What Are Headhunters?

Headhunters are independent recruiting professionals that contract with companies to help them source, screen, and hire good candidates. Headhunters work for the company hiring and NOT you, as they are paid by the company for their services.  This is not obvious to many and in Thailand the Thai Government strictly prohibits recruitment companies from charging fees to candidates, and also requires legitimate recruitment companies like Smart Search to undergo license approvals and continual auditing. 

There are two types of headhunters you need to be aware of: Contingency & Retainer

Contingency headhunters are opportunists and are paid ONLY when a hire is made by the company AND they found the candidate hired. 

Retainer headhunters are trusted recruiting advisers to a company and usually have a longer term contract with a company or department.  They are paid a regular fee every year to act as the company’s outsourced recruiting department.  A retained headhunter can be paid even if no hire happens. These types are not mutually exclusive.  The same headhunting firm can be a retained recruiter for one company and a contingent recruiter for another company.  It all depends on the level of relationship they built and the difficulties of the assignment they take upon on behalf of their clients.

When should I use a Headhunter?

Companies use independent headhunter/recruiters for all level of job openings.  However, the best time to start proactively using a headhunter is when your salary is above 50,000 THB/Month.  If you are looking for work under 50,000 THB a year, investing time to build a relationship with a headhunter is a waste of time. 

Most recruiters won’t be that interested in spending time with you to build a relationship as:

  • The potential revenue from getting you hired is minimal
  • There are many candidates like you out there.
  • Hiring at a level under 50,000 THB is usually on a contingency basis. With that said, headhunters will still reach out to you when they think you may be a fit for a job opening.  You should be courteous and professional to any recruiter that reaches out to you for job opportunities and most importantly be sincere in your approach to wanting a new career.

How should I use a Headhunter?

Build key relationships BEFORE you are looking for a job – The best time to network with headhunters is when you are NOT desperate for a job. Target only a few headhunters to build relationships.  You don’t have a lot of time either so choose influential ones that you think can help you down the road.  One of the best ways to build relationships with headhunters is refer good candidates to them when you are not the right fit or you are not interested. 

Be courteous and professional with all headhunters.  Respond to them, save emails of ones you may want to reach out to later when you are looking.  Generally rule is don’t be insincere or fail to make scheduled appointments, and remember headhunters are on your side! 

Reach out to Headhunters when you are looking – Send individual emails instead of a mass one.  Be as specific as possible about what you are looking for and your qualifications.  Ask to see what opportunities they may have or other headhunters they would refer if they don’t have anything that might fit you.

Use only good headhunters – not all headhunters are created equal.  Some are just running a numbers game – submit a lot of candidates at a job opening and hope one sticks these are mainly those companies you see continually advertising in newspapers (Bangkok Post) and always on the internet job boards like Jobs DB. Many contingency headhunters operate like this.  They send generic emails; don’t really understand what the company is looking for in a job opening and will NOT represent you well to the company.  Avoid these like the plague! 

Be clear about what companies you plan to apply directly – Companies often post jobs online as well as use headhunters to fill positions.  If you already know people at a company or plan to apply directly, make sure you specify that to headhunters you email.  Otherwise, the headhunter may submit your resume first to the same company/position you already plan to apply to. The recruiting industry in Thailand is very fragmented with many players of different skill sets.  It’s up to you to find and use good headhunters that work to your advantage and the bigger company does not always mean the better especially when it comes to your career!