Tag Archives: headhunters

How To Hire A Headhunter

Finding a headhunter, typically, is going to involve a lot of the upfront research and getting referrals from people that you know, etc., There are some other, more in depth, pieces that we’ll cover in this blog.

HEADHUNTERS VS. RECRUITERS

Headhunters can be an extremely critical aspect of your hiring process. A headhunter is different than a recruiter, although headhunters are also recruiters. This is someone who is going to go out and proactively search for candidates on your behalf. They are specialists at understanding their client’s needs and going out and networking to find specific talent for specific roles. A headhunter is a specialist in the sense that they, and only they, are going to know exactly what it takes to do the proactive work to find you specific talent for a specific role.

If you have a position that you can post on job boards and find good candidates for, then you do not need a headhunter for that position. Headhunters are more like a secret weapon that you are going to want to yield for specific roles. This is why headhunters are typically used at the executive level, like Director, VP, and C suite.

But headhunters can oftentimes be used at the entry and mid-level as well. In fact, many of our clients use us at the mid-level, as mid-level professionals are becoming harder and harder to recruit in today’s market. There is actually more of an abundance of senior people than there are of very solid mid-level people. Most organizations are weak when it comes to having strong mid-level people. Especially when it comes to hiring millennials.

CLARIFYING YOUR NEEDS

When you’re looking to hire a headhunter, the thing that is most important for you to get clear about first is what your specific need is. You’re going to want to hire a headhunter that is good and specialized in your specific need. But don’t go to crazy here! Many companies think they need to find a headhunter who does exactly what they do. The truth is, most headhunters specialize in an industry or a niche, not in a particular position.

And headhunting is a skill that can be applied to different industries. A good headhunter can use his network and skills of recruiting to head hunt any type of position. This is what makes a good headhunter a good headhunter. You want someone who knows what it takes to recruit and hunt top talent for any position.

You should actually be more focused in on if the recruiter understands what they’re doing. Do they know how to hunt, have a network, seem smart enough to understand your company, your position and your role? These smarts and these know-how are going to be way more important than someone who happens to work in your industry. Just because they work in your industry, doesn’t mean they’re a good headhunter. Now, if you can find a good headhunter who also specializes in your industry, then you’ve struck gold. This is someone that you want to bring onto your team as an asset.

INTERVIEWING POTENTIAL HEADHUNTERS

When it comes to hiring a headhunter, it’s important to know how to interview them, very similar to interviewing candidates. Many companies make mistakes when interviewing a headhunter because they ask simple yes or no questions that are too easy to answer, and therefore they don’t fully screen and vet properly.

You can’t ask a headhunter if they have experience working in marketing? It’s too easy for that headhunter to say yes. Instead, ask the headhunter to give you examples of some of the positions they’ve recently worked and had success with and some of the types of companies they’ve had success with. You’ll also want to find out about what types of markets they’ve had success working in.

Asking more open-ended questions and having the recruiter fill-in-the-blanks is going to give you a lot better insight into what kind of work they do. Ask them to explain to you some of the specifics or some of the niche details of some of the positions they have worked recently.

Another question you can ask a headhunter is about their process. A good headhunter is never going to give you their whole process, but will give you some insight into what they do. Ask the headhunter what they do and what about their process is unique. These kinds of questions are going to flesh out for you about this headhunter’s style.

HONING IN ON YOUR INDUSTRY

You can also ask them questions about your industry. Asking questions about your industry or the specific position you’re working will have answer in a way that will tell you if they actually have the technical know-how of the position that you’re looking to fill.

Some clients like to have recruiters give them a reference. In other words, they want to talk to one of the recruiter’s other clients to get a reference or insight into working with them. Just like we don’t recommend references with candidates, we also don’t recommend references when it comes to hiring a recruiter or a headhunter.

The reason being is that everybody has at least one or two good references. Whether they’re good or bad at recruiting, their reference is never going to be bad. Talking to references is not the best use of your time when it comes to working with somebody. If you’re able to interview someone and get a good feeling for them, then you should be able to run with that.

RETAINED VS. CONTINGENCY

The last piece here comes down to if you’re gonna hire the recruiter as a contingency headhunter or as a retained headhunter. This is a critical topic and it depends on how urgent your need is and how much challenge you’re having finding good people. If you have an urgent need and you’re challenged finding good people, it’s most likely going to make sense to go with the retainer model. A retainer model is more risky, but almost guarantees results if you’re working with the right headhunter.

Headhunters working from a contingency perspective can only give so much priority to their contingency positions. Retained positions always gain priority, and the recruiter is going take it to the very end until the position gets filled. A lot of companies make a big mistake hiring headhunters on a contingency basis when what they really need is a retained headhunter. Don’t let the fear of spending a little bit of money upfront, and taking some risk, stop you from taking the course that’s going to produce the best and fastest results.

CONCLUSION

The key is that you have interviewed your recruiter or headhunter correctly, so that you take out a lot of the risk when it comes to paying that retainer. Retainers are wildly more effective than contingency searches. For example, here at Aldebaran, our fill rate on retained searches is 95% with over 17 years in business, whereas our contingency fill rate is close to 70%, this is a very large difference.

We can guarantee prioritization of our VIP retained searches indefinitely. With contingency, we can only guarantee so much, and the more challenging your position is, the less we can guarantee it because it’s too risky.

This should give you some tips when it comes to hiring a headhunter. Headhunters are critical aspects to an organization when it comes to hiring specific talent. So you want to know when you need one and when you don’t need one. When you do need a headhunter, make sure you’re smart about it.

How To Hire A Headhunter

It is certainly important to follow a process when hiring a headhunter because there aren’t as many good headhunters as there are mediocre ones.

The recruiting industry is littered with a massive variety of different types of recruiters and different types of people.

Recruiting is an unregulated industry which means you don’t have to have a license or any sort of certification to call yourself a recruiter.

Therefore anybody can put that they’re a recruiter on their LinkedIn profile without having any experience or qualifications.

There are a lot of inexperienced, unethical, ineffective, etc. types of headhunters and recruiters out there.

It’s critical that you are smart about how you hire a headhunter or a recruiter.

LESS IS MORE

It’s also really important that you don’t make the mistake that some companies make by thinking more is better.

It is never a good idea to hire three, four or even five different headhunting companies to work on your open positions.

You’ll end up managing too many relationships which takes up too much time and the market can get oversaturated with your position.

Candidates will have three or four people reaching out to them about the same role and this will make your company look desperate in the market.

This is not a good initial impression to make with potential candidates.

At most you want to be working with two headhunting firms at a time and ideally really only one.

The goal should be to find one good recruiting firm that can help you with certain roles.

HIRING MORE THAN ONE RECRUITER

You may need to work with multiple recruiting firms depending on their specialties and which roles you’re trying to fill.

For example, you might need one headhunting firm to focus on sales and marketing and another to focus on technology roles like developers and software engineers.

Splitting it up this way can be very effective as different recruiting companies will be working different roles. 

This will also prevent companies from stepping over each other and you will have less relationships to manage.

SEEKING REFERRALS FOR A HEADHUNTER

How you go through the process of hiring a headhunter is important because the goal is to only have one or two at your disposal.

You want to start your search in the usual places such as Google and Yelp, although keep in mind Yelp tends to be more localized.

You may want to think about some business colleagues that you could check in with about a referral and get some insight from them.

It’s likely that some of your colleagues, some of your competitors, or some of your other partners have worked with recruiters in the past.

A referral is always going to be great because you already know that this person has some sort of track record.

You might also want to think about if you’ve ever been recruited before.

The company you’re at may have also used previous recruiters and that could be a good place to start as well.

At the end of the day, we recommend doing some online research on companies pages, websites, social media and LinkedIn.

INTERVIEWING POTENTIAL RECRUITERS

You can then narrow it down to a handful or five or less companies that you want to interview.

This gives you a chance to see who’s going to be best to work on the particular role or roles that you need.

It’s very critical that you interview the headhunters to find out who’s going to be the best for your company.

You want to find out what their industry specialty is, what types of professionals, and what types verticals and companies they work with.

You certainly want to hire a recruiter that has experience working with your type of company.

FOCUS ON INDUSTRY AND VERTICAL 

Focus on industry is more important than focus on a particular type of role.

Sometimes hiring managers and HR people will get too bogged down on a certain title or type of position.

Types of positions are extremely narrow and a good headhunter’s reach is going to go beyond just certain types of positions.

A good recruiter will focus on a specific industry or vertical and will be able to work most positions within that industry or vertical.

For example, we focus working with a lot of advertising, marketing, and PR agencies and we can fill 99% of roles within those industries.

This is because we are so focused on that vertical, that we understand those types of companies and have deep networks there.

CHECKING OFF THE BOXES

Ask about their process, how in-depth they are, and if they’re focus is more on quality or quantity.

You want to be sure you’re working with a recruiter who is more quality focused.

Ask them on average how many resumes do they send to a client to get a job filled.

This will give you some insight into the kind of quality they are sending.

Ask them how they are going to figure out how to hire for your culture.

Hiring for culture is critical and this is something that you want to be really interested in.

How is this potential recruiter or headhunter going to be able to represent your company accurately?

Once you’ve interviewed a handful of headhunters, take a look and see what boxes they check off and who will be the best fit.

It’s important that you have an understanding of how they work and how they’re going to work on your behalf.

You have to be sure you can trust this person to represent you, your team and your company.

Does this potential headhunter have a strong grasp of the position you’re hiring them to fill?

Do they understand my company and my industry?

You can see how interviewing headhunters is very important as it is a major time investment.

RETAINED VS. CONTINGENCY RECRUITING

You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to go the retained recruiting or contingency recruiting route.

Contingency recruiting tends to be the most common where you will not pay a fee unless the recruiter finds you someone that you hire.

Retained recruiting is where you pay an upfront engagement fee.

Like anything, you get what you pay for and retained recruiting is wildly more effective than contingency recruiting.

Many people complain that their contingency recruiter didn’t produce the results they wanted. 

What they don’t understand is that contingency recruiters can only put in so much work since there has been no fees paid up front.

Contingency recruiters are shouldering all the risk, so your role is likely not top priority.

This is why here at Aldebaran our retained fill rate is above 95% and our contingency fill rate is around 70%.

That is a 30% gap in effectiveness on retained verse contingency – a huge gap!

So again, you really do get what you pay for!

Although it can be risky to pay a retainer up front, it’s going to get you way better results.

If you think you can trust a recruiting firm and they seem like the right fit, you should consider paying an engagement fee.

Especially if you’re serious about getting your position filled.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Don’t let your fear of a recruiter not getting the job done get in the way of getting really positive results.

Something else to keep in mind is hiring your headhunter based on location.

Some companies think they need to have their recruiter be local to whatever city they’re in, but this is not the case.

Hiring your recruiter based on location can actually limit you greatly to the types of great headhunters that are out there.

For example, we work in every major market around the country.

Although we’re based in San Diego, our largest candidate and client pools are in New York and San Francisco.

So you can see that location doesn’t limit us or you as a hiring manager at all.

This may be the case with many headhunters so you certainly want to be open to recruiters that are in other markets and not just your local market.

Again, the focus should be on industry, vertical and candidate expertise.

These things are much more important then location.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day there are some very important criteria that you want to take into consideration when it comes to hiring a headhunter.

If you find a good one be sure to hang onto them.

By the way, we are one of those so feel free to give us a call!


Want more guidance on hiring the right recruiter or headhunter? Go here: https://bit.ly/2CdWv5m


Have questions or want to find out about working with us? Let’s chat! https://aldebaranrecruiting.com/looking-for-talent/

What Is Headhunting?

Headhunting is really an aspect of recruiting.

You could say that all headhunters are recruiters, but not all recruiters are headhunters.

In fact, most recruiters aren’t headhunters at all.

And even most recruiters who consider themselves headhunters, aren’t truly headhunters.

A true headhunter possesses a specific skill set which allows them to effectively and aggressively tap into the passive talent market.

They are able to track and attain specific talents that would never have found out about a role or position otherwise.

HEADHUNTING VS. RECRUITING

Headhunters are really more like actual hunters, where recruiters are really more like farmers.

A normal recruiter is typically going to rely on a high volume of inbound submissions.

These passive submissions usually come from other job boards, a company web portal or something of that nature.

A recruiter is mostly working with active talent that is out in the market.

These people are applying for jobs, interviewing with multiple companies and submitting to a wide variety of companies.

Another thing a recruiter tends to deal with is having to screen hundreds and hundreds of irrelevant resumes.

Job boards are making it increasingly easier for people to apply to all kinds of positions without seeing if they’re a good fit.

On one side of the recruiting spectrum is a fully passive recruiter who is only dealing with inbound submissions.

On the other end of the spectrum you have a headhunter who doesn’t rely on inbound submissions at all.

A headhunter will almost never even talk to someone who is an inbound submission.

A HEADHUNTER’S NETWORK

Headhunters are 100% proactive in what they do, which is why it’s so important to have a well established network.

In headhunting, a well established network is defined by a large candidate pool.

A large candidate pool is no good unless you know how to interact in a way that’s going to get you the results you need.

A good headhunter knows how to continuously be expanding their network.

They will know how to massage their network in different ways to be able to constantly be drumming up new talent.

This is why headhunters tend to have more of a hunter and sales mentality than a recruiter on the other side of the spectrum.

WORKING WITH A HEADHUNTER

Headhunters are very good at learning exactly what their clients need as far as quality over quantity.

They will ask a lot of questions about what specifics are needed for a particular role, both hard skills and soft skills.

The more questions a headhunter asks, the more they’re going to be able to hone in on what their client needs.

Once the picture is clear about what the client needs, a headhunter is going to use their candidate network.

They will also use their extended network to make contact with hundreds, if not thousands of people.

RECRUITING PASSIVE TALENT

The majority of those are likely not actively on the job market looking for a job.

A headhunter is skilled at starting initial conversations with these people.

They will be able to get them interested, engaged and potentially making a move from their current company.

It requires a very specific skill set and a certain finesse to be able to get someone interested in another role when they’re happy where they’re at.

A headhunter is very good at building relationships and trust with candidates.

This allows them to guide them through the process while continually selling and closing them along the way.

Working with passive talent requires a lot more handholding and selling of an opportunity along the way.

This is an important distinction that many recruiters and hiring managers don’t understand.

Someone who is currently working needs to be treated differently than someone who isn’t working or is already actively looking.

Someone actively looking for a position already has a very high degree of motivation to make a move.

Passive candidates don’t have as high motivation and it’s a good headhunter’s job to move them to a place of high motivation.

This is where more of a selling piece comes into play and less of a farming piece.

SEEKING SPECIALIZED TALENT

Headhunters are best used when you are requiring some sort of specialized talent.

If you have a role that is specialized in any way you’re likely going to need someone to lead a proactive effort to find the right person.

It’s highly unlikely that specialized talent is going to find your job on a job board or your website.

The odds of this happening with even one person are extremely slim, let alone with a handful of people to choose a quality candidate from.

With any sort of specialized role you’re looking to fill it’s critical to have an outbound proactive strategy in order to find those people.

Those people are most likely working for your competition or in adjacent industries or verticals.

This is also where a headhunter is going to be extremely effective and useful at tapping into your competition. 

They will tap into neighboring industries and verticals and give you an advantage to poach from some of your competition and other companies.

The ability to poach highly effective and sought after talent will give you a certain competitive edge in being able to compete in the marketplace.

Often times the people who are not working and are actively looking for a position are in that place for a reason.

HEADHUNTING PASSIVE TALENT

The best talent on the market is typically the passive talent.

We know many candidates who have never applied for a job in their life and have never been on the market looking.

They’ve always been sought after or recruited and have only moved jobs when they were recruited by headhunter.

Those are the kind of people that you want to be able to get for your organization as that is the best talent in the market.

The absolute only reliable way to go after those people is to have them headhunted.

The only other second option is going to be networking within your organization or pure luck.

Networking within your organization or your own network can be a very useful tool.

That is something that should be explored, but it’s likely it will be exhausted fairly quickly.

You want to have an abundance of solid talent coming your way so that you’re able to pick the best of the best.

A headhunter is going to give you the ability to pick the best of the best.

CONCLUSION

Headhunters are recruiters, but not all recruiters are headhunters.

On a spectrum of recruiting, regular recruiters are more like farmers and headhunters are more like hunters.

Headhunters are extremely useful for proactive poaching from competition and also proactive tapping into the passive talent pool.

Make sure to assess your needs and figure out what the best strategy is for you and your company.

It’s likely a headhunter is going to be useful in many ways and the trick is finding a good one.

Check out some of our other blogs about the best way to work with recruiters.


Not sure if hiring a recruiter is right for you? Here are some things to consider: https://bit.ly/2ybIQ9L


Want to find out about working with us? Let’s chat! https://aldebaranrecruiting.com/looking-for-talent/