Headhunter FAQs and Musings


Client List for Discovery Personnel

I am often asked to provide a list of companies that have used our recruiting service. Very often this is a verbal request, and I can never remember all of our clients off the top of my head. So I am providing the following list of companies where we have placed candidates:

2017: Sabert

2016: Nypro/Jabil and Bericap

2015: Zeller Plastics

2014: Garner Industries, Western Industries, Vish Group, and Lenco Plastics

2013: Trugreen, Semco, Bergen, and Samsung Chemical

2012: Commercial Plastics, Pacific Allied, Semco, Dekko and Chemtainer

2011: GW Plastics, Bericap, Plastics Color Services, and Conductive Containers

2010: TriPack, Cortland Plastics, Rexnord and Priority Plastics

2009: Sukano Polymers, Midland Plastics, and ASK Plastics

2008: Water Gremlin, Rexnord, Cascade Plastics

2007: Trim-Lok, Advanced Composites, Forte Products, Cascade Plastics, Flexsol, Dixie Poly Drum, Texas Extrusions, Lenco, Tupperware, Premier Plastics

2006: Entegris, Al Morrell, CH Recycling, Brotex, Victor Plastics, Graham Packaging, Leon Plastics, Prairie Packaging, Trim-Lok, Advanced Composities

2005: Climatech, Vision Ease, Merrills Packaging, Zadepack, Entegris, Greystone

2004: Quality Culvert, Entegris, Ecowater, GY Packaging, Desert Plastics

2003: Ecowater, Novapak, Cycle Plastics, Amcor, Community Health Partners, Randy Hanger, NCM in Iowa (custom injection molder)

Some of these companies are no longer in business (not our fault!) but this list does provide a good representation of the type of companies we have worked with over the last 30 years. The level of these placements range from a janitor (no one is more surprised that we placed an janitor than me) to company Presidents and General Managers (not so surprising).


Companies Ask, Why Can’t Headhunters Find The “Right Candidate?”

As a third-party recruiter for the plastics, packaging and medical device industries, I enjoy reading postings and spam e-mails telling people how easy it is to make “big bucks” as a recruiter. These e-mails usually say the only tools needed to earn $30,000 a month as an executive recruiter are a telephone, computer, and a list of companies—which the spamming company will provide at a nominal price.  Even with the low cost of entry into the recruiting industry and the large number of trainers wanting to help new recruiters, one of the most difficult parts of being a recruiter is trying to figure out whom (or what) the company really wants to hire.

As a job opening moves higher up the corporate ladder, the harder it is for the hiring company to accurately define the attributes and skills needed for the position they wish to fill. I recently worked with a firm that was trying to start a new business in bio-degradable plastic film. This company initially told me they wanted a salesperson with lots of experience selling plastic films to the packaging industry. I gave them a couple of individuals that could fill that position rather well. These candidates were interviewed, and the company liked one of the interviewees well enough that they did reference and background checks. Then they decided they probably needed a Technical Manager with bio-degradable plastic film development experience. I provided them with an individual who possessed all of the updated qualifications and he was likewise interviewed. The company then decided a less experienced individual contributor with any plastic experience at all would probably be better. Again, I presented a couple of candidates that met the new requirements, but never received any feedback. Numerous attempts to contact the HR Manager went unanswered.

Filling a position requires a lot of valuable time and monetary resources for the company as well as they recruiter.  When recruiters are trying to hit a moving target it can be very frustrating for everyone in the hiring loop. Candidates waste vacation time traveling to a company that is usually not conveniently located. Human Resources has to set up several interview trips and perform reference checks, and managers have to make themselves available to interview the candidates. This does not even include the time spent by the recruiting firms or in-house recruiter trying to find suitable candidates. This situation can often be blamed on poor business planning, or sometimes a changing business environment. Nonetheless, often this loss of time and money can often be avoided if the hiring manager honestly answers some the following basic questions before starting the job search:

  1. Do we really have a job to fill (or are we putting the cart before the horse)?
  2. Do we know what we want (or are we hoping that we will know when we see it)?
  3. Do we have a current accurate job description for the position we are trying to fill?
  4. What will success in the position look like?
  5. What problems are we hiring the candidate solve?
  6. What type of individual will best fit our culture?
  7. Are we trying fill a position that requires two or three levels of skills (e.g. Laboratory Worker, Salesperson, and Tech Manager)?
  8. Are we trying to hire a strategic thinker to fill an individual contributor role?
  9. Are we really listening to the recruiter when they tell us the salary being offered is too low, or search area needs to opened up, etc.

The next time a human resources or a third-party recruiter fails to find you the employee you desire, review these nine questions and make sure you are part of the hiring solution and not part of the hiring problem.


Are All Plastics Recruiters Created Equal?

We know that finding qualified personnel for the plastics industry is difficult—and that you may need a bit of help in that area right now. Have you wondered why that is? With internet sites boasting of “smart” searches and “targeted” ads, shouldn’t it be simple to find expert candidates? With the myriad of recruiting firms clamoring for your business, shouldn’t it be easy to find a recruiter to fill your requirements?

Well, the reality is that for some positions the job boards work great. For certain industry segments, just about any recruiter can find good candidates. But when the position requirements are a bit more restrictive; when the right person is more likely to be a passive candidate; when evaluating a candidate’s fit with your organization’s culture is significantly more important than matching up resumes with keyword checklists—then things get a little tougher. And in plastics, where the technical requirements for a position are usually process and equipment specific, finding good people can be nearly impossible in today’s market.

Of course, you hate to spend money on a recruiter—especially when you know that you could find a good match yourself if you just had a bit more time. But extra time is hard to come by, job postings are pretty expensive in their own right, and even posting on a corporate web site carries the cost of wading through stacks of resumes. Even after filtering out the most promising resumes, you know that you’re not necessarily looking at the best candidates; just those that happen to be actively looking for new employment, and those that possess enough writing talent to convey a sense of their capabilities (whether real or imagined).

So, perhaps with some reluctance, you may decide that you need the services of a “plastics” recruiter. There are lots of plastics recruiters to choose from. If you do a search for “plastics recruiters” on Google, you’ll have no trouble finding them. Just to save you the trouble, here are links to six plastics recruiting firms we found on a recent search:

So, whom do you choose, and why in the would you choose Discovery Personnel instead? After all, each of these firms claim to know the industry. Most are members of industry organizations, such as the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) or the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). They all claim to know where to find the best candidates, with access to the most complete databases, and unmatched industry insight. (Some of their websites look pretty nice, too.) So again, whom do you choose?

What makes Discovery Personnel unique is our experience in the plastics industry. For the last 24 years, we have recruited solely for the plastics industry. We are not just a branch of a larger recruiting organization. We know plastics, and we know it well. The recruiters in our office have manufacturing and management experience in plastics that most recruiting firms simply cannot provide. While other recruiting firms can find candidates that match resume keywords, they often lack the depth of plastics manufacturing experience needed to identify the intangibles that make or break a new hire. Not only do we know the plastic industry’s hiring needs, processes, and equipment, we know when to seek outside resources from our industry contacts to successfully address our clients’ hiring needs.

Lisa Carpenter, founding partner and President, has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving her degree, she joined the Materials and Plastics Division of General Electric where she worked as a process engineer and supervised production in several facilities. Jim Heilman, Vice-President, earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and later an MBA from the University of Dayton. His 25-year manufacturing career encompassed the development and manufacture of containers, devices, and packages that were thermoformed, extruded, blown, cast, blow molded or injection molded, including stints as design manager, maintenance manager, and production manager.

Discovery Personnel has placed candidates ranging from CNC machine operators to CEOs. We’ve found talented individuals for companies hiring their first employee, and for Fortune 100 firms. When asked to perform a job search, we work with you to minimize your effort during the search process so you can concentrate on more pressing business needs. In addition to supporting your hiring needs through traditional recruiting methods, we also have the flexibility to provide recruiting support on a contract or hourly basis. Details can be determined and arranged on a case by case basis.

Discovery Personnel, Inc. takes every possible measure to be sure we are finding the right candidate for your company. We post positions at discoverypersonnel.com, on over 400 job boards, on the Top Echelon Network (which is the largest network of independent recruiters with over 1,400 recruiters), and with approximately 100 recruiters that specialize in recruiting for the plastics industry that are members of our informal network. Discovery Personnel, Inc. also has a database of over 7,000 candidates and, of course, we do the traditional recruiting thing: getting references and calling into companies that are not, and have not been, our client companies.


How Does Discovery Personnel Find Candidates?

I was once asked, “How does Discovery Personnel find its candidates?” At first I was worried that the company making the inquiry might be trying to learn my hard learned secrets, with the intent of circumventing our services (just remember that even paranoid people have enemies). After thinking about the question, and realizing that the individual asking me the question was not the sinister type, I realized this was a very good question. I quickly sent her an email with an outline of how we go about finding candidates. Most recruiters use many of the same methods as Discovery Personnel, so I thought that writing a brief summary of how we recruit candidates might be worthwhile for companies considering the services of a recruiting firm.

Discovery Personnel usually starts the job search process by posting new jobs (but not all) on our own web site (see our Job Listing). We also post the position with the Top Echelon Network of independent recruiters, which is the largest network of independent recruiters in the United States. Discovery Personnel is a Preferred Member of the Top Echelon Network. Then the job is listed on approximately 400 job boards nationally and some internationally.

After posting the positions on all these sites we run a database search on our own database, which has over 17,000 qualified job seeker resumes, most having experience in the Plastics Industry. The candidates have responded to previous job openings, to our advertisements in plastic industry related magazines, are found by our spider that scours the internet for candidates, or from job seeker resume services such as ExecutiveResumes, ResumeRabbit, etc. After searching our database we search the Top Echelon Network Database which contains approximately 50,000 current and qualified candidate resumes. Recently we have started working with a large and rather well known outplacement service, McKenzie Scott Partners helping to place executives that are being outplaced.

In addition to all of these methods, we contact other recruiters who specialize in placing people in the plastics industry and request their help. Last but not least, Discovery Personnel utilizes the traditional method of calling into companies that our not our client companies to find those hard to find candidates who may not be looking at all.

Needless to say, we look at a lot of resumes and talk to a lot of job seekers before sending a half dozen, or so, targeted resumes to our client company. And then the fun begins…………….


Can’t Recruiters and Client Companies Be Friends?

As a third-party recruiter myself, I’m frequently confused by companies wanting to hire recruiters on a contingency basis. A company will call and ask that we perform searches while they continue to run newspaper ads, place job board listings, and make internal postings. We’re not talking about companies that throw recruiters a bone just to get them to stop calling, I’m talking about companies that call us, and other recruiting firms, and unmistakably ask for our help. If the company believes they can find the employee on their own, why bother dragging recruiters into the process? I suppose Human Resources (or whatever they are called today) believe that by calling a recruiter they will increase the odds of finding the best candidate. Usually, though, they hold the recruiter’s candidates to a higher standard because the recruiter is being paid a fee.

Sometimes I get the feeling that Human Resources Recruiters and Managers are playing a perverse game where, if they find the candidate on their own after hiring a recruiter, they will have demonstrated just how valuable they are to the company. After all, a recruitment fee has been saved. This, unfortunately, presents potential problems for the corporation:

  1. The third-party recruiter might not be willing to work with the company again. This may not be seen as a problem, at least not in the short term, because there is always another recruiter willing to take the job, even if they are not as competent as the original recruiter.
  2. A lawsuit may ensue if the third-party recruiter presents a candidate and the company later “finds the candidate on their own.” Finding candidates after being provided with a name and a resume is not too difficult in the age of the Monster and other job boards. After all, if the candidate already has his or her name on the job board you would have found it eventually, right? The jury is still out on this, so to speak, but why take the risk?
  3. The Human Resources Department could be making better use of their time by doing what they do best and letting the outside recruiter do what he or she does best.
  4. The hiring manager, without knowing it, could be settling for the second, third, or fourth best candidate because the HR Department did not present the best candidate to the hiring manager in order to save a recruiting fee.
  5. Hiring a critical employee might be delayed, and untold profits lost, while the search for a “free candidate” continues.
  6. Running advertisements in newspapers and on job boards is not cheap and hiring people to sort through hundreds of resumes is even more expensive.

My point is that, if you really feel you do not need a third-party recruiter’s help, don’t hire them. The main thing an outside recruiter has to offer is their time and expertise. If they do not spend their time well, then they are not making money. If third-party recruiters are not making money, then they will soon be out of business. If third party recruiters all go out of business where will the corporate world be? Maybe I don’t want to go there, but you get the general idea.


Preparing For a Job Search – Questions That Need To Be Answered

When beginning a job search Discovery Personnel’s Technical Recruiters ask the following questions:

  1. Why would someone want to work for your company?
  2. What will the candidate actually be expected to accomplish in the position (not just be able to lift 50 lbs.,)?
  3. What sets you apart from your competition?
  4. What do you offer your workers that is unique?
  5. What Healthcare benefits are being offered in the Obamacare era?

Often these questions irritate hiring managers because they find it difficult to understand why anyone would not want to, leave a comfortable position, uproot their family, and come to work for their company. However, these questions are very important, especially if the company is trying to fill a position requiring specific skills or education. Today’s candidates are searching for more than just a pay check, and being able to provide a credible answer for these questions goes a long way toward identifying and eventually hiring the best candidates.

Many companies do not want to hire candidates who are currently out of work, believing that gainfully employed individuals must be the best-of-the-best (not always the case, but that is a blog for another day). How can we (or any other recruiting firm) entice a passive candidate to leave their job if your firm is not offering a better opportunity? Candidates find it far easier to deal with the devil they know—and are not easily convinced to leave a satisfying or relatively safe position. If you hope to hire top talent, these questions need to be answered before starting, or hiring someone to start, a job search.


Marketing To Job Seekers

Companies looking to fill a new or replacement position within the company usually post a job description on their web site, run an advertisement in the local newspaper with an abreviated job description, or hire a third party recruiting firm (headhunter) to fill the position after giving them the job description. There is nothing wrong with providing candidates a job description, per se, but in order to run an effective job search the hiring company needs to provide more information to the job seekers and/or the third party recruiting firm(s). Information rarely included in the job description but often requested by job seekers includes:

  • “What will I get to do and will my contributions to the company be recognized?” (You would be surprised by how many job descriptions do not include an accurate description of the work that needs to be done)
  • “What will I earn?” (I know job seekers should only be worried about the job and not the $ but to some people money is important and the word “competitive” just does not get it done)
  • “What are the benefits?” (An increasingly important issue for job seekers as benefits go the way of the dodo bird)
  • “What will I get to accomplish?” (Job seekers do not want to feel like a very small cog in the company drive train)
  • “Who will I be working with?” (Can be very important for younger job seekers looking for a mentor)
  • “Are there promotional opportunities in this position?” (Companies that have a policy and a record of promoting from within have a real advantage answering this question).
  • “What will I get to learn and is their any training provided?” (Very important for entry level job seekers)


Saving Time and Money by Using a Recruiter

As a third-party recruiter (headhunter) I may be a bit biased, but having previously worked as a hiring manager for 16 years, I have directly or indirectly retained the services of many headhunters to find engineers and technicians. The most obvious reason to hire a headhunter is to save time and money (yes hiring a headhunter can be less expensive in the long run). Of course, everyone hates to spend money to obtain the services of a recruiter—especially when you know that you could find the perfect candidate, if you just had a bit more time. But extra time is hard to come by in this era of ever increasing job responsibilities and shrinking staffs. In this business era, the old “time is money” cliche was never more true.

Savings realized from retaining the services of third-party recruiters are usually from hidden costs that are tough to quantify. The most obvious savings comes from giving the human resources personnel more time to develop better programs to reduce benefit costs, work more closely with managers and supervisors, develop employee retention programs to retain employees, concentrate on diversity hiring, solve employee issues, etc. Quality of life and family issues might also improve for the HR personnel because they would not be expected to do telephone screenings from their homes in the evenings and weekends.

Another lost opportunity cost is due to hiring from a weak candidate pool. Time issues often force companies to use the historical methods of candidate searches; e.g. help wanted ads in newspapers, job boards such as Monster, and paying employees to recommend their friends. Unfortunately for those using traditional recruiting methods, the best people (the top ten percent or so) are not looking for a job. They are not reading “Help Wanted” ads or job board listings. Hiring the friends of individuals already working in the company frequently reduces diversity in the hiring process. Thus, a hiring company may be left with a pool of candidates that are out of work, disgruntled employees who might bring their bad attitudes with them—usually not the upper tier candidates you want in your organization.

There are several reasons that Human Resources cannot find these hidden prospects. Developing a database of potential candidates takes a lot of time. Calling into your competitor to recruit their employees can result in lawsuits or, at the very least, a tit-for-tat situation where they try to hire your employees.

Most third-party recruiters have their own candidate database. They may also rely on a consolidated database provided through an association of recruiters, such as Top Echelon Network or the National Personnel Associates Cooperative. These databases contain information about candidates that will not br found on the job boards. Third party recruiters can also call into competitor’s companies with little (but not zero) chance of creating lawsuits. Third-party recruiters can also be given a list of competing companies where they might successfully “harvest” candidates.

The final lost opportunity cost is due to delays in the hiring process. This cost can actually be the largest and hardest to identify. When I was an engineering manager, I often spent my employer’s hard earned money utilizing the services of an outside recruiter because of the need to fill a critical engineering position quickly. I could not wait for HR to run advertisements and wait weeks for responses (pre-Monster era). Very often not having that key engineer was costing the corporation tens of thousands of dollars per week in lost revenue because the launch of a key product or execution of a major cost reduction project was being delayed.

Let’s face it, hiring is usually relegated to catch-as-catch-can priority across all levels of the organization, not just Human Resources. Often the company that states “our employees are our greatest asset” is just as guilty about giving hiring too low a priority as the company that believes their employees are a pain in the ass… but unfortunately cannot make the product(s) without them. Hiring a third-party recruiter can bring an urgency to the hiring process that is badly needed.