Book Review: How to Work With Headhunters (Nick Corcodilos)

I love Nick Corcodilos.  I love his column in the newspaper, I love his ongoing blog, and I loved his “Ask the Headhunter” book and the incredibly pragmatic and frank insights he shared in it about how the headhunting world really works — and how candidates can play the game effectively in terms of this important, but often misunderstood aspect of job hunting.

Do I therefore love this latest offering of his, a 130-page downloadable electronic guide (offered in PDF format here for $29.95) promising to demystify the process of working with headhunters/recruiters and to provide 62 myth-busting answers for fearless job hunters? Not in so many words.  I’d say that “really, really like” is a better characterization of my feelings about this latest offering that Nick has pulled together.  While, as always, the writing is brilliant and the content provided is far deeper than any other resource out there in terms of discussing the headhunting process, the value of the piece suffers slightly from one factor that, ironically, I think even the author himself would agree with.

What is this mysterious factor, exactly?  Well, right off the bat, Nick points out the surprising (to some) fact that headhunters account for less than 3% of all hiring in the marketplace.  He then goes to great lengths to provide a “taxonomy” of the staffing sector and to point out how true headhunters, in his opinion, are a totally different breed from other sorts of placement professionals you’ll come across such as recruiters, contract firms (aka “job shops”), temporary agencies, career management firms, and the like.  And lastly, he emphasizes that headhunters source talent for their clients almost exclusively via proactive methods, as opposed to finding candidates via job boards or making contact with people who may have sent in their resume in unsolicited fashion.  Practically speaking, this means that they almost always go after “passive” candidates (as opposed to active job hunters) who are already employed and already recognized as rising stars in their respective industries.

In response to the above realities, I can’t help observing that the true target audience for this guide is astronomically small when one considers that the vast majority of professionals out there in transition DON’T meet the stated criteria for being “headhuntable” material!  Why would one invest $30-40 in a guide about working with headhunters, therefore, if only one candidate in a thousand can hope to attract the attention of this elite audience?  And among the handful of movers, shakers, and “A Players” who qualify to be recruited by this audience, do we really think that most of these people need remedial coaching about how to present themselves successfully or exert control/confidence in the interview process?  This subdivides the target audience even further, when you think about it…

At any rate, my intent here isn’t to be negative or critical of Nick’s most recent publication, but to simply point out some interesting consequences of the author’s own logic — in the context of my own professional role, which is to advise people on what might be most useful for them to read relative to the job hunting process.  This issue aside, I assure you that “How to Work With Headhunters” is a fascinating resource and stands to definitely open your eyes about how the hiring process really works at this level, if you’re interested in such things.  The guide also provides some much-needed words of warning around the scams, deceptions, and bad practices that certain recruiters engage in — as well as those organizations in the “career management” sector who pretend to be headhunters, but instead bilk unwary job hunters out of $5,000 or more for some lackluster resume development and distribution services.  Just this weekend, in fact, I ran into the friend of a friend who was approached by one of these outfits that operates in the Seattle area, and his description of the sales process — and the hard-sell techniques they used to try to swindle him out or $4,700 — made me downright nauseous.

There’s also value to be gained in this book/guide for those ASPIRING superstars who want to know how to position themselves most effectively for future contact by headhunters — or to study, ahead of time, what they should do in these situations.  And lastly, even if there’s no direct application to your own career situation, the publication is an interesting, worthwhile read in its own right.

At the end of the day, however, I musn’t lose sight of the fundamental purpose behind these reviews I write, which is to educate the average job hunter on what career-related books he or she should consider investing his or her time, money, and energy in.  And while this latest offering by Nick Corcodilos is exceptional, as always, make no mistake about it — it’s geared toward the sophisticated needs that a handful of elite executives will face when fielding headhunter-driven opportunities, not the day-to-day job search challenges and realities that are encountered by most mainstream candidates in career transition.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: How to Work With Headhunters (Nick Corcodilos)”

  1. career management firms turned out to be the best thing that ever happened in my life. I have now continued my education, finding that it was needed to pursue my goals. The day to day job search is no more! Go to a headhunter – make sure they are reliable – get references – and get on with your life!

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