December 7, 2022

Headhunter Sends Stark Robocall Seeking College Recruiting Chief

Headhunter Sends Stark Robocall Seeking College Recruiting Chief

A recorded message sent from a corporate headhunter to various people in the for-profit college industry is getting attention from some industry members, because it is apparently an unusual use of so-called robocalling. The recording also presents in stark terms the kind of mercenary activity that is taking place with taxpayer-funded higher education dollars.

In the recording obtained by Republic Report, Serge Utin, a partner at the Los Angeles based executive recruiting firm Core Mission Group, says:

Good morning, uh, this is Serge Utin. I’m looking for referrals. We’re currently recruiting for a top-level vice chancellor, um, vice president of admissions and marketing for a major university system. This job pays over $400,000 salary with substantial equity. What they need is a very strong executive who has had experience running school system-wide admissions and marketing for a total enrolled student population of at least 30,000, preferably 50,000, both on campus and online. We’re offering a very substantial finder’s fee for a referral that will result in placement in this position. Please get back to me if you know somebody who would fit that bill.  My number is …

An industry executive said he received calls every week from recruiters seeking to fill positions in the for-profit college industry, but he had never, until now, received a robocall for that purpose. Another industry person reports receiving the same apparently pre-recorded Utin message. The executive said of Utin’s call, “It is odd how he did it.” He speculated that the school seeking to hire had engaged multiple executive recruiting firms, a common practice in the industry, so a headhunter might be motivated to such mass calling. “In the for-profit industry they say, ‘first to contact, first to contract,'” the executive remarked.

Given the relentless robocalling to which for-profit college recruiters subject prospective students, it was perhaps only a matter of time before industry executives started robocalling each other.

I don’t know if Utin’s client knows he has turned to robocall recruiting. Core Mission Group has not responded to my request for comment.

But the company’s robocall offers another chance to see how people talk and things get done behind the scenes in the for-profit college industry, whose schools receive billions of dollars from the U.S. government every year and are thereby entrusted with being educators, with training people for better futures.

The executive I spoke with, asked about the message’s blatant emphasis on the substantial compensation for the recruiting role, the requirement of experience with student populations in the tens of thousands, and a big finder’s fee reflecting the urgency of filling the admissions job, said it appeared, for the client school, that “it’s not about recruiting a qualified class, it’s about bringing in numbers.” Big numbers of students means potentially hundreds of millions annually in federal taxpayer-funded student grants and loans. And selling high-priced programs at schools that chronically underspend on instruction (teachers at these schools do not get paid anything approaching $400,000 plus equity) has often involved aggressive and deceptive marketing and recruiting.

An executive who focuses on recruiting senior non-profit college and university leaders, from a major national headhunter firm, said that, even for many schools that avoid systematic deceptive recruiting and spend adequately on instruction, the admissions job can be a sales job, with active efforts required to recruit a full contingent of students each year. But while he said executive recruiters in his world might send nearly identical emails to a long list of contacts in the field, they don’t hit their professional contacts with robocalls.