I’m often asked by my clients, “How can you help me to find the best candidate for our role”? As a recruiter with more than 20 years experience, I will always tell them that there is only one sure way that I can guarantee to find the best available candidate in the market and that is through the application of executive search or headhunting techniques.
Let me explain; there are essentially just 3 ways in which any organisation, large or small can recruit;
- You can access candidates through a database
- You can advertise your role in the most appropriate media
- You can Headhunt, proactively approaching candidates and often referred to as “Search”
Candidate databases of one form or another are typically maintained by a wide spectrum of recruiters as well as, increasingly these days, by more and more employers and of course there are networking sites such as LinkedIn which provide a useful database albeit one based on self reported data.
Databases are at their most useful, in my view, when you might be looking out for the “steady Eddie” type of candidate, low risk/limited potential; the very best candidates will rarely show up on databases and on the odd occasion that they do, they rarely stick around on the books of a recruiter for very long.
Ask yourself, ‘How did candidate X or Y happen to show up on the recruiter’s database in the first place?’ What role were they pursuing initially and seemingly, unsuccessfully since they are still looking today, that brought them to the attention of the recruiter in the first instance? Not that this necessarily makes them a bad or less relevant candidate, but do you really want to hire someone else’s second best for your key appointment?
So, why then do I personally carry around a database of several thousand names on my iPhone or stored in my cloud, all of them accessible from almost anywhere in the world via a broadband connection? Why you might ask would I choose to do this having regard to what I have said about Databases at the outset? The answer is simple, a database in the right hands provides a useful conduit through which the very best candidates might be identified and accessed through the effective networking of the most relevant contacts within that database.
Despite the inexorable recent rise of social media platforms, recruitment advertising is still one of the more effective tools in the recruiters toolkit. Of course, like almost everything else in life, the internet has in recent years made a significant impact upon recruitment advertising as discussed in my blog; “Recruitment advertising: death by social networking”?
Today, rather than paying a lot of money for a ¼ page ad’ in a national Broadsheet newspaper, a short, sharp and sometimes rather pithy call to action delivered via a social networking site may well yield as many prospective candidates as the traditional Broadsheet. The trick is knowing how best to write it and also where best to put it!
Advertising is of course a passive medium. If your desired candidate is not even looking for a new job or just happens to miss the particular issue that your beautifully written and hand crafted recruitment advert appears in, then it is all for nought.
And then we come to Method 3, Headhunting. Properly applied there is no substitute for it. You may be the best networker that ever trod a boardroom floor or even the best recruitment advertising copywriter that ever lived.
But, unless you have the skill, knowledge and credibility to first of all identify and then to approach the very best talent in your sector of interest, then even your very Sunday best efforts, delivered with the benefit of a following wind and a very long run-up, could still never guarantee that you will bring your opportunity to the attention of the very best candidate “in the market” rather than those who just happen to be “on the market”.
Simply put, that is what the Headhunter will do for you and in an intensively competitive market where points of differentiation between companies are slight, why would you not strive to ensure that you hired the very best? Wasn’t it Napoleon who when not composing the world’s longest palindrome suggested that the only difference between one army and another lay in the calibre of their people? Substitute the word companies for armies and the same still holds true today.
So are you going to adopt the passive approach and just wait to see what tasty morsel (candidate) swims by your bait or are you going to strive to recruit the best? The incremental additional cost of hiring a competent headhunter to proactively go out and find your candidate pale into insignificance when put alongside the business advantage to be gained by hiring the very best.
Robert Hyde writes the Headhunter2001 blog which carries advice based upon the experience of an active head-hunter with more than 20 years experience in the UK Executive search market principally serving industrial and technology sectors. Follow Robert on Twitter at @headhunter2001.