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Computing Thoughts
The Demise of the Headhunter
by Bruce Eckel
October 23, 2008
Headhunters are like travel agents, except that it's taking the web longer to make them go away.


Of course, there are still a few travel agents around. These are the ones who always did more than just act as intermediaries to the airlines. And especially the ones who didn't take kickbacks for pushing you toward one airline or another. How many times did you find yourself transferring planes because a travel agent declared there were no nonstops, only to find out later there were?

Headhunting is a high-dollar business; a headhunter is often paid a significant percentage according to your first-year's salary. This is in exchange for connecting the right person to the right company.

But as in any business of this kind, people begin to see that the way to make more money is to spend less time with each client (another business is catering, where the caterer can make more money by buying cheaper food). So service goes down.

In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky makes a very compelling case about the effects of organizational costs on the objectives and quality of the organizations. Because the internet can remove many of these costs, many organizations are changing, or new types of organizations are arising. For example, the airline industry has virtually reinvented itself around the web.

This is also true for hiring people. New organizations are arising that allow individuals as well as corporations to connect with talent and hire them as needed, on demand. The true value of outsourcing and offshoring may not be in big-business to big-business connections (where they haven't seemed to work out so well; Fast Company cited that about 50% of offshoring contracts are terminated before the project is done), but instead in small-business to individual connections.

A friend who runs a one-person programming company has recently been hiring people through ODesk and has been very happy with his results. He told me that ELance and RentACoder were two other companies he had looked at.

Have you worked with or become aware of other companies like this? What experiences have you had?

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel ( provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2008 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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