In a drive to save money, more recruitment has been taken in-house and company talent acquisitions teams have turned to LinkedIn as a primary recruitment tool. In addition, the fall in advertising costs, has resulted in a greater number of recruiters and companies posting jobs online. Whilst advertising online has generated a higher volume of jobs to apply for, it has led to frustration too. Candidates frequently mention that they don’t receive any specific feedback on their CVs or suitability for a role, after applying to an advert or replying to an email from an in-house team. As a result of limited contact and dialogue, candidates often lose the opportunity to gain advice about career moves and insights into the job market. Recruiters lose the opportunity to discover sought after skills and experience, which a prospective candidate may have failed to convey effectively in their CV.
The growth in the hidden job market is another challenge for job seekers. Companies may not wish to publicise jobs, due to the confidential or strategic nature of particular appointments. Working with an executive search consultant, commonly known as a headhunter, can complement direct job applications, open up access to hidden jobs and provide wider benefits too. Prospective candidates can expect to receive constructive feedback on their CV, interview presentation and their suitability for a role, as well as various market insights.
How do headhunters work?
Executive search firms are well networked and often specialise in particular fields; relationship building, market knowledge and professional reputations underpin a headhunter’s work. They appreciate the importance of good candidate, as well as client, relationships in a recruitment process. It’s in their interest to only place individuals in roles, and within companies, which are a strong match for candidates, both professionally and personally. They will explore an individual’s longer-term objectives and whether a particular organisation’s culture is likely to be a good personal ‘fit’, rather that just focus on matching skills and experience.
Headhunters are engaged to research the market thoroughly, make targeted approaches and qualify candidates carefully on their clients’ behalf. Therefore, anyone included on an initial long-list or subsequent final short-list can be confident that they have been positioned as someone who can do the job, and it is a role that should benefit their career. In addition to working on retained or exclusive recruitment assignments, headhunters may also make speculative introductions to companies they partner, should they feel their skills and experience would be of interest. This approach can be particularly beneficial for those interested in confidentially exploring new career opportunities, without wanting to promote their ambitions on LinkedIn or through their network of contacts.
Tips for working with a headhunter
Like all relationships, working with a headhunter is a two way process. To optimise the benefits headhunters can offer professionals seeking career advancement, it’s worth understanding how to work effectively with executive search consultants. We asked Maarten Jonckers, Managing Director of Nicholas Alexander Executive Search, a leading retail search firm, for his top tips on how to work with a headhunter:
1. It’s vitally important that individuals are completely open about their personal and workplace circumstances, and share anything that could impact their job search. No-one, least of all decision-makers, likes their time wasted. So if a job entails relocation, individuals need to explore the implications of this after their very first conversation with a headhunter.
2. Individuals should be clear and upfront about compensation, including current and ideal remuneration packages. They need to identify what constitutes a deal breaker and communicate this early on. This helps to prevent potential disappointment later in the process and facilitates discussions, if appropriate, with hiring managers before offer stages.
3. Providing a headhunter with a well-written CV is essential. Whilst we provide additional accompanying notes on short-listed candidates, it’s important that individuals ‘own’ their CV. If it were an area they needed help with, we would recommend that they engage a professional CV writer.
4. Whilst headhunters will offer advice on potential roles and companies, we’re not career counsellors. Saying ‘I’m open to opportunities’ is too vague: individuals need to have a relatively clear idea of what they want to do, to enable headhunters to help them.
5. Making the right next career step can take time, especially at a senior level. If someone is actively looking for a role, they may be tempted to chase headhunters for progress. Good headhunters will provide regular updates. In the meantime no phone call or email simply means no news. A ‘keen’ amount of communication will not help move anything forward.
6. Headhunters promote individuals by highlighting the benefits they can offer a business. There is no cost to the candidate, except for their time; however, time is money to a headhunter. So it’s important that individuals are available to speak to a headhunter at agreed times and of course, except for extenuating circumstances, attend their confirmed interviews!
7. If an executive search consultant gives advice, it’s because they feel it will benefit an individual and they should use it to their advantage! For example, early on in a search process I will talk to prospective candidates about the negative implications of accepting a counter offer and how this can affect their career, both in the short-term and long-term.
8. We help prepare candidates for their interviews and coach them through the process, however, the onus for research and preparation stills lies firmly with the individual. Our role is to provide advice on likely areas of interest in an interview, but a headhunter’s input should not be a substitute for an individual’s own pre-interview work.
9. Headhunters recognise that those individuals actively seeking a new job, may be exploring opportunities through additional routes. However, complete transparency and integrity is of the utmost important. If a target list for speculative company approaches has been agreed on, then the individual needs to ensure those companies don’t receive their CV through another source. Regular updates on the progress of other interviews are vitally important, as this helps us manage and influence timescales.”
With these recommendations in mind, working with a headhunter could unlock additional career opportunities, complement job search strategies and establish a mutually productive long-term relationship. The advice, feedback and knowledge executive search firms provide, can prove invaluable in navigating today’s job market.