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Joel on Software

Commissioned Headhunters on the Job Board: Good or Bad?

by Joel Spolsky
Thursday, September 07, 2006

It was only a matter of time before the new job board got its first policy violation: a recruiter posting a job without disclosing the name of the company that it was for.

The reason we require a company name, as opposed to a recruiter's name, is because I think that job seekers are sick of looking at generic lists of seemingly anonymous companies. The reason recruiters don't like to post company names is because they don't get a commission unless they refer the employee, so they don't want to take any risk that the candidate will go directly to the company and cut them out of their commission. Also, once the recruiter establishes a relationship with you, they can convince you to apply to all their other jobs, further increasing the chance that they'll get a commission. And they want to build up their resume-files so they can do their job well in the future.

There's a place for recruiters; many of them are very ethical and do great work for their clients on both sides. However, I think there's also a place for a more open market where people can look directly at jobs, then jump to the company's website and decide if that's the kind of company they might want to work for. As I wrote earlier, top developers have a choice of where to work, and they're not very enchanted with the prospects of working for a "leading developer of software products" that needs a "C/C++/XML/HTTP/HTML" to fill a slot.

This is something of a dilemma. I'm pretty sure that job seekers have no interest in a seeing list of pseudo-jobs that are often nothing more than invitations to call a headhunter. On the other hand, headhunters are probably the biggest single spenders on job boards, so I might be antagonizing my biggest potential audience of paying customers.

What should I do?


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