The REAL Reality of Headhunting…

Kathy Rapp Kathy Rapp, Recruiting, Television

I hate the term “headhunter”.  When I made the jump to the dark side, as my HR colleagues like to joke, I wanted to find a new name for what my company does.  When I describe it to others, invariably I’ll get, “Oh, you’re a headhunter”.  Ugh, and yes, this is MY bias and personal issue with not wanting to be lumped into an industry that has a hit or miss reputation.


Bravo has piloted a new show, “The Headhuntress“, where Wendy Doulton is apparently being dubbed the Simon Cowell of headhunting.  I’ve seen the show and Wendy is no Simon Cowell, but she is “real” with her clients and candidates. Based on what I saw, it could be brilliant…entertainment.

In Wendy’s British accent: “A resume should be like a skirt. Long enough to cover the basics, short enough to keep them interested”. Classic.

What the blog-sphere and uptight recruiters are already saying is the show is not a true representation of reality, likely due to Wendy doling out advice to a former porn star and other misfits about how to present themselves better in an interview and it is actually working.  Please, this is a reality show on Bravo.  No one needs to get his or her undies in a wad over a show that may not even be picked up!

Besides, let’s face it.  There is a sleazy and cheesy side to some who work in recruiting.  It is sales after all.  BUT, there are those who do things differently and actually help a candidate or a client present themselves in the best way possible – and truthfully.  If this is what Wendy ultimately does, more power to her.  It’s not like she doesn’t have some street cred as she did a stint in corporate TA roles at Yahoo Media Group and DreamWorksSKG.

But back to my personal dilemma regarding the terminology in recruiting.  What other (appropriate for all audiences) terms are there for headhunter or recruiter? Talent acquisition specialist is sooo overdone as are the many titles with talent or business partner in them.  Come on – I know this is a creative audience so hit me with the new “HR Business Partner” title for recruiting.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep focused on the real reality of recruiting.  Specifically helping candidates and clients see that when you work with the right recruiting partner, you won’t get a porn star in a suit or a jazzed up resume or elevator speech that isn’t a true reflection of what a candidate has actually done.

Our jobs in the headhunting industry should be to challenge clients appropriately on who they think they need, who is available, who will fit best with their culture and who will drive results that will enable the business to grow or meet other key objectives.  Our mission should also be to work with candidates by giving the direct, honest and respectful feedback about their fit or lack thereof with a role and how to best present themselves so their true strengths are highlighted.  When this formula is followed, the end result is well….brilliant AND real.


Kathy Rapp

Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.