How to be a good headhunter

‘Headhunter’ is a commonly used term in the world of recruitment, but what exactly does it mean?



The textbook definition of a headhunter is someone who identifies and approaches suitable

candidates to fill a senior position, a style of recruiting that is usually undertaken by recruitment agencies. But at what point does proactive recruiting become headhunting?


There is this area of grey between the two:


A headhunter will actively search and approach candidates who fit a specific brief for a role. They may even be specialists in a specific industry and have knowledge of a client’s market, compared to a traditional recruiter who might work in a variety of markets hiring for a variety of roles.


Both recruiters and headhunters can be successful in finding candidates for a role, but if you are recruiting for a position that is difficult to fill and has an exact criteria, or the ideal candidate for the role is currently employed by someone else and may not be actively looking for change, then headhunting could be the best option.


If you are already, or want to get involved in headhunting, it can be highly rewarding, at all levels. But what are the qualities of a good headhunter? Read on to find out.


1. Good headhunting starts with a good job brief! It is essential that you retrieve a thorough

and meaningful job brief from your client that specifically outlines the criteria for the role.

This will allow you to conduct an appropriate search, identify the correct talent, engage with

that talent in a compelling way, assess the suitability of each individual and also present your

research and decisions confidently to your client.


2. Remember the value of what you are giving to your client. A headhunter is not just a

job-filler, so make sure that your client fully understands this. If you break down the entire

search process and explain the benefits of this process to your client, it requires a more

advanced set of skills than a regular recruiter. A good headhunter has selling knowledge,

accountability, surety, risk control, expertise and strong interpersonal skills, and headhunters

today have created a niche for themselves which is frequently sought after.


3. What value are you giving the candidate? Once again, you are not just a job-filler here. If you just sell the job to the candidate and do nothing else, then your value to the candidate is

simply as a conduit to that job – which is of limited interest. How about selling yourself to

the candidate in the first instance; if the candidate sees value in engaging with you, then a

sense of quality and purpose is achieved leading to better rapport, credibility and esteem.


4. Do your research thoroughly – that’s what separates you from a regular recruiter. All

recruitment firms position their consultants as genuine experts in their field and therefore

feel it is disingenuous to charge an upfront fee to go and do this research. But they can

charge their client a fee to see this research! So make sure you provide enough evidence for

the choices you make.


5. Don't oversell the position to the candidate. By definition, headhunting can make candidates feel valuable – stroking their ego as they have been hand-picked for the role. So be very mindful of your approach. It is important that you show some interest, but know when to keep them at arms length. Keeping a balance in terms of who is chasing who is critical at the early stages.


6. Develop a style of approach and rapport which suits you and your market. If you try to use a style that doesn't come naturally to you, it will come across as inauthentic, but you also have to adapt to the market you are headhunting into.


7. Above all else, be honest, open and proud of what you do. You provide an extremely

valuable service to your clients; which can be easily forgotten. Remind yourself of how

important and life-changing it is for your clients and candidates and the impact you make on

both their personal and business lives. That’s pretty special!


Becoming a good headhunter is one of the many topics we discuss at Enabling Change in our recruitment training courses. To find a programme that suits you, click here. Alternatively, call us on 01264 360234 or email info@enablingchange.co.uk for more information.

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