Off with your head! The skinny on headhunters

By Claire Klieger

If the term “headhunter” doesn’t conjure up Hunger Games-esque imagery, or,  as one dictionary website put it, “a member of society who collects the heads of dead enemies as trophies,” you probably think of some mythical creature who magically finds jobs for others. In reality, the term is much less glamorous, mysterious, and hopefully, a lot less bloody.  Here are some things to know about headhunters to help you not lose your own head when thinking about job hunt strategies:

“Headhunter” usually refers to someone who does executive searches, looking for very experienced people to fill high level openings, so this can be an especially good option for more experienced Penn Alumni. If you’re just getting started in your career or are only a few years out, you are looking for something called a “Contingency Firm.” And, as it happens, we have a wonderful directory of staffing firms (including contingency firms) in the Career Services Library. The Directory of Executive & Professional Recruiters (2012 edition just came in yesterday!) offers directory listings by location, industry or job function.

One big misconception about staffing agencies or head hunters is that the job seeker pays them. This is not true. It’s FREE. These agencies are paid by the employers who have vacancies to fill. As such, you really have nothing to lose by signing up with one (or more than one). It means your resume will probably be circulated more widely than not. I think it can be particularly helpful in cases where you are targeting a particular location. That said, since these agencies are not specifically looking to find you a job you shouldn’t rely solely on their services when seeking employment.

Author: Claire Klieger

Claire Klieger is an Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates. She earned her Ed.D. from Penn and did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. Fun Fact: Claire spent 11 years in the Middle East and North Africa.