‘Headhunting’ - one of the most overused phrases in recruitment. We’ve all seen people pitching themselves as Headhunters, the self-proclaimed holy grail of recruitment industry job titles, but the fact is that Headhunting and working with one is actually an art form. You might also be surprised that a seasoned Headhunter will expect more from you than you think.
Over the past 20 years we’ve placed hundreds of Senior Executives with employers large and small around the world. We’ve dealt with thousands of candidates and nearly all have different expectations of what a Headhunter does and how they should deal with them.
Here are our top 10 tips for choosing and working with a Headhunter.
1. Choose carefully!
Headhunter is a term which is both overused and misused. You’re going to have lots of options but it’s important that you trust, respect and connect with your chosen Headhunter – after all this is your career we are talking about!
2. What’s their speciality?
A Headhunter can’t be a jack of all trades. Their knowledge and networks will be strongest in a niche, so make sure it’s the one you specialise in. Companies are increasingly appointing sector specialist Headhunters, don’t miss out by working with a generalist.
3. Do your homework
You wouldn’t employ a Contractor to build your house without checking their credentials and the same theory applies to choosing the right Headhunter. What level of people do they place? Where do they make most of their placements? What understanding do they have of your sector? What regions are they best at? Don’t leave any questions unanswered and make sure that you do your homework on them.
4. The power of one
Although not a hard and fast rule, ideally you should work with just one Headhunter, or at most two or three if you are looking to cover multiple niches or geographies. Be realistic – a top Headhunter will not invest their time in you unless they are working with you exclusively. Nothing devalues you as a candidate faster than your CV arriving on the same employer’s desk from multiple sources.
5. You will be judged!
The truth is that a Headhunter will judge you, so make sure that you represent yourself well. Poorly written CV’s or inadequate interviews are just not acceptable at this level.
6. What’s your value proposition?
This is one of the first questions a good Headhunter will ask you, so make sure you know the answer and can articulate it well. Many Senior Executives are long on experience but short on achievements!
7. Money talks!
The harsh reality is that Headhunters are paid by their clients to deliver a shortlist of candidates that match a very specific brief. If you don’t meet this brief then you are unlikely to get shortlisted. Accept it and move on because the Headhunter will have.
8. Sell yourself
A client looking to make a senior appointment will rely on the Headhunters opinion more than anyone else (that’s what they’re paying them for). Don’t be shy – you need to sell yourself to the Headhunter from the get go. You must be able to talk fluently about how you meet and exceed the requirements of the role and be prepared to answer some challenging questions.
9. Job hoppers beware!
Headhunters don’t like job hoppers. Although they will always have great reasons for short tenure in multiple roles, they’re too risky. If you are one, you’re at an immediate disadvantage, so be prepared to work hard to overcome it.
10. All eyes on you
A good Headhunter will do their homework, so you need to realise that you will be checked out. Headhunters need to build a complete picture of you, so make sure you paint one that represents you at your best. Be on your ‘A game’ over the phone, in person and be careful what you say and do on social media, like LinkedIn.
There are lots of other opinions out there on Headhunters and how to best deal with them, but from my experience if you can follow these basic 10 steps then you’re more likely to be successful.