

In the past I’ve worked with good ones (head hunters) and not-so-good ones. Most of those encounters happened when I was the client company looking for employees. But one of the best was the guy who found me my current day job that has lasted over 20 years now.

Here's the tale:

In 1985 I found myself the victim of the Texas oil boom gone bust. It happened literally overnight. The bust, that is. From the late 1970s through 1981, if you were involved in any oilfield or drilling-related business in Texas you could have been a millionaire. Then, in early 1982, all the big companies cancelled all their big purchase orders. From one week to the next the boom went bust, and the bankruptcies followed like a pack of dogs chasing a female in heat.

I had helped my oilfield related employer double in size in five years, adding 300 employees between 1976 and 1981. In 1982 we began laying them off. By the fall of the year, my turn came. I had become part of the overhead.

I answered an ad in the Wall Street Journal for a “Gulf Coast Manufacturing Plant HR job.” I was living in Corpus Christi then, and had no idea if the plant was in Texas, Florida, or somewhere in between. The ad had been placed by a head hunter.

He put me through the most thorough interview I’d ever had — and I used to GIVE interviews! For example, he didn’t ask me what my most recent salary had been. Rather he asked me to pull out the prior year’s W-2 form and read him the numbers on it. There would be no “fudging” or estimating with him.

Only after he was convinced I had the qualifications and background he needed, he told me about the position. Turned out the plant was only about an 80-minute drive from my home. And it further turned out to be a really good fit for both me and the company. Heck, I’m still here!

My point? I learned some things from that man. Though many SEEM to do so, not all head hunters subscribe to the “spaghetti theory.”

Not familiar with the spaghetti theory? It states that if you throw enough spaghetti against the wall, some of it will stick. That’s the approach many early stage head hunters take. If the applicant is breathing (or maybe even THAT’s not essential), send him to an interview with the client. If he sticks, you collect a fat fee.

Those folks don’t get much repeat business. Shoot, one of the things I’m willing to pay those thousands for is some significant pre-screening. I can get warm bodies with just a cheap ad in the paper.

I guess, like car salesmen, lawyers, and a few other professions, there are some good professional head hunters out there. But it seems (to THOROUGHLY mix my metaphors) that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that one prince.

Has anyone else had a remotely good head hunter experience? Tell me, please.


schnoodlepooh said...

Well, Mr John, I HAVE had a good head hunter experience. Let me tell you.

I was majorly unhappy at my prior piece of crap job, commuting across that wretched bridge every day was taking me 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours ONE WAY. And the job just sucked the big one. Chaos. Cash flow problems. (the worst) And they were hiring hiring hiring top $$$$ managers at the same time they were losing clients. Did I mention that I HATED it there????

So I saw an ad in online, contacted the headhunter, went in for an interview with the HH, then an interview with the company. After a couple of months and a few more interviews, I found my little piece of heaven. I don't know how much it had to do with the headhunter, besides being the gateway to the best job I've ever had, but this company paid $$$Big Buck$$$ for me.

But I'm worth it.

And we all lived happily ever after.

end of story.

Valkyrie said...

Thank you for your well-wishes, they are really appreciated. Right now we're functioning, not quite coping.

Faith said...

Hi there. I popped into your website and looked around. I'd love to go to Africa one day. I like studying about the dif African cultures too.

I noticed the name of your lit agent. I recall seeing his name when I was on my first round for an agent. I think Mr. Powell was fairly new at the time.

Anonymous said...

I've had no experience with head hunters, being a teacher and all. But if you know of any district willing to interview me and offer me a big, fat signing bonus, I'll be there the next morning on the first red-eye out of Manchester.

It seems to me, on a more serious note, that some industries are more prone to head hunters than others.