The headhunting business was born because companies realised how much is at stake when they choose the wrong talent. But the internet has changed the headhunting game: research, networking and referrals can now be accomplished through sites like LinkedIn and Monster, which means professional recruiters find themselves in struggling careers.
“A lot of people left the business because it really died,” Andrea Sobel, a headhunter for more than 20 years who’s now a hiring manager at Parsons Corp., told us. “Some people held on, but you can imagine. It was a very rough market.”
“In November 2008, in one week’s time, I lost 50 job orders. Everything just shut down. I don’t think it ever really came back, or will ever come back. I think companies, in the meantime, have pretty much figured out how to do it without agencies, because of the internet mainly.”
“LinkedIn was my biggest tool as a headhunter in the end, and I think it’s the companies’ biggest tools these days too. It becomes the same thing, it becomes almost a referral business. Companies can do their own referrals now.”
The internet has changed the way a lot of markets work, because everyone can now be their own “gatekeeper” in a sense. Everyone is an expert because they have all the information available at their fingertips, hence there’s no need to pay someone else a handsome fee to do the research for you. In other words, the middlemen — headhunters — have been cut out.
Engineer and blogger Michi Kono writes about the changing industry in his blog:
A long time ago, I was business partners with a man who was formerly a head hunter. I remember him telling me how wonderful the internet made his job. He told me that when he was my age, recruiting meant shaking a lot of hands, memorizing every face and name you ever met, and storing large piles of business cards.
These days, anybody can be a headhunter with a little Internet know how…sites like LinkedIn change all that. The one true value proposition that head hunters provide is that they serve as match maker. But as more information is available and technology improves, this process should become more and more automated. For example, right now, LinkedIn has job postings. On its own, it’s just a new competitor to Craigslist, but what makes things interesting is that LinkedIn also has the data points to find all of the candidates out there that might fit the job requirements — without anybody lifting a finger.
It’s also easier for executives who want to be “poached” to get on the radar of recruiters. They can increase their visibility through these sites, and can get their friends and colleagues to write them referrals online. The more visible they are, the more they’re dubbed as an expert, the greater their chances of nabbing those coveted positions in the hidden job market.
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