Home / Industry / Human Resource /  Headhunters turn poaching targets in talent war

MUMBAI : Yogesh Sharma lives in Jaigaon, West Bengal, a small town bordering Bhutan. The 22-year-old works for CIEL HR Services and helps source candidates across India for clients of the Bengaluru-based recruitment firm. Some of Sharma’s colleagues belong to Brahmapur (Odisha) and Purulia (West Bengal).

“I need to hire 200 recruiters this year, and it is very difficult to get them. I am going deeper into smaller towns to get them," said CIEL’s director Aditya Narayan Mishra.

Mishra’s predicament underscores a demand boom in the manpower recruitment market, mirroring the technology sector, that has forced companies to head out to smaller towns and cities to add new recruiters.

Several recruiters who look for potential candidates for job openings are being themselves offered double-digit salary increments and bonuses by their employers in the hope of retaining them. Some of them are being hired by corporates for their own human resources teams. This is contrary to many other industries that have retrenched staff and frozen pay to cope with the turmoil unleashed by the pandemic.

One of India’s top manpower hiring firms, ABC Consultants, requires 210 recruiters. It had 480 recruiters in 2019, which has since more than doubled to 1,150, but those are not enough to meet the increasing candidate hiring mandates. “I have to refuse two out of three of my clients. Demand for recruiters is at an all-time high, and many are joining corporates," said Shiv Agrawal, managing director at ABC Consultants.

Attrition and drop-out rates are acute in junior- and middle-management levels. Consultants say recruiters are one of the most sought-after roles, and many are heading to B-schools to hire staff.

“There is a big demand for recruiters, and it is a viable profession. Switching from one recruitment firm to another can happen at a 20-30% hike, and even on the day of joining, the candidate could drop out if his firm matches it," said A.R. Ramesh, director - digital business solutions, professional staffing and international engagement at Adecco, India.

The recruitment industry is split into staffing firms who hire in large numbers, both temporary and permanent workforce; recruitment firms who take care of junior and middle management; and search consultants, popularly called headhunters, who take the CXO or leadership position mandates.

K. Sudarshan, managing director of executive search firm EMA Partners India, said staff with 2-3 years of work experience are being hired by corporates.

A Bengaluru-based headhunter, who did not want to be named, said those with niche hiring skills can command a hike of as much as 80% while shifting jobs and may still get a counter offer from employers.

The sector is fragmented, and many have joined the industry even as part-time workers to source candidates and sift through resumes for large placement firms.

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