Never Worked with a Headhunter Before? Here’s How to Tell the Best From the Rest

As our relationship with work changes, more and more companies are looking for ways to improve their recruitment processes. They may start by increasing pay, offering flexible working options, and increasing benefits. If candidates still are not applying, they may turn to the assistance of a recruitment or headhunting company.

If you’ve never worked with a headhunter before, you might be wondering what to expect from the process. It’s important that you gather this information beforehand. Not all headhunters are created equal. Some may boast of their impressive results but leave you in the dark as to how they actually go about sourcing candidates. Others may limit their communication to the point where you don’t hear from them for weeks at a time. With limited knowledge of the recruitment process, you’ll be left wondering if this is normal or whether you should be expecting more from the professional relationship.

So before you meet with headhunters and recruitment teams, read on to discover how you can tell the best executive headhunters from the rest.

What is a headhunter?
Let’s start with a definition. A headhunter is someone who provides recruitment services on behalf of an employer. There are many different types of headhunters — an executive headhunter is an individual who specifically hires for C-suite and senior management positions.

These roles typically come with increased demands, and the candidates are expected to bear much responsibility. Oftentimes, the financial and operational success of a company depends on the experience and attributes of the people who occupy these top roles.

A headhunter uses their experience, connections, and industry knowledge to source top candidates who are expected to succeed in the advertised role. Some headhunters may provide additional services beyond this, helping the successful candidate to adjust to their new position and providing feedback to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.

Top headhunter traits
As mentioned, there’s a significant difference between top headhunters and those who struggle to make a mark on the industry. The former are likely to share the following key traits:

Experience: You can’t put a price on experience, particularly when it comes to headhunting and recruitment. The best executive headhunters are those that have previously worked in your industry, understand the demands of the advertised role, and can therefore source candidates that are suited to the pressure and will make a genuine, positive impact in their new position.
Industry knowledge: Some executive headhunters limit themselves to working in one industry, whilst others are more broad in their services. Either approach is fine, as long as your chosen headhunter has experience working in your specific sector. If you’re looking to hire a CFO for an industrial manufacturing company, you don’t want to work with a headhunter who has previously only recruited in education. They simply won’t understand what they’re looking for.
Confidence and persistence: These two personal attributes are closely linked. Headhunting is not an easy business. It may take a little time to find the right candidate. The best executive headhunters are those that may get knocked down but get right back up again, confident in the knowledge that the perfect person is out there.

How the process works
The process of using an executive headhunter differs from firm to firm. Keep in mind that working with a headhunter is meant to streamline the recruitment process. So, however your headhunter approaches the situation, ensure they are giving their full time and attention to the task. You should not feel as if you are constantly having to follow up on their work.

Gather information: In order to source the right candidate, your headhunter needs to know exactly what you are looking for. Whether they meet with you in person or virtually, they should come away with a strict set of criteria and an understanding of your company culture and ethos.
Reach out to industry connections: The best executive headhunters have a broad range of industry connections they can tap into. They will be able to identify which top candidates might be looking for a new position and who could be persuaded by the right opportunity.
Screening and interview: Interviewing candidates is probably the most important and time-consuming part of the recruitment process. Fortunately, working with an executive headhunter means you won’t have to be any more involved than you want. Your headhunter can also check references and conduct any additional screening processes, which are often required for top positions.
Onboarding: Depending on the headhunter, some firms may even offer additional onboarding services, to help the candidate settle into their new role. The demands and responsibilities of a C-suite position means it can take a little time for a candidate to feel comfortable working with the rest of the team. The best executive headhunters help facilitate this process.

Above all, the right headhunter will simply click. They will express charm, charisma, and confidence that the right candidate is out there — they just have to find them!

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