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Use headhunders vs. apply by ourselves?

For companies who already posted their openings on their websites, what are the benefits / risks of using headhunter (instead of applying by ourselves)? e.g., two sigma post all their openings on the website and also has a number of campus recruiting events, yet quite a few headhunters contacted me and mentioned two sigma to me --- this is confusing: should we use headhunters or directly apply by ourselves?

BTW, a little background: I'm a PhD in Sci/Eng, with some experience in quant research/quant trading (basically one summer internship). I recently applied a few positions, either via campus events or at company's website. For most of them, I got first-round interviews. So I wonder should I also work with some headhunters? What are benefits/risks of doing this?
 
I have found that if the head hunter is good, they will have a relationship with the group that is recruiting and can bring your application to the top of the pile.
 
I have found that if the head hunter is good, they will have a relationship with the group that is recruiting and can bring your application to the top of the pile.

Thanks for the input. So one possible benefit is "a larger chance to get the first-round interview".

Is there other benefit? e.g., can headhunter help us negotiate the package in a way that we cannot do by ourselves?
 
Thanks for the input. So one possible benefit is "a larger chance to get the first-round interview".

Is there other benefit? e.g., can headhunter help us negotiate the package in a way that we cannot do by ourselves?

If the HH is good, it extends beyond just getting a first interview. He will know what the company is looking for and be able to articulate it to you. He will tell you how to sell yourself better on the things that matter to them, and to downplay other things -- which means your first interview is likely to go better and hence lead to a second. He can act as a liaison between you and them, getting feedback. The proviso, of course, is that he knows his job.
 
Yes that's one benefit. The package negotiation will probably be down to you. However the HH may provide you with information to strengthen your argument. The HH will sell you as a product, and has the skills to do so.
 
Nice discussions. Thanks.

Since the company needs to pay HH, does it mean:
1) if two candidates are approximately same good, then they will take the one that applies by herself to avoid the extra payment?
2) those who apply by themselves are easier to negotiate a better starting package since there is no need for the company to pay HH.

I guess the answers to both questions are probably no ...

So the third question:
3) if someone has a good background (e.g., PhD in a good school and in a useful research area, and quant summer intern experience), should he/she use headhunters or just apply via campus events/company websites?
 
If the HH is good, it extends beyond just getting a first interview. He will know what the company is looking for and be able to articulate it to you. He will tell you how to sell yourself better on the things that matter to them, and to downplay other things -- which means your first interview is likely to go better and hence lead to a second. He can act as a liaison between you and them, getting feedback. The proviso, of course, is that he knows his job.

Nice points ... I guess it's really difficult to spot such a "good" HH ?
 
Nice points ... I guess it's really difficult to spot such a "good" HH ?

You can tell within a few minutes of conversation what the general intellectual level of a person is -- his vocabulary, the things he talks about (or doesn't).

3) if someone has a good background (e.g., PhD in a good school and in a useful research area, and quant summer intern experience), should he/she use headhunters or just apply via campus events/company websites?

A good HH -- the same caveat again -- will have access to jobs that are either not advertised or exist only as a gleam in an employer's eye. The caliber of jobs available in campus events is unlikely to be the same: the events are typically staffed by junior and callow people, and the jobs -- if they exist in the first place -- tend to be entry-level.
 
A good HH -- the same caveat again -- will have access to jobs that are either not advertised or exist only as a gleam in an employer's eye.

Indeed. For some reasons in some situations companies don't like to specify explicitly that they are hiring a person in this or that area (e.g. for a new project or for a new type of products etc.). Therefore they prefer to work with HH, hide behind and only interview people who they agree to talk with.
 
A good HH -- the same caveat again -- will have access to jobs that are either not advertised or exist only as a gleam in an employer's eye. The caliber of jobs available in campus events is unlikely to be the same: the events are typically staffed by junior and callow people, and the jobs -- if they exist in the first place -- tend to be entry-level.

Oh I see. I guess I didn't make my question clear. For positions that we cannot find by ourselves, certainly we need to work with HH. The main question is for companies that list their openings online (e.g., twosigma, deshaw, worldquant). I'm asking because many times HHs contact me but the companies/positions they mentioned are just those I already know. In this case it's not clear to me if I should use HH for this position or I should just apply online.
 
Beware that headhunters who work on a contingency basis will claim to "own" you with respect to a referral to a firm for a specific period of time -- it could be 3 months; it could be longer. Depending on the specifics of the agreement between the headhunter and the employer, this could mean that if the firm wants to hire you for any job during the specified period of time following the referral by the headhunter, he/she may be due a fee. Different firms have different policies for how far across their organization they permit a headhunter to cast such a "prior referral" net. It could be firm-wide; it could be just for that department or division, etc.

Unless you plan on working with exactly one headhunter, there is a good chance that someday you may run into the following situation:

Headhunter A pitches you an opportunity at firm X, and requests that you send him/her a resume and (hopefully, but not always) asks your permission to submit your resume as a candidate for the opportunity at that firm.

For whatever reason, you don't get hired into that job at firm X. Perhaps you get selected for an interview but the firm chooses someone else; perhaps the firm wants to hire you but you realize that the specific position is not what you want to be doing, or you and the firm can't come to an agreement re: compensation; perhaps your resume never gets beyond an electronic submission system and is never viewed by a human; perhaps the firm cancels the job requisition and hires nobody at all.

A few weeks later, a different headhunter (call him recruiter B) contacts you regarding a different opportunity, also with firm X. He asks, "Have you ever spoken with anyone at firm X?" (Or, he may ask, "has anyone ever submitted your resume to firm X?")

In the case where you actually went in for an interview with Firm X, you would (if you're honest) tell him, "Yes, I was in there several weeks ago for what sounds like a different position."

In such case, recruiter B may realize that if he submits you to firm X as a candidate for the position he felt you were suitable for, there is a chance that if you are eventually hired for that job, the firm's recruiting agreement with headhunter A may require the employer to pay the fee to headhunter A rather than to recruiter B, simply because headhunter A had submitted your resume first. In such case, recruiter B may decide to not discuss this position with you any further, because he won't be able to get paid for placing you there. He may instead try to match you up with some other firm (where you resume has not yet been submitted), while seeking alternate candidates for the position at firm X .

Of course, the above presumes that headhunter A tells you where he is sending your resume, and gets your permission to send it there. There are some (very slimy) individuals in that business who seem to "throw stuff up against the wall and see what sticks." Such a headhunter might submit your resume to one (or many) potential employers without even telling you that he has done so. If a firm has interest in your candidacy, the firm would have to contact that headhunter in order to arrange an interview, etc.

What is more likely to happen is that some time later, recruiter B contacts you regarding a position which would really be a good fit for your skills and interests. When asked if your resume has ever been submitted to firm X, you answer "no" -- because you have no idea that headhunter S (in this case, "S" is for "slimeball") had submitted your resume all over the place, without getting your permission or even telling you about it. When recruiter B submits your resume to firm X, he receives a curt response from Human Resources advising "unfortunately, that candidate's resume has already been submitted to us by another recruiter."

At this point, recruiter B will either

(1) not call you again, because he thinks you're a liar, or
(2) will tell you that he can't help you with regard to firm X, because some other (unspecified) headhunter has established a prior claim over you.

In the case where your resume has indeed turned up at an employer by unauthorized submission by (slimeball) headhunter S, it can be frustratingly difficult for you to determine the identity of such headhunter (assuming you are dealing with far more than 2 headhunters.) Recruiter B will likely not tell you the name of the contact with whom he is speaking at firm X, and that contact may well not tell Recruiter B the name of the headhunter (S!) who has staked the prior claim over you.

So, you're facing a "Catch-22" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22 whereby someone (headhunter S) is blocking your path to getting hired at one (or many) firms, but you can't easily determine who that slimeball is, because no one will tell you.

So, you have to be very careful before agreeing to send your resume to a headhunter whom you don't know well. They will invariably insist on your sending them your resume in MS-Word format -- which makes it very easy for them to delete your contact information from the resume, and replace it with their own. This way the employer can't contact you directly -- they have to go through the headhunter.

So, what can you do?

Ask the headhunter how many candidates he/she has successfully placed at the company to which he wants to submit you. (Unfortunately, if the truthful answer is "zero", the headhunter may well lie and give you a positive number -- and you really have no way of verifying this.)

Also, insist on the headhunter disclosing whether he/she is speaking directly with the hiring manager, or whether the headhunter is just speaking to some internal H.R. functionary (the department name varies by employer -- some firms call it "staffing"; D.E. Shaw calls it "Strategic Growth"; etc.)

If the headhunter genuinely does have a close relationship with a hiring manager -- perhaps the recruiter placed the manager in the position he currently holds, or perhaps he has placed multiple candidates at that firm -- then dealing with such a recruiter can indeed be the way to get your resume in front of the right people. As I just mentioned, the problem is that there exist recruiters who will lie, claiming that they have a much closer relationship with an employer than they actually do -- when such is not true -- and how are you going to determine whether they are lying to you?

Also note that firms which recruit graduates directly from universities to enter internal training programs of varying duration will generally have a dedicated "campus recruiting" team. For such opportunities, firms would never hire someone whose resume has been submitted by a recruiter.

Whichever path you take, best of luck.
Just be cognizant of the landmines, quicksand, and dead-ends along the path that you select...
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
This is pretty much on the money, but a few pedantic points...
Beware that headhunters who work on a contingency basis will claim to "own" you with respect to a referral to a firm for a specific period of time -- it could be 3 months; it could be longer.

That's typically enforced by the bank we're recruiting for, it is to avoid fights over who submitted a candidate and 6 months is the modal.

Banks have "systems" to stop this, some of you have studied programming, remember the dimwit who didn't ever really "get" programming, he sneers at the incompetence of people that write HR IT systems. One large bank has such a system without passwords, when I say "incompetent" I mean it.
 
Oh I see. I guess I didn't make my question clear. For positions that we cannot find by ourselves, certainly we need to work with HH. The main question is for companies that list their openings online (e.g., twosigma, deshaw, worldquant). I'm asking because many times HHs contact me but the companies/positions they mentioned are just those I already know. In this case it's not clear to me if I should use HH for this position or I should just apply online.
My 2 cents from personal experience: That's a gamble. If the HH is good (has some relationship with the hiring manager for the position), is persistent and with good selling skills they can almost always do a better job and be more effective than the HR people of these companies in the hiring process. If the HH is some noob who just happened to have come across your resume and the same post online and thought he might give it a shot , it's also highly likely that you're wasting your time with him/her.
Unfortunately this is company, HH, and hiring manager specific. But as a general rule of thumb if you cannot be your own recruiter (i.e have contacts at a place) a good HH is almost always better than any HR person in companies who do work with external recruiters.
 
I've experienced the exact scenario that myampol described. Some slimeball headhunter (or headhunters!) blasted my resume all over the place. I had recruiter conflicts at two different firms. Not much you can do other than wait 6 months until the representation period expires. Though, I've heard some firms have 1 year rep periods.
 
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