Not your father's headhunter

As the world changes, tech recruiters are changing right along with it. The biggest surprise? In the online era, a talent scout is more important than ever.

Canadian Business By Dawn Calleja – May 1, 2000

If you thought the rise of online job boards meant the end of the headhunter, think again. Sure, thousands of jobs and millions of résumés are now posted online, but in the ultracompetitive IT world, it’s finding the right résumé and finding it before someone else does that’s the trick. All too often, there’s still no substitute for a good headhunter. In fact, good recruiters are having a field day. Hiring is up, talent is tight and never before have companies been so willing to pay so much to find qualified techies.

As a potential job seeker, what do you need to know about headhunters? First, that like any talent agent, a headhunter can be your best ally or your worst foot forward. So pick carefully if you’re shopping around and be doubly careful should one come calling. Second, recognize that while there are a lot of headhunters out there (Canada counts at least 2,800 recruitment firms, with several hundred specializing in IT placement), their styles and services fall into a few basic categories. Knowing the differences will help speed your search and save lots of heartache. To help, we’ve profiled topflight examples of three of the most common types of headhunting firms you’re likely to run in to. Read up, do your homework and get ready so the next time the phone rings, you’ll know what to say.

The brand manager

TalentLab.com

year founded: 1998

specialization: tech stars for start-ups and pre-IPO companies

Who wants to be an optionaire? If you raised your hand, then TalentLab.com Inc. is the recruitment agency for you. Walk into TalentLab’s office in Kanata, ON, flop into a comfy leather chair, crack open a beer and make yourself at home. Or pour yourself a cappuccino in a mug handmade by a potter in Kingston, ON and play a game of foosball while you wait for your "talent agent" to tell you which of TalentLab’s clients wants to hire you. Options included, of course.

Cofounder Alan Kearns has built a company on the Internet craze. TalentLab’s 12 young recruiters do nothing but place "technology stars" at pre-IPO and start-up companies specializing in application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), wireless, dot com, data communications or photonics. And like many of the tech companies that hire TalentLab and pay 30% of each new hire’s first-year compensation package for its services Kearns’ agency is about more than big bucks. After working at corporate recruitment firms for eight years and placing more than 600 people in new jobs, Kearns set out to create the Starbucks of the IT recruitment world. "Often technology professionals feel like just another number. It’s "find a person, make a deal; find a person, make a deal," says Kearns, comparing that model to an in-and-out coffee chain. "But you don’t just go to Starbucks for the coffee, although it’s excellent coffee. You go there to have an experience." Since Kearns started the company with Doug Martin in September 1998, TalentLab has found 94 people new jobs a fraction of what most companies do each year. But you can bet that the next time those people are looking for a job change, they’ll come back to TalentLab.

The first lesson Kearns took from Starbucks was that happy employees mean happy customers. TalentLab recruiters get perks such as bonuses, four weeks’ paid vacation, laptops and PDAs. And a regular salary leaves them free to take their time with each job seeker. "Our clients don’t have a job problem," says Kearns. "Do Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan need an agent to help them find a job? No. The purpose of their agent is to negotiate on their behalf throughout the hiring process." Recruiters at TalentLab help with everything from that first interview to negotiating a contract. They even call regularly afterward just to make sure the new job’s going OK.

Kearns doesn’t just foster this sense of community around the office. He was one of the founders of Tech Rocks, a six-week battle of the bands and schmoozefest held each summer since 1998. To qualify for entry, band members must be employed at Ottawa-area high-tech companies one ringer allowed. This year, six finalists get a chance to open for an as-yet-unnamed star at the Fresh festival in July and the winners get an eight-hour recording session at an Ottawa studio, plus the illustrious title "Rock Lords of 2000."

Kearns and Martin are so sure they’ve found the secret to success in the cutthroat world of IT headhunting, they’re set to open a Toronto TalentLab in May and eventually plan to have franchises across Canada. "It comes back to Starbucks," says Kearns. "Starbucks realized that for their customers, coffee wasn’t their need; community was their need. It’s the same with TalentLab.

Not your father’s headhunter

As the world changes, tech recruiters are changing right along with it. The biggest surprise? In the online era, a talent scout is more important than ever.

Canadian Business By Dawn Calleja – May 1, 2000

If you thought the rise of online job boards meant the end of the headhunter, think again. Sure, thousands of jobs and millions of résumés are now posted online, but in the ultracompetitive IT world, it’s finding the right résumé and finding it before someone else does that’s the trick. All too often, there’s still no substitute for a good headhunter. In fact, good recruiters are having a field day. Hiring is up, talent is tight and never before have companies been so willing to pay so much to find qualified techies.

As a potential job seeker, what do you need to know about headhunters? First, that like any talent agent, a headhunter can be your best ally or your worst foot forward. So pick carefully if you’re shopping around and be doubly careful should one come calling. Second, recognize that while there are a lot of headhunters out there (Canada counts at least 2,800 recruitment firms, with several hundred specializing in IT placement), their styles and services fall into a few basic categories. Knowing the differences will help speed your search and save lots of heartache. To help, we’ve profiled topflight examples of three of the most common types of headhunting firms you’re likely to run in to. Read up, do your homework and get ready so the next time the phone rings, you’ll know what to say.

The brand manager

TalentLab.com

year founded: 1998

specialization: tech stars for start-ups and pre-IPO companies

Who wants to be an optionaire? If you raised your hand, then TalentLab.com Inc. is the recruitment agency for you. Walk into TalentLab’s office in Kanata, ON, flop into a comfy leather chair, crack open a beer and make yourself at home. Or pour yourself a cappuccino in a mug handmade by a potter in Kingston, ON and play a game of foosball while you wait for your "talent agent" to tell you which of TalentLab’s clients wants to hire you. Options included, of course.

Cofounder Alan Kearns has built a company on the Internet craze. TalentLab’s 12 young recruiters do nothing but place "technology stars" at pre-IPO and start-up companies specializing in application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), wireless, dot com, data communications or photonics. And like many of the tech companies that hire TalentLab and pay 30% of each new hire’s first-year compensation package for its services Kearns’ agency is about more than big bucks. After working at corporate recruitment firms for eight years and placing more than 600 people in new jobs, Kearns set out to create the Starbucks of the IT recruitment world. "Often technology professionals feel like just another number. It’s "find a person, make a deal; find a person, make a deal," says Kearns, comparin
g that model to an in-and-out coffee chain. "But you don’t just go to Starbucks for the coffee, although it’s excellent coffee. You go there to have an experience." Since Kearns started the company with Doug Martin in September 1998, TalentLab has found 94 people new jobs a fraction of what most companies do each year. But you can bet that the next time those people are looking for a job change, they’ll come back to TalentLab.

The first lesson Kearns took from Starbucks was that happy employees mean happy customers. TalentLab recruiters get perks such as bonuses, four weeks’ paid vacation, laptops and PDAs. And a regular salary leaves them free to take their time with each job seeker. "Our clients don’t have a job problem," says Kearns. "Do Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan need an agent to help them find a job? No. The purpose of their agent is to negotiate on their behalf throughout the hiring process." Recruiters at TalentLab help with everything from that first interview to negotiating a contract. They even call regularly afterward just to make sure the new job’s going OK.

Kearns doesn’t just foster this sense of community around the office. He was one of the founders of Tech Rocks, a six-week battle of the bands and schmoozefest held each summer since 1998. To qualify for entry, band members must be employed at Ottawa-area high-tech companies one ringer allowed. This year, six finalists get a chance to open for an as-yet-unnamed star at the Fresh festival in July and the winners get an eight-hour recording session at an Ottawa studio, plus the illustrious title "Rock Lords of 2000."

Kearns and Martin are so sure they’ve found the secret to success in the cutthroat world of IT headhunting, they’re set to open a Toronto TalentLab in May and eventually plan to have franchises across Canada. "It comes back to Starbucks," says Kearns. "Starbucks realized that for their customers, coffee wasn’t their need; community was their need. It’s the same with TalentLab.