Before I became a headhunter, I knew nothing about headhunting and recruitment. Most of the general public has no idea what this career is all about. Why do companies need headhunters to begin with? Don’t they have HR and internal recruitment methods to attract candidates?
To a certain degree, yes. HR and internal teams can handle certain job roles, most of which have more candidates than jobs available. Due to the candidate surplus over jobs, employers have the power to choose from many options with little recruitment effort.
However, for roles where jobs outstrip the amount of candidates available to work, headhunters are called upon to solve the lack of candidate responses to job postings and internal efforts to recruit.
Here are a few reasons why companies need to hire headhunters:
#1. In candidate-tight markets, candidates have easy and abundant access to great headhunters to guide their job search as a free service. Headhunters only survive and exist in candidate-scarce markets. Since the entire network is smaller, the risk of being caught job-searching is vastly higher. Thus, candidates choose to work through their headhunter who serves as a shield, an agent, a proxy, whatever you want to call it.
Since these markets are heavily weighted to the candidate’s benefit, headhunters are widely available. The resume design, career planning, and passive networking can all be done without you needing to do much if you’re lucky enough to be a in a field that good talent is rare.
Why would you apply directly to a portal or a company and risk uncomfortable conversations with strangers? You wouldn’t. You’d work through the network of existing headhunters operating in your market.
#2. Companies can’t directly call and poach candidates from their competitors. They must, for legal and proprietary reasons, have the business tact of hiring a hitman to do the dirty work. Hence, the career of the headhunter was born. Now, someone else can do the snooping, stealing, and poaching!
HR and internal recruiters have their hands tied. Their only recourse and resource to find candidates are job portals. If no candidates apply, they just don’t have anything to work with! As internal employees of their company, they can’t be caught poaching competitors’ candidates. As I headhunter, I call into companies and directly poach. You would not be allowed to do that as a direct competitor.
#3. Great headhunters provide protection against bad hires. Companies actually enjoy working with headhunters they know well and trust. When you choose a great headhunter to work with, you trust in their ability to separate fact from fiction. They find, interview, and vet harder than your internal teams would because they have a professional reputation to uphold.
Headhunters will know which companies are doing well, intimate details of the market, and most importantly, who is full of crap or not. Businesses can save headache from bad hires if they have a good relationship with the best headhunters.
#4. Hiring managers’ networks are limited. Hiring managers (the end client of any placement), although they may have some connections in their fields, their reach is limited.
Many hiring managers are at their company for so many years that they simply don’t have the bandwidth to network with external professionals. They’re usually so dedicated to their existing jobs, they neglect their networking obligations. As much as internal employees want to earn referral bonuses, they just don’t have anyone they can introduce!
#5. HR and Internal Recruitment have too much on their plate to hire effectively. HR and Internal recruitment are managing a whole slew of jobs and roles. Their focus is quantity not quality. Roles that are hard to fill (the type of jobs headhunters cover) will languish on the open market with zero applicants that fit the bill coming through.
HR and internal recruitment will be busy filling the easier jobs. Since they go wide rather than deep into each market, they’ll only be able to complete recruitment for roles where candidates are more plentiful than roles available.
Furthermore, recruitment is only a part of their job compared to headhunters whose job consists of only recruitment. HR has to monitor internal initiatives, benefits, payroll, and people operations at their company. How in the world would they have time and skill to recruit as effectively as someone who does recruitment for a living?
#6. Headhunters make too much money to work internally for a company to save them fees. The question arises, then why can’t companies just pay someone a fee to work internally as a headhunter? Headhunters enjoy their freedom! They work with too many clients and make too much money. They don’t want to limit themselves to work at a salaried in-house role under one employer*.
*UNLESS they’re ready to take a step back from their career, get sick of sales, are burned out or experience some life-altering event where they have to for personal reasons.
#7. Headhunting and recruitment is extremely hard work. Very few people can do it well. Thus, due to the forces of supply and demand, headhunters are paid extremely well because so few of them actually succeed at it. The Pareto rule applies – the top 20% of headhunters have 80% of the market in their hands.
In summary, professional top-billing career headhunters have the utmost finesse in complicated sales negotiations and persuasion! The volume of career discussions a career headhunter has vastly outstrips any other job. Thus, when companies engage a competent and successful headhunter, they massively increase the probability and speed they’ll find the right person for the job.
Dandan is a headhunter, career coach, and speaker featured on Huffington Post, Inc.com, Apple News, Monster, and Time. Check out Dandan Global for more advice, tips, and secrets about headhunting and career success!
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