PE Headhunters and their little games

Dear WSOchimps,

 

My name is Patrick and I am following this forum for at least 5 years. After graduating from a well-known Msc in Finance in Europe and some time in M&A, I am now  in PE investments and love the work.

However, something bugs me.

Some while ago when I was trying to switch to the buy side, a headhunter from the UK contacted me. After a short phone interview, we exchanged email and a couple of days afterwards he called me back saying I have an interview at a nice PE firm in my city. I think that I was a good fit for this firm for several reasons, so I wasn't that surprised.

A week after that I saw on LinkedIn that this firm indeed posted the job opening.

I didn't apply, knowing that I already have an interview and it wouldn't even be legal for me to do so (not sure about that) because I delegated that to "my" headhunter .

A couple of days after that the headhunter didn't answer my email.

Obviously, I rushed to apply to the job, but the job opening was already closed.

The HR guy at the firm said he was never in contact with my headhunter or his firm and never saw my CV.

Needless to say, I've never heard back from the headhunter.

 

My question(s): How should I handle this kind of situation I the near future? Is it market practice/legal to contact a firm to check if the headhunter indeed is negotiating a first-round interview? What was the game the headhunter was playing with me? I am kinda new to this headhunting thing so please enlighten me.

 

Thank you in advance for your answer my dear chimps

Patrick

Comments (13)

Jan 8, 2022 - 3:46pm

Hi Patrick, 

had a very similar situation in the past and was also very surprised, how some headhunters are unfortunately very unprofessional. After this experience, which was at the very beginning of my move from a LMM PE to a MM PE firm in continental Europe, I decided to only work with established headhunters in my country as well as the UK. This worked actually pretty well for me. 

Back to your question: Many of the UK headhunters pick up rumors from the market, that some fund will be searching in the near future and try to collect as many CV´s as possible of candidates and send them to the fund, without having an actual mandate. I think with some smaller funds this tactic could work, but is not very trustworthy since the candidate does not know always where his CV is distributed. Some of my friends applied at a fund through an (good) headhunter, only to get the feedback, that the company already has their CV. And sometimes, the headhunter gets rejected by the fund before he sends them anything and this leads to similar situations as yours 

How to avoid the situation: I don´t know who your headhunter was, but would rather reach out yourself to the top and trustworthy firms and try to go with them. If they have a mandate, they will send your CV. If not, and even top headhunter does this, they will try to pitch with your profile in order to place someone. Which could lead to this exact situation of yours again, which occurs very rarely, but hard to avoid. 

Is it market practice/legal to contact a firm to check if the headhunter indeed is negotiating a first-round interview: Wouldn't do that. Could come across a bit needy and could backfire with your headhunter. Leading to, that you will not get offered other positions from the headhunter. 

 

If you want more insights on good headhunters in UK/Europe, shoot me a PN. Happy to help and also curious, which of the UK headhunter this was. 

Jan 10, 2022 - 3:36am

How to avoid the situation: I don´t know who your headhunter was, but would rather reach out yourself to the top and trustworthy firms and try to go with them.

That certainly makes sense, I will think about it. Thanks.

Investment Analyst - Private Equity
Most Helpful
  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Jan 8, 2022 - 4:22pm

You don't have a headhunter. You're the product not the customer. They don't give a shit about you.

Second, there's a very wide quality range in the headhunter business ranging from white shoe firms like Egohn Zehnder to actual criminals like Pinpoint Partners. You should only deal with reputable people and should consider any unknown headhunter with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you wanted that job, you should have been all over it. If said head hunter pinged you about it and you didn't meet with the firm within a week (or atleast have it scheduled) that should have been your first indication that either you're not getting an interview or the headhunter is playing games.

Dont trust these people.

  • VP in IB-M&A
Jan 8, 2022 - 7:23pm

Can you elaborate on the criminal comment from pinpoint? One guy reached out to me twice for roles that went no where. Really disliked him.

Jan 10, 2022 - 3:34am

You don't have a headhunter. You're the product not the customer. They don't give a shit about you.

[...]

Dont trust these people.

Got it, thank you very much. I will certainly be more choosy in the near future, and less passive during the HH process.

Investment Analyst - Private Equity
Jan 10, 2022 - 7:34am

Echo many thoughts from the comments above, a headhunter doesn't work for you - you are simply a product for them. I think it's useful to build meaningful relationships with many of these firms and have a couple of people within them who can say you're a suitable candidate, with clear thoughts on career progression, sector / deal experience and language skills ( i.e. KEA, PER etc.) but don't feel like you owe them anything.

I think the whole recruitment industry in banking / PE can be a load of balls tbh. Got asked how to do a DCF analysis by a headhunter only last week, although this was definitely not a reputable recruitment company and I've essentially blacklisted them :-)

Jan 11, 2022 - 2:37am

I think it's useful to build meaningful relationships with many of these firms and have a couple of people within them who can say you're a suitable candidate

Working on that right now, thanks!

Investment Analyst - Private Equity
Jan 10, 2022 - 8:07pm

Wondering does anyone have any ideas on ways to play games back at them? As in does anyone have any tricks they use to make headhunters think they're a shoe-in for a role to incentivise the headhunter to put them forward as an easy fee event?

This doesn't really help me very much but my personal favourite is to say "Oh you're recruiting for Blackstone? Funny, KEA/PER/Walker Hamill (delete as appropriate) also told me they're recruiting for that role." Watch them lose their minds.

Jan 14, 2022 - 6:56am

I'm not that evil + I wouldn't want to make up lies which could make me less trustful. The junior recruiters at these firms are just doing their jobs (most likely to pay rent / student debt etc ) and the structure is not entirely their fault.

Unfortunately most PE jobs are sourced through these recruiters, so you have to smile and be on best behaviour. I understand your frustration.

Jan 13, 2022 - 10:47am

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