Head hunting is not a dirty word



When I start talking about head hunting services while taking a recruitment job brief I can almost see the Business Owner / Manager cringe. There is a sense of hesitation, like I have proposed to undertake some inappropriate recruitment process that is unethical.  Many people are of the opinion that Head Hunting is not the done thing and if they can avoid it as part of their recruitment process they would prefer to.

With unemployment currently quite low, candidate skill shortages being experienced across many sectors and the statistics on passive candidates, head hunting is a key part of any recruitment process if you really do want to hire the best person for the job.

LinkedIn studies are currently indicating 70% of the global workforce are passive candidates. Passive candidates are those candidates that are not actively looking for a new position however they are open to the idea of a better opportunity if the right one presents itself. These passive candidates are not scrolling through the online job boards and aren’t seeing your vacancy advertised so they need to be tapped on the shoulder.

In you were hiring, wouldn’t you want to be accessing both the passive and active candidate market to find the best person for your vacancy? Head hunting is one way of tapping in to the passive job market and it’s getting great outcomes. I think the perception has been that head hunting is only for executive level positions; Management and CEO’s, (probably because it’s also referred to as executive search) however with current employment market conditions head hunting is being used at all levels and  for all positions.

Head hunting can be very successful in bringing the right talent to the table for a vacancy because of the strategy and research that goes in to planning a head hunt. Instead of hoping the right person with the right skills applies for your vacancy, head hunting assesses who matches the skills, attributes, values of the position and your business and then targets those people. And just because you tap someone on the shoulder about a vacancy doesn’t mean you are offering them the job, you are simply inviting them to engage in the recruitment process and you still assess the head hunted candidate the way you would any candidate who simply applied for the job.

When undertaken in a professional and ethical manner, head hunting is not a dirty word. It’s important to consider if candidates from a particular company are off limits. For example I find that sometimes clients will request that we do not headhunt candidates from companies that they provide services to because they feel it’s a risk to their business relationship. It’s important to weigh up where and who you headhunt before you pick up the phone. You may be absolutely willing to consider them if they apply for the job however directly approaching them may be off limits.

Often clients are worried about being seen to have done the wrong thing when head hunting by taking a great team member away from another business, especially if that business owner knows the other business owner. This can often happen in a regional city like Ballarat. There is a feeling of guilt from “stealing” another businesses employee. It’s important to remember, the candidate has a choice to engage with a head hunt call. If they are completely satisfied in their current job they will pass on the offer and stick with their current employer. If you can offer them a better opportunity because something about their current role isn’t ticking all the boxes is that a bad thing?

There is a knack to making a head hunt call so before you pick up the phone there are a few things to consider, or you can talk to the team at Inspire HQ for advice and guidance:

  • Head hunting is not simply about throwing more money at a candidate, money alone does not equate to a better opportunity for the candidate. If you simply woo them with money, the same thing will happen to you the next time the candidate receives a head hunt call.
  • Do your research. Before you pick up the phone you need to know a little bit about what is potentially going to catch the interest of this candidate and motivate them to consider a new opportunity. Have your sales pitch prepared.
  • Head hunting takes time. Passive candidates are generally a slower process. They will want the time to research, weigh up options, ask questions, assess if there is a good fit so you need to be patient and you need to have all the info ready and available for them when they ask for it.
  • Are you head hunting the right person for the right reasons? Or are you simply trying to steal people from your competitor to gain intel and deal them a blow? If this is the case you are head hunting the wrong people. If they come across and share all their previous employer’s intelligence and disregard confidential and sensitive information, it says a lot about their character and they’ll do it to you in the future too. You should only ever head hunt the right talent for the right reasons otherwise you are playing dirty.

Head hunting is common practice in today’s world of recruitment and can be very successful in helping you attract and employ the right people to grow your business. Don’t discount it from your next recruitment process until you have really weighed up the pros and the cons. I think you’ll be surprised to see how many pros there are to building head hunting in to your next recruitment process.


Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.



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