5 Surprising Benefits of Headhunting

The term ‘headhunting’ or ‘proactive search’ is often misunderstood as something used solely for the most senior 2% of roles. There is a preconception that the effort of researching, targeting and contacting someone who is thriving in their role
cannot possibly lead to a positive outcome unless the individual is actually struggling or under threat.  We have found the opposite to be true. 

We use headhunting techniques across most of our roles at Adjacency, within all disciplines.  Proactively approaching individuals who operate in our client’s market gives us the ability to sell our client as a competitor
and the positives of making a move to them. 

Most recruiters rely on their network and an advertisement.  For us, this is hitting perhaps 30% of the potential audience.  Why would you not look at people who are doing the role – successfully – for your client’s rivals?  When you present your shortlist of candidates, you should be able to tell your client confidently: “this is the best in the market and here is what we have done to ensure the most robust candidate attraction process possible”. 

Our approach at Adjacency is to search the full market, not just the lower-hanging fruit.  As a result our interview-to-placement ratio and the percentage of candidates still being in place after two years, remain amongst the industry’s strongest.

Headhunting is certainly a harder slog than popping an advertisement on a job board and waiting for the perfect candidate to appear, but if recruiters and the industry at large want to justify their fees and continue to be selected to partner organisations, they need to step up the quality.

We have seen that as a consequence of using headhunting techniques there are some unexpected benefits, not only for us but also for our clients and candidates:

You can attract the best candidates

As the old saying goes, the best candidates are employed and happy!  I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard clients tell me that anyone who is good at their job shouldn’t be unemployed – and I can’t help but agree (having said that, there is always an exception to the rule!).  If your perfect candidate is excelling in their current role and being looked after, it is highly unlikely they’ll be exploring their options on an online job board, so in order to entice them to move you need to have a very targeted approach. This can only be done with headhunting.

You can be a brand ambassador for your client

Working in recruitment isn’t only about filling roles with your clients and placing people in jobs.  For me, it is all about partnering with my clients and helping them grow their business in ways that doesn’t just involve hiring. When headhunting for your client, every call you make selling their business and talking about the benefits of working for their company is free marketing for them.  Even if the person you are on the phone to at that moment isn’t interested in the role, you’ve marketed your client and spread the good word to highly-regarded people in the industry.

It’s a targeted approach for specific business needs

Headhunting allows you to approach specific people who have all the necessary skills and requirements your client is looking for. In short, they tick every single box, and you can ensure you are only targeting people that are 100% suitable for the role.  For us, it confirms their skill-sets, allowing us to focus more on assessing capability and the all-important cultural fit.

You’ll have less competition

If you work in recruitment, you’ll no doubt have been in a situation where you find yourself fighting over a candidate with another recruiter.  90% of the time that’s because these people are actively seeking other options, and if they’re good
everyone will want to be the one to place them.  If you’re making targeted approaches to people who are happy in their current role, and are only considering another option purely because it is a better opportunity, you have complete control over the process and a much better chance of placing the candidate.

You are consistently building relationships – and your brand

In a perfect world, you find a great candidate and you reach out to them. They love the sound of the role, they interview, they love it even more, your client loves them, and everything goes swimmingly.  However, we live in the real world and this
isn’t always the case!   If I target a high-calibre candidate and they are not interested in the role, at the very least I am still building a relationship with them and positioning myself as a recruiter who knows what he’s doing. That means when the candidate is looking for a new role I am likely to be the first person they come to.

The benefits of headhunting or proactive approaches go far beyond just finding strong candidates for a role.  At Adjacency we believe that if a client is paying for our service, we should deliver the most robust process possible by using a combination of approaches to the market. 

Recently we were given an opportunity to work for a new client who wanted to fill a junior finance role.  They asked our consultant how we had managed to unearth such a strong shortlist when their normal provider could find only one candidate. “We turned over more stones” was the answer the consultant gave, making me smile, before adding, “I also found out where the best stones to turn over were!”, which made me grin with pride.

Headhunting is not the preserve of the top 2% of roles – it should be a inclusive element in a genuinely robust candidate
attraction strategy.  Only then can you honestly say to your client, “these are the best candidates on the market today!”.

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