Headhunters Earn More, Too

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Employees aren't the only ones who can command higher pay in a tight market. It seems headhunters are doing rather well too.

Financial services recruiters are earning fees similar to Hollywood agents according to the Wall Street Letter. Their UK counterparts, too, say fees are also advancing on the other side of the Atlantic - although there the increase is more on a par with Shepperton Studios than Tinsel Town.

"We are less prepared to compromise on fees than we were in the past," says the head of one U.S. search firm in London. "At the same time, we're seeing fees rise as compensation itself rises - they're up 15 percent to 20 percent on last year."

Search fees are usually paid in three slices: when the company is hired, on the production of a shortlist and once a candidate has been hired. In the downturn of 2001 and 2002, many firms were forced to cut fees considerably and forego the upfront element in favor of a fee focused on delivery.

The experience appears to have had a lasting impact. "We don't want to increase fees too much in case it comes back to bite us," says the managing director of one financial search firm. "If you put clients over a barrel in good times, they'll remember it when times are bad."

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