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Guide to head-hunters

20th December 2010
Head-hunters often get bad press but they fill an important business role. Whether you’re looking to employ a new head-hunter or just want to get the most from an existing relationship, our guide can help you out.

What is a head-hunter?

A head-hunter differs from a recruitment agency in that recruitment agencies target workers who are currently out of work, whereas head-hunters focus directly on those who are already employed. A firm that needs to fill a senior position cannot approach employed candidates directly but can employ a head-hunter to do so in a professional, courteous way.

What are the advantages of using a head-hunter?

At senior levels, key talent is rarer than at lower levels which makes recruitment far harder. Companies that are recruiting for senior-level executive positions will generally only want to attract a certain class of candidates to avoid time being wasted and to ensure a progressive appointment is made.

Head-hunters know the upper levels of the recruitment market very well and have access to resources that you will not, making it far easier for them to make a short-list of appropriate candidates. They also research candidate backgrounds, based on your own criteria, and can also help convince the candidate a move to your firm would be in their own best interests.

When should I hire a head-hunter?

If you’re filling a senior-level position then it can be worth hiring a head-hunter, but it’s important to firmly establish the requirements of the role as a head-hunter only has your criteria to help them find the most appropriate candidates. Head-hunters can be expensive so ensure an internal appointment wouldn’t make more sense before employing one. You should also consider precisely what services you want your head-hunter to undertake, whether simply delivering you a shortlist of candidates or arranging interviews and research for your consideration.

How do I choose the best head-hunters?

The best head-hunters will have a proven track-record approaching candidates successfully for senior-level positions. Request testimonials if in doubt, and ensure you’ll be able to work well with the head-hunter as there will be a lot of communication required throughout the process. Many head-hunters will allow you to speak directly to clients, which is a fantastic way of truly judging their worth. Prepare early, so you can consider the merits of each head-hunter before making a decision.

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