The benefits of working with headhunters – a guest post by InterviewFit

The last decade’s economic climate, following the global financial crisis of 2008, combined with the influential growth of the Internet, has had a major impact on many service industries, recruitment being a prime example.

As part of cost cutting strategies, many companies have established in-house talent acquisitions teams and have started to use LinkedIn as a go-to recruitment tool. Additionally, online advertisements and reduced advertising costs have led to an increase in recruiters and companies posting vacancies online. Whilst this may have generated a greater number of jobs for candidates to apply for, it has also proved a frustrating candidate experience. Candidates often mention receiving little, or even no feedback on their CVs and suitability for a job, after applying to an online advert or responding to an approach from an in-house recruiter.

With limited communication during the early stages of a recruitment process, candidates lose the opportunity to gain advice or acquire insights into the job market. Recruiters lose the chance to discover whether a prospective candidate has sought after skills and experience, which may not have been conveyed effectively in their CV.

The hidden job market presents further challenges for today’s job seekers. Due to confidential or strategic reasons, companies do not always wish to publicise vacancies. Working with a headhunter can complement other job applications, by providing access to industry decision-makers and hidden jobs. Delivering an added value service is at the heart of executive search; candidates and hiring managers find working with a headhunter offers them many additional benefits. For prospective candidates, this can include constructive feedback on their skills match, for a particular role, and their presentation at interview.

Headhunters often specialise in particular sectors and are well networked; professional reputations, relationship building and industry knowledge underpin a headhunter’s work. They know, only too well, that good candidate relationships, as well as client relations, are essential to a recruitment process. Headhunters want to place individuals in roles, and within companies, which are a good personal and professional match. At the start of the process, a headhunter will explore an individual’s long-term objectives and establish if an organisation’s culture has the potential to be a good personal ‘fit’, whilst, of course, assessing skills and experience.

Companies benefit from headhunters researching the market thoroughly, against a specific brief, making targeted confidential approaches and qualifying candidates thoroughly on their behalf. As a result, any candidate included on an assignment’s short-list can be confident that they are qualified to do the job, and that the role should benefit their career. Clients gain from meeting individuals, relatively quickly, who not only match the brief, but are also a strong potential fit for their organisation’s culture. In addition to their engagement for specific recruitment assignments, headhunters may also make speculative introductions, should they feel a candidate’s background and capability would be of interest to their clients. For those interested in confidentially exploring new career opportunities, this approach can be particularly beneficial.

For a candidate to reap the rewards of working with headhunters, it’s worth understanding the part they need to play in this beneficial two-way relationship. Maarten Jonckers, Managing Director of Nicholas Alexander Executive Search, a leading retail search firm, shares his tips for working with headhunters:

“It’s really important that candidates are candid with us – we need to fully understand their circumstances, in particular, anything that could affect their job search choices or decisions. No-one, especially decision-makers, likes disappointments and having their time wasted. So if relocation is required, the implications of this need to be explored after the very first conversation with a headhunter, both for the individual and, if applicable, their family.

We expect individuals to be transparent and upfront about compensation; this includes current and ideal remuneration. Candidates need to consider what could be a potential deal breaker and communicate this at the very start of the process. This helps to facilitate discussions, if appropriate, with company hiring managers, pre-offer stage.

Although headhunters can provide some advice on potential roles and companies, executive search is not a career management service. Being ‘open to opportunities’ is too broad a brief. Individuals should have a fairly clear view of what position or company they wish to target, for headhunters to be able to help them achieve their objective.

If a headhunter offers advice, it’s because it will benefit an individual and the candidate should use it to their advantage! One example is the counter offer. During the early stages of a search, we talk to candidates about the implications of accepting a counter offer and how this could negatively affect both their short-term and long-term career.

Taking that next career step can take a while, especially at senior management levels. Someone who is actively job hunting, may be tempted to ‘chase’ headhunters for updates. Good headhunters provide regular feedback on progress. A ‘keen’ amount of calls or emails will not move things forward.

There is no cost to candidates who work with headhunters, except for their time; however, time is a cost in recruitment. So it’s extremely important that individuals are available to speak at agreed times and, except for extenuating circumstances, attend all confirmed interviews and meetings!

Providing a well-written and well-presented CV is essential. Whilst headhunters will provide accompanying notes when presenting candidates, individuals should ‘own’ their CV. If we feel they require help with producing a quality CV, we would refer them to a professional CV writing service.

Candidates can expect our support and guidance throughout the recruitment and interview process; for example, we will provide advice on potential areas of discussion for an interview. However, individuals should not view this as a substitute for their own research and interview preparation work.

If someone is actively seeking a job, a headhunter will be aware that they may be exploring opportunities through additional recruitment sources. We do, however, ask that candidates operate with complete transparency and integrity. If we have agreed a company target list for speculative approaches, then those companies should not receive the candidate’s CV through another route. It’s also really important that we are kept informed on the progress of all other interviews; this helps with our management and influence of timescales.”

Working with a headhunter can unlock career opportunities for candidates and provides clients with a comprehensive service, with an unrivalled reach. Headhunters’ expert advice and depth of knowledge can prove invaluable to candidates navigating the challenges of the job market and it’s a service that can provide an enviable advantage to clients in a competitive market.

Jenny Hargrave is the founder of InterviewFit, a provider of professional CV writing and interview coaching services.