Headhunters: MatchMaking in the Labor Market

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Headhunters-third-party agents paid a fee by companies for locating job candidates-perform a unique sales role. The product they sell is people, matching candidates with jobs and companies with candidates. Headhunters affect the professional lives of thousands of employees every day, and their work has a profound, though hidden, effect on the employment picture in the United States. William Finlay and James E. Coverdill draw on interviews with and observations of headhunters and on analysis of headhunting training seminars, lectures, industry newsletters, and a mail survey of headhunting firms. The result is a frank and sometimes unsettling portrait of the aims, attitudes, and tactics of practitioners. The payment of fees has shifted from candidates to employers, and recruiters now find people to fit jobs rather than the other way around. Finlay and Coverdill address what they feel is a serious lack of research about the work headhunters do and how they do it. Their book is built around three major questions: What advantages do employers derive from using third-party agents to handle candidate search and recruitment? How are headhunters able to accomplish the double sale ("selling" candidates to employers and employers to candidates)? What criteria do headhunters use for selecting candidates? In the process, Finlay and Coverdill link their findings to larger issues of institutional and historical context, revealing the economic and political reasons clients use headhunters, demonstrating how headhunters manipulate clients and candidates, and assessing the impact of headhunters' actions on hiring decisions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"They are a tribe with their own language. . . . They are expert trappers, but also excel at fishing expeditions. And at first encounter in Headhunters: Matchmaking in the Labor Market, they seem friendly enough. But would you like to meet one in a dark boardroom? Yes, if William Finlay and James E. Coverdill are the guides."—Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22, 2002

"When did recruiters become known as headhunters' That shift has occurred over the past couple of decades. . . . Finlay and Coverdill say this approach reflects today's realities."—HR Magazine, July 2002

"This book fills a gap in the literature exploring the growing and unique industry of executive recruiting. . . . Finlay and Coverdill present a probing view of this often misunderstood industry. . . . The book covers many aspects of recruiting,including the underlying theory and economics of the industry as well as the nitty-gritty methods and practices used by recruiters."—Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge, April 15, 2002

"The most intriguing portions of the book are those in which the authors use direct quotations to illustrate the deliberate and self-conscious strategies headhunters use to assert control over the job matching process. . . . The strengths of this book are its rich detail and the authors' insightful interpretations of the complex interactions among and between the actors in the job matching process. . . . Headhunters is a valuable contribution to our growing understanding of the modern labor market and currently the most compelling and comprehensive study of contingent fee recruiters."—M. Diane Burton, MIT Sloan School of Management, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 56:3, April 2003.

"Headhunters is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in the world of recruiting. . . . It would also make useful reading for managers who are considering engaging a recruitment company, those applying for jobs and may even provide a few pointers for the recruiter themselves."—Sharon Collins, The Journal of Industrial Relations, June 2003

"Perhaps the central paradox of the book is that while the headhunter is hired to secure committed employees she works actively and necessarily to lessen such commitments. It is no surprise then that headhunters are commonly reviled while routinely used. . . . I highly recommend Headhunters to anyone who wants to understand contemporary labor markets."—Ezra Zuckerman, MIT, American Journal of Sociology 108:2, September 2002

"Headhunters are playing an increasingly prominent role in the social process of matching workers to jobs. In their penetrating, multi-method case study of headhunters, William Finlay and James Coverdill begin to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of this front-line service occupation."—Arne L. Kalleberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Headhunters is a must read for anyone in the employee acquisition or talent transfusion professions. In my 40 years of participation in and publishing for the headhunter community, this is the only complete and realistic A to Z academic analysis of this previously mysterious group I've found. Headhunters can only hope it isn't read by employers or candidates."—Paul Hawkinson, Publisher , The Fordyce Letter (www.fordyceletter.com)

"In Headhunters Finlay and Coverdill tell a fine story about the complex dimensions of headhunting. Their account uncovers the hidden skills and accomplishments embedded in how headhunters manage their relationships with the managers who use headhunters to find candidates and with job candidates themselves."—Vicki Smith, University of California, Davis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801473791
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

William Finlay is Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Georgia and the author of Work on the Waterfront: Worker Power and Technological Change in a West Coast Port. James E. Coverdill is also Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia.
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Table of Contents

1 What Headhunters Do 1
2 Theoretical Issues 24
3 Playing the Search Game 37
4 Managing Risk by Managing Clients 59
5 Ruses, Pitches, and Wounds 88
6 Finding the Right Person for the Job 112
7 Fitting the Right Person to the Job 141
8 From Bridges to Buffers 165
Conclusion 181
References 191
Index 199
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