The job market has been tight the past six years, and as recent graduates and postgrad veterans alike put their education and work experience on their LinkedIn profiles and on employment websites, it’s inevitable that headhunters are going to contact them. Yes, headhunters. These are the professional “recruiters” for the worst “corporate” jobs in the country. A headhunter’s job is to sell a position to desperate people looking for jobs or people looking to switch careers, and if they have to sell a job to you rather than have you apply for the job, common sense tells you to stay the hell away.
When headhunters try to sell a job to you, they use certain disingenuous language to try and trick you into thinking it’s a great opportunity. Whether you currently have a great job or are unemployed, they use the same pitch to pique your interest. Luckily for you, I translated this bullshit so you know what job they are actually selling you.
“Your achievements have attracted my attention”: This line usually comes in multiple forms. They look at your résumé and at your education and work experience before contacting you, and the gist of it is, “I’ve looked at what you’ve done in school and for work and you are an excellent choice for a position with my company.” Bullshit. Your qualifications may be excellent, but a headhunter really only requires two out of the following three things to feed you this line: a pulse, a college education, and/or work experience. Often, headhunters get kickbacks if they recruit someone who performs well, and usually the employment contract protects the company more than the employee. It’s almost a no lose for them. If one out of five people they recruited succeeds, it’s worth it to them. Classic pyramid scheme crap. Don’t let them stroke your ego into interest, it’s all bullshit.
“We are experiencing extreme growth”: While they are selling you on how great the company is to try to convince you that this is a great opportunity for you, they will usually say the company is growing and they need driven, “top performing” salespeople like yourself (they have no idea what your performance is or has been in the past) to help sustain that growth. No. First of all, it’s probably a company you have never heard of because they are either not a major player or, more likely, they are at the bottom of the pack. They are recruiting salespeople at low risk to themselves to create growth, not support growth. If they were really growing the way they say they are, they would recruit you for customer service or account management so their current salespeople could focus on new accounts.
“Unlimited earning potential”: My friends, this means that, most likely, your compensation will be commission only. No base pay–only small bonus incentives for reaching certain sales goals. Now, if the product is excellent and relatively easy to sell, especially in high volumes, a commission job can be very profitable. If it’s actually a good, reputable company, there is usually base pay involved, plus commission. However, headhunters are never selling you on these kinds of sales jobs. Usually, the product is terrible, tough to sell, you are selling it in low volumes (meaning less money per sale), and sometimes, you have to pay and take a test for some kind of license to sell these products. Think health insurance or financial services–and this means if you don’t sell to some sucker, you actually lose money on this job. If a headhunter has to sell you a sales job, which is what it is 99.9 percent of the time, run.
“Our top salesperson and branch manager made $200,000 last year”: Yes, because the branch manager often gets bonuses based on his branch’s performance, and if he goes on a sales call with a salesperson, the commission often gets split. Even if he is a great salesperson, the average compensation within the branch is what’s important. You’re a grunt, and you are much younger than the top sales guy in the vast majority of cases. The average compensation among salespeople says a lot about the available sales leads, the region, and the product. Anyone in sales will tell you it is tough to sell a shitty product to a small market in a remote region.
Don’t be drawn to an opportunity due to colorful language and ego stroking. These recruiters wouldn’t have to recruit for good jobs. I fell for the trick right out of college, because I graduated during the worst part of the recession when good job opportunities were dropping like your favorite “Game of Thrones” characters. I was desperate to find a job, so I applied everywhere. It was horrible and miserable and I learned the hard way not to buy the bullshit. Now, a few years later, I have a great job that I love and I get paid well.
Apply for the jobs you want, only trust job offers from your friends and family friends, and don’t take a position that does not name some sort of compensation range up front. Headhunters prey on the desperate, and you deserve better.