In America we are defined by our profession. Ask someone what they do, and they usually always respond with their profession, not their hobby. This is not so in many countries.
It is always funny when someone asks me what I do. While my hobbies are biking, mountain biking and speed skating, I know they are really asking about my profession.
While I have adopted the term executive recruiter to define my profession, when it is met with puzzled looks, I usually tack on the word “headhunter” and immediately see recognition in the face of the person who has asked the question.
Personally, I am not offended by the term headhunter – I think it conjures up some pretty funny images. But it inevitably leads to more conversation and offers me the chance to explain what a “headhunter” really does.
For example, I am an Information Technology recruiter only, specializing in extremely high tech professionals. So, once I explain that I can’t get nephew Johnny a job just because loves video games, I try to explain the recruiting process.
Some people in our Executive Recruiter profession say we have an image problem, and the term “headhunter” exacerbates that image. I believe we have an understanding problem, and if the term allows me to follow-up with what an executive search professional really does, I am all for it.
The word “recruiter” means I go out and find technical professionals that I think would make a great fit for what my client is looking for and be a step up or positive career move for the candidate. This involves cold-calling, networking and contacting people who may not be necessarily “looking” for a new job. If it only involved working with candidates who came to me, I would be a placement coordinator, not a recruiter.
In order to enhance the positive image of an executive search recruiter and help further understanding and especially appreciation for what we executive search professionals do, I think we should all practice professionalism when dealing with clients and candidates alike. Because if everyone understood the value of our services and appreciated what we do, I would have more time to ride my mountain bike.