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(OP)
From time to time, I receive unsolicited inquiries from head hunters who try to get me to jump ship. These are people I don't know and have never contacted, yet they seem to have no problem contacting me (and others I am sure) out of the blue about a position they are trying to fill. The issue I have is that to me, it seems unethical for them to be contacting a company's employees behind their back and try to pry them away from a position they are probably pretty comfortable with. It seems deceitful (and unethical) to contact the employees without first gaining permission from the employer (which I'd be willing to bet they would never get or even try to get). I realized a long time ago that this is just how they operate and it seems to be acceptable as the norm. I understand that if they waited for people to come to them in search of a position, they would probably be looking for a position themselves. I don't deny that head hunters can offer a valuable service, but only to those who are interested. Otherwise, they resemble the nuisance of telemarketers. Of course, there are bigger ethical dilemmas and I am not even sure if they are governed by a code of ethics. Thoughts?

Why would you think that your employer should have to give their permission for someone to talk to you about any subject? This activity is called recruitment and is key to developing any above average organization. If your employer is aware of your "morals" they will have less incentive to give you a raise.

Way back thirty to forty years ago when I was working on contracts through agencies, I regularly received phone calls like that. Typically, I had never met these people or heard of the agencies. My general impression was that people at agencies spent their last working day in front of the photocopier, before going off to start their own businesses. I agree that this does not sound ethical. In the absence of a professional association, there is no formal code of ethics.

After thirty five years of full time employment, I have been laid off. I am currently on a contract through an agency that cold called me. They found me on LinkedIn.com or Indeed.com. You have no obligation to respond to them!

--
JHG

An employer has no legal authority to deny that sort of contact between their employee and a head-hunter.

But it would be unethical, sort of, for the employee to spend time during working hours visiting with the head-hunter while they are supposed to be working.
If a head-hunter called me to visit about a prospective job, and I spent many minutes talking it over with them, doing phone interviews, coordinating meet-ups with the new employer, then that would be cheating your company by not working yet being paid to be there.

Check out Eng-Tips Forum's Policies here:
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I don't see any ethical issue; it's not fundamentally different that anyone else calling you to sell you things.

As for actively looking, sometimes, you don't know that you should be looking until someone presents the opportunity.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

Are you sure it's unsolicited? Quick way to make a naughty/nice list is for employer to give a head hunter the phone list, tell them to act like it's a cold call, and ask for feedback on the responses. Win/win for employer and headhunter. Probably not so much for the employee.

Well, I always thought headhunters were kind of evil, but not that evil. Employers, not so much :)

Really, the way headhunters operate is kind of aligned with the incentives. Like the rest of us.

Regards,

Mike

The problem with sloppy work is that the supply FAR EXCEEDS the demand

I don't mind getting cold calls from most headhunters.
Most of the ones I get are not actually cold, because some form of my resume is available online from several places, including my 'profile' on LinkedIn, and some places keep copies, which as noted above, get re-copied as people move around.
.
Since they already have my email, if I'm interested a little, I ask them to email me the particulars, and if I'm not interested or not qualified, I say so. I keep the conversation very short.

I do mind getting calls from one particular outfit that clearly hires people with no experience in placement, and has them work from a script where they promise to work with you closely, and they call every month, with basically nothing specific to offer, and chat about your goals and aspirations and experience. This goes on for six months or so, then you get a cold call from a new personal contact, reading from the same script. I ask every one of them to remove me from their list, but in ten years that hasn't happened.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

I LOVE the recruiter that found me the job I have now. I'll take her calls all day long. She occasionally sends me an email about an opening, not necessarily in my field, but related. If I know someone, I'll give her the contact information.

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

A rather nasty thing that used to happen some years ago, was that if you had a person in your department you did not like, their name and resume were fed to a headhunter.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

I've been out of work since August and get three to five cold calls from recruiters every day for both direct and "contract" jobs. I get calls from people who can't even figure out your engineering discipline (e.g. mechanical or electrical) before picking up the phone to call and waste your time; they get a hit on a keyword or two and off they go dialing you up! Many know only how to rattle off a script when you answer the phone and, when you try to interrupt them to tell them you're not qualified, they keep talking until they finish their script. And there are too many that are "bottom fishing" which is basically looking for people who have been out of work for "too long" and offering them wages 25% below what they last earned. Now I'm not racist by any means but it seems that the recruiters with the least skills are Indian, some with accents so thick you just can't understand them (several I've told I would communicate by email only).

While there are good, skilled, ethical recruiters out there, the longer you're out of work the worse they become.

In general, I believe the qualifications to be a recruiter are that you need to know how to sit in a chair, use a phone and convert air, food and water into CO2, urine and fecal matter.

H. Bruce Jackson
ElectroMechanical Product Development
UMD 1984
UCF 1993

South Asians are the cannon fodder for cold calls, because they're cheap and the return on investment is low to start with. When something finally breaks free, they bring in a real recruiter.

Earthlink used to do the same thing with their tech support. South Asians would start with asking you to reboot, etc.; after about the 4th call, the finally transferred you to the real technician in Atlanta, who then resolved the problem in a couple of minutes.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

My recruiter found me on LinkedIn. She specializes in finding engineers in building design and forensics.

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

I don’t see how a headhunter contacting me is unethical in the least. Within the limits of my employment agreement (usually non-compete and notification of side jobs) and the law, what I do on my own time is my own business.

I don't see an ethical issue at all.
What I resent is that they are never looking for someone with my qualifications, specifically.
And, to be honest, the inquiry is usually along the lines of "We're looking for someone with <qualification>, do you know of anyone you can recommend?", not "Would you like to work for us?"

I got one of these by letter last week ,( Bear in mind now that I am 75 years old.), an offer to be head of an FAA licensed repair station , offering fleet maintenance for a flying school with 23 aircraft of various types and sizes.
I wrote them back a letter that said " What part of being retired , don't you understand ? "
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

I find the recruiters more annoying than unethical. I work at-will, as does everyone else for this company. They certainly don't need the company's permission to contact me any more than I would need the company's permission to go out and seek a job myself.

My problem with recruiters is that most of the opportunities they contact me for are outside my realm of expertise. They typically get my contact info through LinkedIn, yet usually have not bothered to even take the briefest of looks at the profile to tell that what they're approaching me with doesn't fit my experience at all. There was a time maybe a year ago where I was frequently getting contacted about bridge engineer jobs by multiple recruiters who would say I'd be a great candidate because of my extensive bridge expertise and experience working with the state DOT. I specialize in buildings (never designed a bridge) and at the time had just moved to the state. Both pieces of information easily discoverable from the three sentence summary at the top of my profile.

On a side note, the fees for the head hunters are really high, in my opinion. They'll contact me on the hiring side occasionally and I'll hear them out. Typical fee seems to be about 20% of the person's first year salary, though I had one agency say they do 30%. So for your average entry-level, non-licensed, structural engineer/designer in the US I'd be paying $12K-$18K per hire. And it goes up from there with experience. Just seems absurd to me, especially when they contact me as a prospective employee and haven't bothered to even verify I work in the correct field.

My LinkedIn resume clearly states (in capital letters): 1) I do not wish to be called at work (these guys will hunt you down through the phone tree if they have to), and 2) I will not add recruiters to my contact list. I still get calls at work (rare, but it happens), and I definitely continue to get friend requests from recruiters. Those who can't bother to read the first 3 lines of my resume are not worth my time and go on a perma-ban list. Why should I work with someone who stands to make $40-50k off of me yet can't take (literally) 30 seconds to learn about what I want? BTW, my current job, as well as other sin the past, were due to cold-calling recruiters. I have no issue with it, nor so I see any ethical problems. Dan - Owner http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com ### RE: Head hunter poaching Regarding recruiter/headhunter salaries, keep in mind that not all recruiters work for themselves or employment agencies. Many work for the hiring company itself. I've been recruited several times by the later and only had discussions with the former. ### RE: Head hunter poaching Our company currently has a few recruiters, per location, under contract to fill positions that have been going unfilled under the normal recruitment process. If there's any expansion whatsoever from the new tax law, there could be a shark-feeding frenzy to hire the few remaining unemployed technical professionals, and poaching of the already employed could begin in earnest. TTFN (ta ta for now) I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm ### RE: Head hunter poaching One of the best signs for the engineering industry is by the number of recruiters reaching out.....I get 3-5 contacts a day. It means everyone is working. I politely decline the offer, as you never know when you may need them. ### RE: Head hunter poaching I agree with TheTick. There needs to be a healthy tension keeping both sides of the equation competitive. I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all. ### RE: Head hunter poaching I don't expect much expansion. AT&T, which made a big deal of tax-plan celebration bonuses also quietly announced significant layoffs. Those bonuses were equivalent to an under$1/hour one-year increase.

#### Quote (berkshire)

A rather nasty thing that used to happen some years ago, was that if you had a person in your department you did not like, their name and resume were fed to a headhunter.
That can be much preferable to constructive dismissal, for both the employer and the employee. Constructive dismissal is commonly practiced against professionals, and in my jurisdiction (Ontario) at least, courts are generally much more favourable to employers.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

Interesting thread. For a long time I considered headhunters a lower form of life. But its probably a lot like real estate: many folks lured by the big commissions are trying it, most don't know what they are doing, some are quite unscrupulous, but the best ones are extremely useful and necessary.

Since going on LinkedIn I have received 3-5 calls per year. Most are legitimate, but usually miss the target because of my narrow specialization. I respond politely (to make them go away) and I might even take 5 minutes to point them in the right direction. However, I owe my current wonderful contract position to my keeping a profile up on LinkedIn (haven't edited it in at least 7 years). In my case it was the employer who contacted me directly.

LinkedIn is otherwise a horrid social media site with appalling, repetitive feature stories by chronic content producers (I hesitate to call them writers) peddling their books. Linkedin's business model is selling information they dredge up from the millions of profiles. The discussion forums are a waste of time; there are too many amateurs showing up try to crowd source solutions to their daily work, for which they are obviously unqualified to do. I like to share knowledge, but I'm not about to help a poacher steal my bread. Therefore (and due to my great facility with sarcasm), I avoid the discussion forums. (You know a company has jumped the shark when Microsoft buys them, which they did about a year ago for some billions of dollars.)

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

And the whole premise of this thread shows one of the prime reasons why structural/civil engineers make relatively less money than other professions In other professions, the employees would welcome job opportunities and offers that would increase pay and force current employers to pay competitive wages. Instead, engineers seem more worried about loyalty than pay.

I'm not sure I'd take a coworker passing my name and resume along to headhunters as a negative thing, even if I enjoyed the position I was in. To me its the equivalent of someone signing me up for junk mail, maybe useful but probably not and definitely something so minor its not worth getting upset over.

As for SE/CE loyalty, I'd suspect that has more to do with SE/CEs more commonly working in rural areas and for small firms where loyalty is a part of keeping your job. A small SE/CE firm is 1-2 engineers, a small ME firm is usually 50+.

I think SE and CE tend to deal with lower fee projects than ME. Just less money in the business. That is more likely the reason for lower pay than loyalty. Plus, it seems like SE and CE jobs tend to be more enjoyable to those who are in those discipline compared to ME. What I mean is that there seems to be more bitterness in the ME world than the SE/CE world. Maybe this is a result of ME being more based in large corps than SE/CE and likely more exposed to layoffs. SE/CE jobs are usually pretty stable. Riskier jobs pay more - when you have them. I do know several MEP engineers who are quite content, but probably paid less than an ME at GE...

Oh, and most recruiters reach out to people with the wrong experience because they are not engineers and don't know there is a significant difference. Or they do and are hoping to get a referral, regardless. Most of them are pretty dumb. I'm at a point in my career that I would probably only be interested in a company whose top leadership became interested in me and reached out. I doubt very seriously that a position I would want would be farmed to a recruiter to find a candidate.

I don't think CEs/SEs are inherently any more or less loyal than other engineers, there's plenty of turnover in this field just like any other. Tend to agree with Terratek that the lower salaries at least in the consulting world tend to be driven a decent amount by the lower fees. Another factor is far more civil engineers work for state and local government than other engineering field.

I view this practice as an aspect of the free market, and I view it as a positive force in driving engineering salaries upward. Recruiters are often scummy, and you need to be careful when you deal with them. I've had some bad experiences. But the overall net result of the recruiting culture is a positive one for the engineers doing the work, in my opinion.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

I used to have a negative view of head hunters similar to many on this thread; however, I view them (the good ones, at least) highly now. I received a cold call one day - a voicemail, actually - and started to delete it, but didn't (uncharacteristically). We were just starting out on a job with a new client (and hence, a new project manager) and we hadn't won a proposal with our older clients in 10 months. I suppose in my gut, I liked having "an option" if business didn't pick up.

Dik

#### Quote (Dik)

I certainly could have taken the conversation in that direction; a totally valid point.

Believe it or not, he was the one that forwarded me the emails awarding us the proposals - I had also worked very closely with him over a two week period to refine our estimate and tailor the presentation of our "standard" proposals. I say that to say that he was intimately familiar with the work I put into those proposals, how long it had been since we won a bid, and how "big a deal" that was in terms of maintaining our current work force. I suppose in that light, I had a "what's the point" feeling.

I had advocated for myself in many instances before and after that - don't get me wrong. I just recount that experience as the "moment" when I knew I needed to start looking elsewhere...and how fateful that it was on the same day I had a random voicemail from a recruiter.

Sorry folks but I have a lot to share about head hunters as I have been on the market for a new opportunity for some time now.

I have found that head hunters come in all shapes and sizes and varying levels of skill, ethics, and morals. Most call if their keyword-finding program hits on two or three keywords or acronyms found on your resume. It doesn't matter if you have the basic qualifications for the role (e.g. ME degree or EE degree) because they don't read your resume. They call and email you nevertheless to waste your time (valuable) and theirs (not so valuable). I have come to the conclusion that 65% of recruiters are qualified to be recruiters based on their ability to sit and send boilerplate emails, make scripted phone calls, and convert food, air, and liquids into urine, fecal matter, and CO2. Many you cannot understand because they have thick accents and/or talk so fast you can't even make out their name, company, or phone number. Some as they read from their script, and if you ask questions along the way, they just continue on that script and talk over you until the end. I told some that I would communicate with them only in writing because I could not do so on the phone! Once they submit you to their client, 90% don't bother to let you know the outcome if you are passed by. Of course it's good business and good manners to do so but, hey, if it takes time to do so they figure why bother? That's probably orders from their bosses anyway. If you call to follow up on a job you really want, a slightly lower percentage, maybe 85%, will simply use their caller ID to ignore you and allow you to leave a message which they promptly delete with no further action. Then there are those with contract roles. I actually had a guy offer $55/hr on W2 to work in LA. To get$55/hr in Detroit money in LA means you need to get $81/hr (per the Bankrate.com COL calculator). A$55 rate in LA is equivalent to a $55(55/81)=$37 in Detroit! I call these recruiters "bottom fishers" who are preying on people who are desperate or never think about the higher COL in the client locations. I've actually received calls and emails for < \$30/hr in Detroit money for W2 contract roles! Arghh! I've started blocking repeat phone numbers and emails from this seemingly endless stream of scum balls!

Am I wrong to suggest that the average head hunter has no skill, no manners, and a moral compass with all points directed solely at his/her bank account?

H. Bruce Jackson
ElectroMechanical Product Development
UMD 1984
UCF 1993

#### Quote (tunalover)

Arghh! I've started blocking repeat phone numbers and emails from this seemingly endless stream of scum balls!
It may be time to change phone numbers, to flush the marketeers from your life.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

I know someone who was reached by a headhunter and used the offer of contract work to bring their boss to the table. They suddenly had time to make good on the 'permanent' side of their 'temp to perm' working agreement.

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