Why Invest, Retain and Partner a Headhunter rather than a Traditional Recruiter

I spend so much of my working life banging this drum! Yes it benefits me, as I look for my clients to invest and retain me - but what really drives it is a desire for organisations to receive the best possible service and subsequently the best possible talent. I cringe when I see so much "recruiter bashing" on LinkedIn, granted on occasion its deserved, but often I can’t help but feel it comes as a direct result of a professional relationship that is built on the wrong foundations.

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I am often asked standard questions when discussing recruitment options with clients and prospects, I thought it would be good to give my answers;

What are the key differences between a recruiter and a head-hunter

For me, they key difference is the commitment and level of service. A recruiter typically works on many roles at the same time, spreading risk and working with candidates who are actively looking for a role. Sending these candidates to as many roles as possible, in the hope of making a placement. Head-hunters on the other hand commit to proper search, a proper process built to identify and attract the markets best talent, whether active or passive. This way of working builds a robust shortlist for the clients to choose from, in addition to developing the market for future hires.

When should a client engage a head-hunter, is it just for senior hires?

A common misconception is that head-hunters are just for senior hires. Retained search is a process, and one that can be applied to the vast majority of hires. Our clients typically engage with us for Senior, Strategic or challenging hires, but in general any hire that is of importance. I always tell clients that if they are looking for "the one" instead of "anyone", engaging with a head-hunter is the best way forward.

How do I find the right partner?

I think this is very similar to finding the right partner in your personal life, the right partner cares about the deeper information, challenges, aspirations and personal relationship. Most traditional recruiters care about the basic information, "when does this person need to start", "What’s the salary range", "who will they report to" etc etc. Whereas the right head-hunter will genuinely care, looking to understand the broader organisation, challenges faced and the role talent has in helping you to achieve your goals. All of this information will be critical in attracting the markets best talent.

Now this isn’t the solution every single time, but I genuinely believe that it is the solution 95% of the time. Talent is so often the driving force of a successful business, and partnering a head-hunter is a solution that is driven by commitment, process and structure that greatly increases the chance of a great hire.

About the author
Doug Mackay
3 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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