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Recruitment: Executive Search (a.k.a. Head Hunting)

Executive search a.k.a. headhunting

Head hunting may sound like a job for trained assassins, but it’s actually a very specific type of recruitment. Head hunters are conventionally regarded as more cunning and aggressive in their recruitment tactics than more traditional ‘search and selection’ agencies.

Otherwise known as ‘executive search’, head hunting is a recruitment method often employed when ‘normal’ recruitment efforts have been unsuccessful. If a job role is incredibly specialist, there may only be a small number of people in the world who can fit the requirements. Consequently, it makes sense to approach candidates directly, rather than posting adverts on the internet or trawling though databases.

Working at/with an executive search agency...

Executive search agencies tend to be much smaller and highly-specialised agencies which demand higher fees for their services. Since they are more expensive, they deal primarily with the recruitment of senior management and executive positions. Head hunters attract senior professionals to their agencies, but they also actively hunt them out.

Some agencies are more honest and straightforward, but others will employ advanced sales techniques to gather employee contacts – sometimes even falsely posing as clients and visiting candidates’ offices!

How do I get into headhunting?

Head hunters really go the extra mile to establish contacts and expand their network. They often attend trade shows and join professional associations to expand their opportunities for making important contacts.

Whilst their search to deal ratio may be smaller, head hunters are likely to be paid much more commission for their efforts.

Head hunting agencies are likely to have only a small handful of employees.

What does a resourcer or trainee headhunter do?

Resourcers/trainee head hunters provide administration, candidate relationship and research services. They use a variety of research methods (including the use of business-focused social network sites like LinkedIn) to generate extensive lists of top-level candidate names.

They also maintain large databases and conduct extensive research into new business areas in a process called ‘market mapping’. Resourcers may cold-call candidates in the first instance to generate interest in job opportunities.

What does a senior headhunter do?

Senior head hunters deal with the clients and the candidates. Their life-blood is their network. Executive search recruitment is all about building relationships with the right people, so head hunters will cultivate links with companies, top-level professionals and even purchase expensive candidate lists or company directories. They also help prepare candidates for interviews, negotiate salaries and finalise deals.

So, head hunting has a scary name, but it’s mostly harmless. It’s a perfect career for those of you with rhetorical flair, top-notch networking skills and a flashy smile.

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