What are headhunting firms, exactly? Well, that’s a great question, because you need to know how to sort the wheat from the chaff if you’re to get the best recruitment success. By success, we mean talent acquisition that isn’t simply a body in a role but a critical driver of your achievements. The problem is that many chameleons state they are headhunting firms when in fact they are anything but. So, how can you know the pros from the con men?
Your first mission is to understand what an exceptional headhunting firm should do. This will enable you to measure the service offered by others against this standard. In this way, you’ll be able to spot the con men looking to cash in on the ‘headhunting’ good reputation.
A headhunting firm is a distinct type of recruitment strategist. They aren’t easily comparable with other forms of recruitment, and it is this which makes them powerful.
A typical recruiting strategy will involve identifying a vacancy and then attempts to create a best match between that vacancy and available candidates. A headhunter will turn this strategy on its head. They will not only stare down the barrel of a vacancy but will uncover how that vacancy adds value to the business. Then they will go and hunt down the individual who can deliver the skills to add that value. That individual is unlikely sat around editing their CV and being an active candidate. Instead, they will currently be demonstrating their worth elsewhere. It’s the headhunter’s mission to find them.
In practice, this leads a headhunting firm like Eagle to adopt the following process:
So that’s what a headhunting firm should do. However, pop ‘headhunters’ into a search engine, and you’ll be spewed a list of results which will just bewilder. You’ll find a complete jumble of recruitment agencies in different guises. How do you identify these?
Your first indication is to take a quick look around the site. Who is the focus on? With a headhunting firm the focus is, and always will be, on you, the recruiting organisation. Yes, there may be a brief way for prospective candidates to lodge interest, but the focus is on the actual client. Even if a recruitment agency calls themselves a headhunting firm, if the focus is equally on gaining candidates as it is on gaining employers then the chances are they aren’t what you’re looking for.
Then look a little deeper. Is there a section which identifies their process? Does it look similar to the Eagle headhunting process above? Can you search for candidates on their site? These are all clues that will often uncover a standard recruitment agency attempting to cash-in on the headhunting name.
Finally, your last clue will come in the contact. Whilst headhunting can be a speedy form of recruitment, with the process from vacancy to offer taking around one month to complete, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be getting a list of candidates on the day you first make contact. If you do, these will be generic active candidates and all that’s happening is the recruitment agency has logged in to their database and matched CV’s to job descriptions.
Standard recruitment agencies have their place. They are excellent for lower-level generic recruitment. They aren’t so good when you need executive-level roles which will become the cornerstones of your business success. This is where you need a true headhunting firm.