Do small retailers use head hunters?
January 16, 2013 4:43 AM   Subscribe

I was wondering how small retailers (think of a mom and pop sized clothing boutique in a high-end shopping district.) find store managers and associates. I know that the small retailer can post an ad on craigslist or in the local paper, but will they ever use the services of a local recruiter? More broadly, can anyone explain the economics of becoming a “head hunter”, whether for a low paying retail position, a typical corporate middle management position, or for an executive position?
posted by otto42 to Work & Money (9 answers total)
will they ever use the services of a local recruiter?

I mean, I'm sure it happens, but not that often. Recruiters cost money. Boutique retail outlets rarely have the budget for that sort of thing. The closest they'd come would be some kind of staffing agency, but even there the cost--frequently 10% or more of wages--is likely to be cost-prohibitive for most small businesses.

I'd imagine the way these positions are filled most frequently is promotion from within. They'll hire anyone who applies to fill their minimum wage jobs--assuming they even have any; lots of these are family businesses--and the people who prove to be responsible employees get promoted when there's room.

Head-hunters are generally only used for positions with at least a middling salary. So lawyers, doctors, and executives, absolutely. But even middle-management jobs tend to be low priority to the point that spending money to get the best person tends not to be worth it.
posted by valkyryn at 4:52 AM on January 16, 2013

The economics of a headhunter are fairly simple. You get paid a percentage of the salary of a successful hire once they've passed a probationary period. It can be nearly a third of the annual salary.

The bigger firms also do work on retainer and a host of other advisory work around leadership and talent management for their clients.

Note - a headhunter, as opposed to a recruitment company, normally means a company or individual who is hired to find a person for a specific role. At the high end it is highly bespoke and, discretion, judgment and a first class network are critical. The headhunter carries the can for a poor hire and is expected to be the smooth interface between the ego and demands of the hirer and the hiree. Headhunters typically prefer to call themselves executive search firms.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:22 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yup, Head Hunters/Executive Search Firms are paid based upon the salary of the person being hired. So No, I doubt very seriously that a small retailer would use such a firm to fill a low paying retail position.

The idea of a Search Firm is that they specialize in knowing a lot of people within that melieu, and can fulfill a request for a very specificly qualified person. An example would be: someone who is a Developer who works in an SQL environment with experience deploying in a healthcare environment.

Now, there are firms that find warm bodies for minimum wage jobs at the very low end of the spectrum. Think Labor Force or Manpower. This is who you turn to for seasonal help, or your busy season. A bunch of people who have been 'vetted' by the agency, will show up in X number, lift, haul or ring people up, and then disappear after the rush is over. No I-9s to worry about, no wondering about their records, just a set of hands to do a job, nothing more.

These folks usually earn X and the Staffing Agency earns X+2, the 2 being their take for brokering the folks.

Places like large corporations, hospitals and government may have an on-staff recruiter. This person is responsible for finding talent and getting them to come to work for the enterprise. These folks lurk in LinkedIn, place ads on the web and in the paper, manage the Careers section of the enterprise's website, and in general are part of HR in getting people to come through the door.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:47 AM on January 16, 2013

I have clerked, assistant managed and head managed retail boutiques in the East and West Village in NYC. Most of the hiring was done by personal referral. Otherwise, we put up a sign and people dropped off resumes. A recruiter was never in the cards, just because one of these two methods was guaranteed to get us somewhere. Also, managers were almost always promoted from clerks, or hired by referral. No one would hire a manager sight-unseen (including via recruiter.)
posted by griphus at 5:50 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, small retailers will not use headhunters/executive recruiters, for the reasons explained above.

Headhunters generally place high level executives at large companies.

Take a retail store like Banana Republic. The people who manage its retail stores will not be placed by headhunters. The corporation's senior executives at its headquarters, however, probably would be.
posted by dfriedman at 6:54 AM on January 16, 2013

I know of a business with a strong social media presence who reached out to one of their vocal followers when they opened a location in his area and asked him to help put the word out that they were looking for a manager and staff for their store, which he did gladly. I thought that was kind of a great use of the social media network they'd built, and a modern take on the personal referral.
posted by padraigin at 7:19 AM on January 16, 2013

Headhunters generally get used for jobs where its really important to hire the one right person for the job. In most retail stores, it just isn't the case that you need to do an extensive search to find retail staff - there are many many people who will be able to do the job. No headhunter needed. Specialist stores may have more specific needs, but they're likely to find staff from within the community of special interest enthusiasts they serve.

I've never seen a headhunter used for retail jobs, and i've applied for and hired for many retail jobs.
posted by Kololo at 7:27 AM on January 16, 2013

Yup, the don't get used for high turnover jobs like shop floor retail at all. Either it's bad for the headhunter (person leaves before probation so the headhunter doesn't get paid) or bad for the employer (person leaves after probation so employer would have to keep forking out high fees for each recruitment).
posted by MuffinMan at 7:39 AM on January 16, 2013

At every retail store I've ever worked, we just whack an ad in the paper and that's that, basically. Either that or people drop in resumes, and you can draw from that pool, depending on how many have come in that week. It's unskilled, low paying labour, all training is on the job and fairly idiosyncratic - it's rare for procedures to be the same from one small store to the next since it was probably just how the owners decided to start doing it when they opened, so there's little carryover from one store to the next. You just find some relatively functional humans and teach them what they need to know. My last two successful hires have come from people who just dropped in a resume - it cost us nothing at all to hire them.
posted by Jilder at 7:47 AM on January 16, 2013

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