Employment services organizations include private employment agencies, state employment agencies, temporary help organizations, career counselors, contingency search and executive search.
Most people get confused about who provides what service in this area and usually lump everyone together under the term “headhunter.” It can be a source of frustration if you don’t really understand what each of these groups can do for you. First, let’s clean up the terminology and definition of the services that each of these groups provides.
Private employment agencies are for profit. Their source of income comes from either the company (employer paid fee, EPF), or from you (applicant paid fee, APF). Those that receive income from the employer always have the company’s needs in mind. They search on behalf of the employer, but usually in their own databases, and they only market a person to employers if that person is seen to be in high demand and can be used as a tool to develop other fee-paying assignments.
When working with an employment agency, the caliber of the individual and company you choose could affect the caliber of the job you eventually take. If you choose wisely, he or she could become a lifetime counselor who could guide you up the ladder of success. They are also not headhunters.
The applicant paid fee group of private employment agencies is a significantly smaller percentage of the private employment agencies. They are one of the only resource that works completely for you. This is also a group that doesn’t have a particularly great reputation in the marketplace, based mainly on incompetence and shady business practices. Nearly any employment services company that asks you for money falls into this category, regardless of the classiness of the decor. It is wise to stay away from these type of employment agencies. They are mainly staffed by executives who couldn’t find other jobs. They are not headhunters.
State employment agencies are staffed by government employees. Their job is to assist you in finding a job; they are the only other groups whose entire focus is on assisting you. They receive funding from the state labor department and usually carry names like State Job Service, State Division of Employment Security, or Manpower Services. Although the names may vary, the services they provide remain the same. They will mail résumés on your behalf to interested employers who have positions listed with them, as well as make efforts to get you lined up with appropriate jobs for your background and skill set. It is not required for employers to list jobs with state agencies, but more and more companies are taking advantage of these free services. Once the fortress of minimum-wage jobs, these public agencies now list positions having salaries of $100,000 per year or more, so they are a resource that should not be ignored.
If you are moving across the state or across the country, your local employment office can plug you into the national job bank or you can connect yourself online at http://www.nationjobs.com, which will allow you access to jobs all over the country. This is the largest job bank in the world. They are not headhunters.
Temporary services companies get their funding from employers and are not not particularly concerned about filling temporary assignments for those clients. They are not headhunters.
Career counselors and job search counselors. Their funding comes from you, but while there are a few shady figures in the business, there are also outstanding, dedicated, and talented professionals in this group. Generally, counselors work alone or in small companies, and they can assist you with job search, career choice, résumé preparation, and interview preparation. These career counselors can be deciphered from the disreputable APF crowd by finding out their number of years in business, their professional associations, the degrees they hold, and their professional accreditations. Ideally, they should also have a background as a contingency or retained recruiter. They are not headhunters and they would never tell you they were.
Contingency recruiters get paid by employers and are actively involved in finding employed professionals for hard-to-fill positions. They perform this service on a contingency basis, the contingency being that they only collect a fee when they fill the position. Usually, contingency recruiters search their databases and actively recruit for a percentage of the jobs they have to fill. The majority of contingency recruiters will market an “in-demand” professional to target companies for a couple of days and as a tool to develop other fee-paying assignments Contingency recruiters are a hybrid, more sophisticated than employment agency staff but not working on a retainer basis. Some of these people can be considered headhunters, some cannot.
Executive search firms are also paid by employers. They are the only group that is completely focused on the employer’s needs, with precisely zero interest in you unless you fit an existing requirement. The reason for this is that they receive money up front, more when a candidate is hired, and the final allotment when the person starts work. They are almost only interested in people who are currently successful in their positions, not unemployed professionals seeking work.
These people almost never deal with salary levels below $100,000 per year. They are are more interested in accessing your résumé from their database than seeing you unless you fill a particular job they are trying to fill for a client. Executive recruiters are there to serve their client, not to find you a job. These people are where the term headhunter came from.
The term headhunter is often used to refer to anyone who provides employment services, but in actuality it only fits executive search consultants and a few contingency recruiters. A headhunter will have very little interest in you unless you match an existing assignment.