Employers seldom complain about the services of headhunters, it’s the headhunters’ fee that has become their pain point.
A few months ago I was attending a seminar with about 35 business owners and HR professionals. The topic of the presentation was “How to Recruit like a Headhunter” and during the presentation the following statement was made; “If you are not using headhunters as your primary recruitment weapon, then you are not hiring the best talent in-the-market”
One individual took offense to that particular statement and became very irate. He stood up, pointed his finger and said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about because we hired some pretty good people, and they are working out just fine. And we didn’t use headhunters.”
Without any hesitation, here’s how the presenter responded:
Sir, you are absolutely correct. You really don’t need headhunters to hire the best talent on-the-market. However, what would you say was the difference between the best talent in-the-market and the best talent on-the-market?
I watched his eyes roll as he struggled to find a good answer. Without waiting for his response, the audience were asked if anyone knew the difference. What was heard were a number of resume related answers such as: the ones with the best resumes; or, the ones presently work for the big brand name organizations; or, the ones that were educated at the most prestigious universities.
Mine hosts reply was that they were all very good answers, but they were not the number one answer. The number one answer is the best talent in-the-market are most likely those individuals who are not actively searching for a job.
Passive v. Active
It has been my experience that to be wooed by a competitor is the expectation of top talent. They don’t get excited just because a job matching their skills and experience was advertised; they have to be strategically motivated, and sold on that particular job opportunity.
So, if you are not using headhunters, then you are hiring the best talent from among only the individuals actively looking for a new job. And, there is a significant difference in the caliber of talent when you compare those actively looking to those not actively looking for a new job.
If all headhunters charge the same placement fee, does it mean that they all provide the same level of service? No, but that is the perception. Nothing will change until we change something and that perception is a good place to start.
Ken Forrester is managing director of A.W. Forrester Co., a national search firm (954-722-7554) that specializes in employee benefits consulting, health insurance brokerage, and sales. He started his recruitment career in 1990 and is responsible for completing search assignments for senior management positions while developing and mentoring junior associates.
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