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Security Is Lifeblood of Headhunting World

Posted July. 02, 2005 03:39,   


At the end of last year, Kim Eun-joo of the headhunting team of Job Link was asked by a managing executive of a leading company to recommend candidates for a business executive. The executive requested secrecy, saying, “The personnel management team does not know about this and the process should not be known both in and out of the company.”

Last March, when a foreign company in Korea announced headhunting company recruitment for a senior marketing executive, six headhunters stormed to compete. Among them was Nterway, a headhunting group. During the presentation, Vice President Kim Kyung-soo disclosed only initials of his clients, saying, “We successfully recommended candidates and struck a deal with “A” IT company and “S” consulting firm.” Even during a competitive presentation where they should promote their achievements as best as possible, it is the understood principle not to reveal their clients.

When searching for executives, the procedure is undertaken secretly, like spy activity. Last month, Nam Jung-soo, head of KTF was designated as president of KT through the recommendation from two headhunters, but KT does not announce this detail. In a world of executive headhunting, security is the lifeblood.

A Secretive and Rapid Process-

Headhunters never go to applicants’ current companies.

Byeon In-sik, a team leader of a headhunting group, said, “We ask applicants to meet at a far-flung coffee house or to come to our office,” adding, “We send text messages and wait until they call us, rather than call them first.”

Regarding executives, in general, headhunters find out candidates’ whereabouts and contact them, but they do not reveal their client company’s name until the candidate shows his or her intention. Headhunters present terms only about salary, rank within the company and work area.

Headhunters send to their clients profiles of candidates without their names and positions to gauge their opinion.

On final candidates, headhunters try to assure quality by checking their reputation among members and associates in clubs and committees that candidates are in.

In order to not let candidates know they are headhunters, headhunters mock interviewers by saying, “We are gathering data for an interview.”

Vice President Kim of Nterway observed that some applicants ask their acquaintances a favor to disclose only their strengths, and went on to say, “It’s critical to meet as many people as possible to obtain accurate information.”

Cautious Process-

On the companies’ part, in many cases, executives contact headhunters directly without the personnel management team’s knowledge.

Once rumors about companies’ searching for future executives from the pool of outsiders spread, insiders who prospected they would be candidates keep the process in check.

When employees of a company caught wind of the plan that a large stockholder was looking for candidates for a new CEO, tensions intensified as the incumbent CEO went on the defensive, buying out stocks with the help of friendly shareholders.

Choi Jung-soo, Vice President of Unicosearch, said he never tells his family and friends about his business, adding, “Once a headhunter loses trust, he loses all.”

Hyo-Lim Son aryssong@donga.com