How to Find a Job via Headhunters

How to Find a Job via Headhunters

When I was running recruitment firms, I got this a lot.  People would call to ask me (and my team) to find them a job.  In this article, I would like to explain how headhunters work, and how you may or may not get their help to find a job.

Headhunters get paid from employers

Everybody knows this, because no one has paid a headhunter to find a job.  But people don’t think about it when they ask me in parties: “Oh, you are a headhunter! Can you find me a job?”

My response is usually, yeah, send me your CV, we’ll take a look.

What happens is, the CV will automatically go to our database, or I would even forward it to a recruiter in the relevant industry specialization.  Which is not that bad. At least there is a chance a recruiter will look at it. It is a recruiter’s job to look at many CVs everyday.

But the bigger questions is, why aren’t my recruiters already looking at your CV?  And why haven’t you already talked to many recruiters?  You really didn’t need my introduction.

How Headhunters Work

In a good market – good economy – most firms are expanding and hiring, and there is a shortage of talent.  Each recruiter probably would have around 10 assignments on hand. They would prioritize the assignments based on

  • whether the assignment is exclusive
  • whether a retainer was paid (upfront fee)
  • how hard it is to find suitable candidates
  • how well they  know the client – how easy they are to work with

Recruitment is a very competitive industry.  Good recruiters are all very specialized in terms of industry.  A good recruiter knows a particular sector very well, has good relationship with a few clients in that sector, and have spent years talking to many candidates.

The question that follows is, why aren’t you already talking to recruiters in your industry regularly? They should already be calling you to lure you with job opportunities, not you calling them to look for a job.

Why aren’t headhunters calling you already?

It always surprised me that many who called to ask for help looking for jobs actually never bothered to create a Linkedin profile.

If you want a headhunter to ever contact you for job opportunities,

  1. create a nice linkedin profile.  (tons to articles telling you how)
  2. connect to recruiters specializing in your industry
  3. be nice to recruiters when they call. Refer others if you are not interested.  That way they remember you when you actually need to look around.

In not so good economy, recruiters “float” candidate CVs to employers who are not known to have open position for such candidate.  This also happens a lot in some firms who are “candidate based”, notably many Japanese firm which do this on all levels.

Sometimes, it actually works to the benefit of all parties.  I have actually “floated” a senior candidate who was a Japanese banker to a large software company in China.  I was having a chat with client, and understood that they wanted to expand in the Japan market. I suggested they hire this candidate because he has relevant network to build their business in Japan.  It had never occurred to client that they should create such a position.  In the end, the candidate was hired, and a couple years later became their head of Japan.

Feed them ideas – it’s all about a good story

In this example, it was my idea, not the candidate’s idea.  But you should constantly look out for this kind of possible synergy, and suggest stories to senior recruiters with whom have become friendly.  Not every recruiter has the leisure to become creative.

People won’t remember your CV.  CVs are boring.  But people will remember your story (if it is interesting).  Better still, a relevant story in which you are a major actor/actress.  If you would do the research work, and supply the story to your favorite recruiters, it could become a big win-win-win.

In sum, each recruiter only works on a handful of deals at any time.  It is highly unlikely that she just happens to have one right for you. Instead of asking a few of them to help when you need to find a job, you need to start building good relationship when you are not looking, and constantly look out for interesting “float” stories to tell your friendly recruiters.

The author has experience running the China business of a Fortune 500 HR service company. 

Leroy Yue Linkedin Profile

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Very fast SD card needed to format as phone memory

Very fast SD card needed to format as phone memory

Android 6 has a new feature to allow an SD memory card to be used as internal phone memory.  Great!  But read this before you go out to buy a new SD card.

This is great news as many older phones have not so much internal memory, but a lot of unnecessary apps that come with the phone which you cannot uninstall.

Mine is an HTC e8.  Yes it is an old model (more than 2 years!) But it has been working well except I run out of phone memory all the time.

So the new Android 6 feature was timely.  But it wasn’t easy to make it work.

First, you’ll need a very fast SD card.  And your computer shopkeeper will have no idea how fast is fast enough for this purpose.  Neither could I find any info from Google search (hence I am writing this article to share my experience)

My existing SD card simply wouldn’t work.  Android said this card is too slow and cannot be used as phone memory.  The screen actually suggested the type of SD card needed.

But such type was not available in the computer shop (a large chain store selling only computer stuff).

There are actually many types of SD cards according to Wikipedia, each has its speed specification.

I ended up buying the fattest one which says 80MBs (up to)


But Android still said it is not fast enough and refuse to use it as phone memory.


Then I realize 90 only refers to the read speed.  The very very small print at the back says the write speed was only 10.

Such unethical false advertising!

So I went to buy another one, this time with write speed of (up to) 90.
(For fast model, they actually print the write speed in readable size at the back)


Now Android said this card was still not fast enough, but it would format it for me but warned me that performance won’t be good.


Of course I went ahead.  I wasn’t gonna but another card.  None faster was available anyway.

The formatting was successful, and there was a function to move some data over to the card.

Now my phone has enough memory to last another couple of years, and I can now update all my apps at once.

Too bad I now don’t have the excuse to buy the new HTC 10.

(To format an SD card to be used as phone memory, go to setting, storage.  Android 6 only.)













最近很多航空公司都在這方面放寬了。有些還提供空中 WiFi 服務(收費的)。 用的還是以前一樣的WiFi,一樣的手機。









病人被確診不治之症,普遍不能接受現實,會到處尋找「偏方」,領導專用御醫,或未經證實有效的實驗治療(experimental treatment)。近期國內大新聞的當事人是找了在外國已經失敗的實驗治療。

國外賣這種東西,會說該實驗治療『 promising 』,即『有希望』。當然是有希望的才繼續實驗。實驗完結後,沒有好結果的,就變成沒希望,就會停,改為研究別的新方法。只不過這次事件,國內醫院告訴病人『能醫好』。




另一個方向是接受 palliative care :中文可以譯成「舒緩治療」。 palliative care 的治療目的不是要把病醫好,而是盡量減低病人痛楚,亦加上心理輔導,盡量提高病人的生命質素 Quality of Life (QoL)。

英文有一句勵志話: Live every day as if it is the last day of your life. 「把每一天當作你生命最後一天來過」。這是寫給健康的人的。確診不治之症的病人更應該考慮,如何好好利用每一天。


Negotiating Source Code License

Negotiating Source Code License

In my years selling enterprise software to multinationals, I have learned a lot about software licenses.  Although the current trend is more towards cloud subscription (used to be called ASP, SAS etc), there are still situations where source code licenses are used.  In this article, I would like to highlight a few points in a source code license arrangement.

Software License 101

Cloud software is easy to understand.  You as a customer, pay on a monthly or annual basis to use a software that resides on the vendor’s software.

In the more traditional model, where you “buy” a piece of software, install it in your computer and use it, you are actually just buying the right to use a copy of the software.  You have not bought the software IP in any ways.

The most common type of software license is called “perpetual license”, where the user gets the right to use the copy forever.   In the Enterprise Software (ERP) world, the software vendor usually charges an annual maintenance fee (20% of the license fee is quite common).  Customers who pay the maintenance fee will get software updates, as well as on-going technical support.  Invariably, the price of the software is proportional to the number of users.  I have also seen software price based on the size of the company (in terms of annual revenue).

It is partly because of the rather high annual maintenance fee that the Cloud model is becoming popular, even for large companies.

Source Code Licensing

In some situations, the vendor will pass the source code to the customer.  Usually this happens when customer also has strong in-house programming capability, and wants to be able to modify the software themselves.

And because the customer will have modified the software, maintenance cannot be done by the vendor.  There is no reason to collect on-going maintenance fee.

As a customer, or as a developer who has crafted a beautiful piece of code, when entering into such a contract to buy/sell source codes, there are several key points to consider:

  1. Notification of source code modification
    • This can become cumbersome.  Since the source code is sold “as is”, there really is no point to notify the vendor every time a change is made.  But this seems to be quite a standard clause.
  2. Transfer of source code to third parties
    • Rightfully, the vendor would not allow customer to pass on the codes to others.  You are only allowed to keep your codes for your own use.
    • However, there may be situation where customer would use outside party to maintain or update the codes.  You want to make sure that the contract language allows for such situations.
  3. Limitation on user count (indirect method)
    • In mainframe computer days, it was customary to specify the power grading of the computer used.  The idea is that, stronger computer could support more users, and the price for the software should be higher for implementations that supports more users.  Consent from vendor is needed before customer can move the software to a more powerful machine.  Translate: pay more before you upgrade the hardware.
    • Nowadays it would seem unrealistic to specify machine type or power grading.  Technology is changing too quickly.  For example, nobody could anticipate the advent of virtual machines.
    • An alternative is to price the source code according to number of end users or revenue generated by the source code.  This would require a mechanism to audit the usage.

Source code sales is inherently complicated.  Both sides should communicate clearly prior to committing.    I have successfully collected a rather large license fee, because customer changed to a bigger machine, and have outsourced maintenance of the code to a third party without our consent.  Legally, they have breached the original contract.  And their right to use the source code is void, meaning they need to shut down.  In the end, the customer had to pay us an additional license fee to rectify.  As the contract was signed many years ago, and not by the current person in charge, you can imagine my customer was not very happy to pay.

If you are a developer, you may want to make sure you have a way to benefit from your invention as your customer grows, in particular because of using your software.

It is not unreasonable to compare software with pharmaceutical IP – the inventor of a new drug gets income for every dose sold.  Of course it depends on your bargaining power: how essential and contributing the software is to your customer.

If you are a customer, you want to make sure you understand the contract terms clearly, and communicate the potential cost consequence internally.



You want to buy a company in Japan too?

You want to buy a company in Japan too?

I receive quite a lot of enquiries from companies in China who want to acquire businesses in Japan.  It usually goes like this:

“We are interested in buying quality companies in Japan, with unique knowhow, good revenue track record and profitability.  Can you let me know if you have available targets? “

“What industry? “

“TMT, Healthcare or High-tech.”

Sure, there are many companies in China that have a lot of money.   But there is a lot of money floating around in Japan too.  Last week I visited a friend in Tokyo who has just set up a fund to do exactly that: acquire good quality companies in Japan.

When a company is for sale, the seller’s advisor will want to solicit a number buyers to bid up the price.  If the company is any good, it should easily attract a large number of indication of interest from within Japan.  After all, deal information rather readily circulate among professionals (in Japanese language only, of course).

The sell-side advisor will then select the top two or three that have the best synergy story for further negotiation.  Surely the ones with good potential synergy can afford the highest bid price.

Good companies available for sell are always a rarity.  It is a seller’s market.

So if deals do end up reaching you across the ocean, they may be of inferior quality, or you may already be in the game too late.

If you do have a strategic need to acquire or JV with a Japanese company, the good thing to do is to start actively reaching out to targets.  You will want to do it anonymously, via a third party, so that no one will lose face if the other side thought the proposition was a laugh.  Obviously, this needs to be done very skillfully, too, according to local etiquette.

These target companies may not even be thinking about selling.  But through the process, you can develop rapport, and sell them your proposed synergy.  When they do decide to sell some or all of their equity, they may still want to engage a professional advisor, who will advise them to compare other potential bidders.  But you will already have developed a strong relationship.  Japanese people always prefer to work with someone they already know. Hopefully your team will already have spent many nights wining and dining with their team.

To start the process, you will need to define what exactly you want, for example, “companies that design and manufacture weight-balancing sensors for humanoid robots” – not “TMT, Healthcare or High-tech”.


Money is needed, but money alone can’t buy rarity items, such as quality companies and True Love.

Strategic thinking and dedicated effort will be required.


The second most difficult interview question

The second most difficult interview question

Last night I attended a career workshop for some bright young students of one of the best boarding schools in Hong Kong. This article summarizes my advice to the young people regarding how to respond to the final question of a job interview:

“OK, do you have any questions?” 

There are a few typical responses.

  1. No, thank you. I am fine for now.
  2. Yes, I read from your website that your mission is to enhance people’s life style by innovative technology. Can you further elaborate?
  3. Yes. How many days of annual leave do I get?

All of the above are wrong answers, with number 1 doing the least damage. If you say you have no question, fine. The interviewer will say “Thank you for coming. We will get back to you soon.”

But if you really ask a question? You ask me to elaborate on the company strategy? Come on, I have already interviewed 5 people today. Do I have to explain our company strategy again? Our strategy, at least the part that I can tell you, is already written on our website. And that press release featuring our CEO. Haven’t you googled and read it already?

The correct way to handle this question is to do what politicians and CEOs are “media-trained” to do. When asked a question, there is no need to really answer. Just say whatever you want to say, and frame it as an answer. In this case, frame what you want to say as a question.

So at the final point of an interview, you want to use the opportunity to reiterate how keen you are, and why they should hire you.  One of the reason must be that you are an interesting person to work with. So make this response interesting.

Research on the internet in advance. Read the company’s new releases. Find a particular point that interests you. Express your view about that issue, and frame it as a question.  For example, “I read that you plan to launch  iPhone 7s soon. I also read rumours saying it can make toast. I think it will be great if it makes cappuccino too. What do you think?”

Or something like that.  Just don’t ask the interviewer to elaborate on stuff already written on their website.

If you can’t figure out something interesting to say to show that you have some relevant ideas of your own, then just use this as a chance to summarize your key strength:

“No, I don’t have any questions now. But I think I am a really suitable candidate of this position because……”

Keep it short and succinct, reminding the interviewer why he/she should hire you.

Oh, the most difficult interview question:

“What are your weaknesses?”

Honestly, I really think this question shouldn’t even be asked. And I never asked it to the many people I have interviewed.

Everyone has weaknesses. You want to test how honest the candidate is by asking this question? If he tells you the truth, he may be jeopardized.  I don’t see how this is a fair or meaningful question.

Most people probably answer like this: “My weakness is that I work too hard.”  or “I am a perfectionist.”

No one is going to tell you that he is not attentive to details when interviewing for an accounting job, or that he really doesn’t like picking up the phone when interviewing for a sales job.

You simply can’t find out true weaknesses from this question. The only effect is to make a bona fide candidate feel awkward.

The best answer to this question I can think of is:

“Chocolate and cheesecake.”

About the Author

Leroy was the Head of China for Kelly Services, a Fortune 500 recruitment and workforce solution company.  Currently he works with an accounting firm as the Head of Advisory, doing cross border business advisory and M&A deals in China, Japan and Hong Kong.

Other articles:

 Why Hong Kong is better than Shanghai

Investing in Japan (despite the slow GDP)