Headhunting – What Is It?

Headhunting – What Is It?

What is Headhunting?

Headhunting (also known as executive search) differs from traditional recruitment in a number of ways. It essentially involves working on behalf of a company to identify suitable candidates for senior managerial and director positions, and other specialised roles within that company.

Headhunters typically specialise in a particular business sector, and have built up a large book of contacts from that sector over an extended period of time. By using these contacts, and conducting additional research via business directories, company websites, networking sites and other sources, they can identify individuals who may be suitable for particular roles.

Once suitable candidates have been identified, the headhunter typically carries out some initial screening, and if an offer is made, assists with contract and salary negotiations. The headhunter will then usually receive a fee equivalent to a percentage of the salary of anyone they successfully place into a new role.

The differences between headhunting and the work of a recruitment consultant are significant, although some companies do offer headhunting services alongside traditional recruitment. The differences include:

  • Headhunting is typically only used for highly paid, senior roles
  • Headhunting is much more proactive than traditional recruitment – rather than waiting for people to apply for a vacancy, a headhunter will seek out individuals who may have the skills, experience and qualifications to carry out the role in question. In many cases, the individual who is headhunted will not even be looking for a new post when the approach is made
  • Headhunters sometimes have to engage in a bit of creative thinking in order to get access to potential candidates. Once a suitable candidate has been identified, the headhunter needs to contact them, and it is not feasible to introduce themselves by telephoning their workplace. Remember that headhunting typically deals with senior staff, who may have a personal assistant or another ‘gatekeeper’ who is the first point of contact for their phone calls. A headhunter may therefore pose as a client or other business associate, firstly to try and obtain the individual’s direct contact information, and then to try and get a one-to-one conversation with the individual.

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