Headhunters become the hunted

Headhunters become the hunted
Michael French

By Michael French

August 2nd 2006 at 10:15AM

As the race to boost next-gen development teams intensifies some studios are reportedly using corporate headhunters to poach staff, much to the annoyance of many UK developers.

In an open letter published in Develop sister magazine MCV (28/7), Team 17, Rockstar Leeds, Bigbig and Evolution have denounced the practices of headhunters that have approached many of their staff personally and tried to lure them away to other studios.

Specifically, the teams say they have been “targeted and also misrepresented by a headhunting agency” which has sent “blanket emails or misrepresented other studios to try and lure staff away.”

The letter goes on to say: “We would like to make it clear that we have no association with this character and wholeheartedly denounce his activities.

“At the same time we would like to stress our continuing commitment to hiring new employees through bona fide sources such as our own recruitment advertisements and leading, reputable agencies; not through parasitic, self-motivated independent headhunters who cause unsettlement and annoyance.”

The agency in question did not respond to an invitation comment.

The letter came on the heels of a complaint from an anonymous studio boss who told MCV of his team being approached in a similar manner.

“Recently at our studio many of our staff have received, direct to their work email address, personal ‘invitations’ to join other studios. I say ‘personal’ what I really mean is ‘personalised’ since it’s fairly obvious from the pattern that all the potential recruitment people are doing is looking through the games credits and mass emailing staff,” he said, adding: “My challenge to UK studios is that if you’re recruiting, like we are, then do so on the strength and reputation of your studio, good working practices, honest management and especially how you treat your staff.”

And these five aren’t the only ones – speaking to Develop after the letter was published, another studio business development director branded it a “terrible practice” winding his staff up, too.

“Whatever you say about this being a competitive or commercial industy where technically talented people are in demand, we should expect a shred of decorum in how we’re treating each other. Who knows where you’ll end up working with in future?”