Companies with senior positions to fill often contact creative recruiters. When a recruitment firm is managing a search, the employer pays the fee for their services. Although the amount is usually calculated as a percentage of the first-year base salary for the position being filled, there is no charge to candidates or new hires. There are two different financial models for headhunters: "contingency" recruiters get paid only if they successfully make a placement, whereas "retained" recruiters get part of their fee up front. This retainer compensates them for going through the search process, even if a hire is never made.
For a creative manager with a very heavy workload, it can be a godsend to have a professional recruiter take over the search process. However, when creative firms are not busy, there's more than enough time for them to conduct searches on their own. For this reason, the use of headhunters tends to decline whenever there's a downturn in the economy. Less hiring is done overall and, when positions do open up, companies find candidates without assistance.
Recruiters function as matchmakers. They take care of all screening and testing, which can be very labor-intensive. They also maintain their own databases of qualified candidates. If a position needs to be filled quickly, an initial group of qualified individuals can sometimes be produced within a matter of days. In general, headhunters are not looking to add recent grads to their databases. They prefer to represent individuals who are farther along in their careers. This is because filling senior positions generates larger fees. If a headhunting firm does take you on as a candidate, they will provide you with expert feedback and guidance regarding your portfolio, résumé, interviewing skills, and career strategy. They will also handle all negotiations for salary and benefits.
Each search is covered by a written agreement between the employer and the recruitment firm. Usually, the contract stipulates that the headhunter's fee must be paid if the employer hires a referred candidate for any position at all within an extended period of time, usually one year. It also includes a guarantee that additional candidates will be provided for no additional fee if a new hire is fired or quits within the first few months of employment.
Recruitment firms tend to specialize in filling permanent staff positions. However, some also function as temp agencies or brokers for freelancers. A temp agency sends individuals out on short-term assignments. The individual hands in timesheets and is paid directly by the agency at an agreed-upon hourly rate.
To learn more about recruitment firms, do some research online. You'll find that some headhunter sites only provide a description of services, but others include detailed listings of all positions currently available. To help you with your research, here are several of the best-known recruitment firms in the U.S. design community: