What is Headhunting?

Learn what Headhunting is in this article that looks at this specialised form of recruitment, including the benefits it provides and real-world applications.

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What is Headhunting?

Headhunting is a specialised recruitment process targeting highly skilled and experienced individuals for senior-level and executive jobs. Unlike traditional recruitment, headhunting is a proactive approach, seeking out suitable candidates who may not actively be seeking new employment. It can be an incredibly potent way for organisations to secure top talent for their business, making headhunting an important part of any talent acquisition strategy. In this article, we’re going to learn more about what headhunting entails, including its benefits and real-world applications.


Understanding Headhunting

Headhunting refers to the process of recruiting highly skilled and qualified candidates for specialised positions within a company. Unlike traditional recruitment, which often involves a broad spectrum of candidates applying for a position, headhunting is a more targeted approach. It involves identifying and approaching potential candidates who are not actively seeking new employment but whose skills and experience make them ideal for a specific role.

Headhunters, or executive search consultants, are professionals skilled in this art. They bring several skills into their work, which helps them conduct in-depth market research, leverage industry networks, and use various strategies to pinpoint and attract these specialised skills into their recruitment strategy. This process often involves discreetly reaching out to individuals, assessing their interest in new opportunities, and gauging their suitability for the role in question. It involves telling your story to gain engagement and entice them into a conversation.


The Benefits of Headhunting

Headhunting can be an incredibly powerful tool that can attract the best talent to your organisation. Whether you’re looking for a new set of skills or experience to expand the reach of your business or want to bolster existing operations, headhunters offer a very targeted recruitment service. Below are some of the main benefits associated with using headhunters to help you build high performing teams:

  • Access to Top Talent

One of the most significant advantages of headhunting is access to a pool of candidates who are typically beyond the reach of standard recruitment methods. These individuals are often employed and successful in their current roles, making them less likely to actively seek new opportunities or respond to job advertisements. This includes contingency recruiters and internal talent teams.

  • Industry Expertise

Headhunters specialise in specific industries or sectors. Their deep understanding of the market and its key players enables them to identify candidates who not only have the required skills and experience but also fit the company culture and business objectives. This industry insight also enables them to guide your talent strategy and inform you what is and isn't possible. This includes the candidate requirements you have put together, talent in a certain geography or the remuneration package you have budgeted. A headhunter is likely to add value at the start of any recruitment project by providing these insights.

  • Time and Cost Efficiency

Appointing a Board or Senior level position can be time-consuming and costly. Headhunting streamlines this process by directly targeting individuals who meet the exact criteria for the role, reducing the time and resources spent on sifting through unsuitable applicants. Its proactivity and project milestoned approach also ensure that you won't have to sit and hope the right candidate will turn up as it is a process that will "make it happen"!

  • Confidentiality and Discretion

For sensitive roles or when replacing current employees, confidentiality is paramount. Headhunters operate with a high level of discretion, ensuring that the recruitment process remains confidential until the appropriate stage. Recruiting with a high level of confidentiality is pretty run of the mill for them as many senior roles need to be recruited sensitively.


Real-World Applications of Headhunting

To derive the most value out of headhunting, it helps to know when to use their expertise. To give you a better idea of when this might be, let’s take a look at a few real-world applications of headhunting where Collingwood Executive Search helped find the best candidates for businesses:

  • Technology Sector

In the fast-paced world of technology, companies often seek leaders who can drive innovation and growth. For instance, a global industrial technology business was looking for an Innovation Director to help bring together sales, marketing and business units of multiple acquisitions on an international scale. The Collingwood Executive Search headhunting team was engaged, which used its deep industry connections to identify and approach sought after candidate profiles over a 5 to 6 week time-frame. There was a lot of data to share with our client to discuss the market, candidate strength and remuneration levels. This collaborative client approach reaped its rewards and we successfully appointed the role. Here is the Case Study.

  • Building Products & Construction

There are actually not many headhunters who specialise in the building products industry. There are plenty of contingency recruiters and we have spent the last 11 years helping particularly privately owned groups and also SMEs to recruit talent into their Boards. The industry is an old one and hasn't really embraced injecting new talent into it from other sectors. A lot of our focus has been helping our clients to identify leadership talent from outside their sector and appointing leaders from such industries as consumer products, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and manufacturing. Here are some Case Studies.

  • Healthcare Industry

The healthcare sector frequently requires specialised skills that are in short supply. An international private healthcare provider required a Medical Director for one of their flagship hospitals in London. Traditional recruitment methods had been unsuccessful, so the team at Collingwood was brought in to conduct a targeted search, resulting in the successful placement of a highly qualified individual who was previously employed in a similar role in a competitor organisation. Here is the Case Study.


Is it Time to Enlist Headhunting for Your Business?

Headhunting is more than just a recruitment tactic; it's a strategic tool that enables companies to source the best talent, often from within the industry. By engaging with headhunters, companies can access a pool of candidates who may not be available through traditional recruitment channels, ensuring that they are well-positioned to meet their strategic objectives and stay ahead in the competitive business landscape. As the demand for specialised skills and leadership continues to grow, headhunting will undoubtedly play an increasingly vital role in shaping the workforce of the future.


If you’d like to learn more about how headhunting could help your business's talent strategy, please contact our Managing Director, Doug Mackay, on 00 44 (0) 1829 732374. 

About the author
Doug Mackay
10 min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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