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The Role Of Headhunters In Recruitment

The Role Of Headhunters In Recruitment

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You may have wondered, “What’s the role of headhunters in recruitment?” Well, headhunters have a great role to play in helping clients to build their workforce with high-performance teams that accelerate business results. They find candidates who match the qualifications specified by their clients (hiring firms). There are executive headhunters who do a focused executive search in specific industries and specific professions. They are paid by clients on a contingency or a retained basis.

One of the differences between in-house recruiters and headhunters is that, in-house recruiters are usually hired as part of a firm’s human resources (HR) department, and are involved in the entire recruitment process, working alongside both the firm and the candidate. Headhunters usually work within a recruiting agency and may work for multiple firms at the same time. They aren’t involved in the recruitment process beyond locating the right candidate(s). However, that was in the past. In present time, headhunters do work as an extension of the clients’ HR department.

How do headhunters go about the process of recruitment?

Headhunters need to understand the search requirements, timeliness, corporate culture, and organizational structure of their clients, and use unique methods, tools, and approaches to help them find the best professional talent available. They identify opportunities for the potential executive and define a candidate profile based on a thorough analysis of the hiring firm. They carry out an analysis of the market, and create a candidate specification that includes all details about the role, responsibilities, and opportunities presented by the job.

Headhunters make use of various tools for their search. These include their own database, prior market research, their professional networks, contacts and social networks. Once they generate a list of potential executives, they screen candidates to identity and filter out those who are most suitable for the job. Before the names of the shortlisted candidates are presented to the client, headhunters will verify that their qualifications, executive career background, and other information they have provided is correct.

The client selects the candidate who is most suitable for the job based on interviews and external references. Headhunters then facilitate the process of salary and offer negotiation, and ensure that both the client and the candidate are satisfied. In some cases, they assist the HR personnel of the firm in inducting the candidate into the workplace.

Ways headhunters simplify the process of executive recruitment

Executive search is about working in close conjunction with client organizations to facilitate the process of talent acquisition. Headhunting is the most successful way to attract ‘passive’ job seekers and help client organizations recruit employees of high caliber. It increases the chances of hiring firms finding candidates for hard-to-fill positions, especially when there is a dearth of quality talent. The extensive research carried out by headhunters provides clients with access to a hand-picked selection of the best talent from across the globe within a short time-frame.

The headhunting process is carried out in a highly professional manner – only candidates who are genuinely interested in considering new opportunities are briefed about vacant positions in hiring firms, while maintaining strict confidentiality. Headhunters provide detailed feedback at every stage of the search process, helping clients in the decision-making.


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Jenny Ho Jenny Ho is with International Workplace Consulting Pte. Ltd., Singapore. A very experienced and well-connected search consultant who has been in the executive search business for more than 20 years, Jenny has assisted numerous MNC companies (especially those in the chemical, petrochemical, oil & gas areas) to hire good candidates. You can also follow her on LinkedIn.