Go with a headhunter?
August 9, 2006 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, I interviewed with a headhunting/creative talent agency. Should I sign up with them formally?

The agency places design geeks, freelance writers, and folks of similar ilk into freelance and fulltime jobs. I've yet to sign any contracts with them, but am planning to do so today. I don't care for the 70-30 split when it comes to my hourly wages, but if it's work that I otherwise wouldn't have received, it might be OK. And should they find me a permanent gig, that'd be entirely swell.

Is there anything I should be looking out for? Any horror stories that people care to share? The worst case I can think of is that they're a glorified temp agency. If that's the case, I can always sever my ties with them.
posted by aladfar to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know where you are... but doesn't headhunters usually get paid by the employer when they hire..??

I am also in creative geek field.. and all of head hunters i have talk to work only on commission from the employer.
They usually get .. i forgot exact percentage.. but around 10% of my year salary from the employer not from me.
And they only get paid the first year...
posted by curiousleo at 8:16 AM on August 9, 2006

It does sound much more like a temp agency to me - I've never heard of a headhunter requiring you to sign a contract with them... in fact, I've used multiple agencies at once in the past to find work. I just had to make sure that only one of them at any given time was submitting my resume for the same job. :)
posted by antifuse at 8:22 AM on August 9, 2006

They get paid by the employer should I get hired. If they place me in a freelance position they get a share of my hourly fee. The contract ensures that I don't work for someone they connect me with on a freelance basis and then take on a full time position without their getting a piece of it. From what I can tell, the contract is only about freelancing - some people prefer to work with an agency like this so they don't have to worry about billing, etc.

If and when they do place me with a full time position, they get something like 10% salary from the first year and nothing more. There's no ongoing relationship.

I'm still free to work on my own projects and make my own connections, of course.
posted by aladfar at 8:29 AM on August 9, 2006

Ahhh ok... so they're basically a temping agency AND a recruiter. I'd say go with it, and if you don't like them, you can always leave.
posted by antifuse at 8:38 AM on August 9, 2006

This sounds exactly like a temp agency.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:41 AM on August 9, 2006

Before you do anything ask if they are on the certified agency lists of the places you want to work at. I know that my company will only hire from a very select list of temp agencies.

Also the company negotiates a rate with the temp agency, say $75.00/hour for job X. The agency then may negotiate with you for the lowest possible amount, or just say that you'll work for Y. I've never heard of a contract like the one you say they want to sign.

This is as stated above very different from a head hunter, who get paid by the company for finding qualified candidates.
posted by Gungho at 9:00 AM on August 9, 2006

Is this Aquent? heh.

My experience with such agencies is that they are more inline with a temping agency. They place warm bodies in seats, and pay you peanuts.

You might sign up with them, but don't expect much. You'll make much more by finding out what rate they bill their talent out at, undercutting that by $5-10/hr, and shopping your book around yourself.
posted by kaseijin at 9:10 AM on August 9, 2006

well, what's your usual hourly rate? Are they prepared to pay it? If not, are you prepared to work for less? These seem to be the pertinent questions - the cut they get out of what their client pays them for your services seems irrelevant.

If you don't have a 'usual' hourly rate, I suggest you try and think of one, based on what you think you're worth and what you would like to make.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2006

If this is Robert Half, run away, run far away.

The problem with your "conversion to permanent" possibility is that the agency is going to charge the business a good deal of money to convert you over.

The first placement I had with RHI was great. The atmosphere was perfect, and they liked me a lot. Then management got the quote from RHI for my conversion. It was something like 40k. Essentially, they wanted to charge the employer for almost half-a-year's wages to let me go. After my 3 months was up with them, they let me go.

So, my next employer really likes me, and wants to convert me. However, he's one of those kind of guys that balks at big bills, spends hours on the phone dickering with people over charges, and will negotiate with Satan if that's what it takes to get into Heaven.

He managed to negotiate them down to 7k after 4 weeks of me working at the office and RHI threatening to sue my employer and sue me for breach of contract. They didn't stop threatening me the entire time.

The agent in charge of my account called me back a few months later after the conversion had finally taken place, and wanted to be social. I didn't know what he was digging at, but I was outright hostile with him.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:23 AM on August 9, 2006

It's not Robert Half, but I fear the situation you described might happen. Fortunately, the people I spoke with at the firm seem entirely civil and pleasant and mentioned that they often had to deal with people going from temporary help to full-time employee and tried to make it easy for everyone. They want to make certain that they're paid for bringing employee and employer together, but aren't out to prevent people from working together.

In any case, I think I'm going to set a high minimum hourly rate that I'll be willing to work at (a bit less than what I usually charge, but not by much) and will indicate that I'm primarily interested in immediate, full time employment. If they can set me up with an interview or two, grand. If not, no loss to anyone.

Thanks much for all of the advice!
posted by aladfar at 12:52 PM on August 9, 2006

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