It is our profession to support companies in searching and selecting executives and specialists. Usually, as headhunter we are contracted when

  1. the company’s own recruiting activities have remained unsuccessful
  2. recruiting processes are particularly time-consuming and complicated
  3. resources are not sufficiently available within the company or
  4. recruitment activities shall remain secret.

Our clients expect us to go down paths they cannot tread themselves, to be – like on a treasure hunt – creative and find the right candidates even in saturated labor markets, get them excited about a vacancy and convince them to ‘apply’.

Accomplishing this requires a well-chosen research team in addition to the consultants. But how does a headhunting firm successfully recruit for its own needs? The answer seems simple: in the same way, we search for our clients… right?!

From our point of view, there are three major challenges when it comes to recruiting for our own needs:

1. Career path

There is no classic (vocational) training for our profession, no typical career path, and no uniform job title. Trained professions such as personnel services clerk, (industrial) clerks or graduates with a degree in psychology, business administration / economics or in the field of human resources management appear to come closest. However, in most cases, the path to headhunting is via lateral entry.

2. Occupational profile

Most people are not familiar with headhunting if they have not already encountered it themselves, for example as a candidate. That is why most cannot envision the tasks of a researcher / recruiter working in headhunting.

Or people only have a vague impression of the different professions in personnel services (for example temporary employment agencies / subcontracted work, recruitment agencies = ‘CV sales’, headhunting) and therefore, mix them up or equate them. However, each type of personnel service has its own market, different challenges, and skill requirements.

3. Image

For a long time, active advertising for the headhunting profession has been frowned upon (at least in the German market), and the reputation was questionable. Headhunters acted covertly, behaved discreet, even secretive. This picture has now changed just as drastically as the situation on the labor market. Nevertheless, there is still the odd one out who only want to fill their databases.

If there is, however, no typical training, no characteristic career path, and no classic job title, what are we looking for? And if the occupational profile is unknown and the image of our craft is still fraught with doubt, how do we convince candidates to apply?

A candidate’s fit for headhunting is primarily determined by his / her skills many of which are not even measurable:

  1. Insight into human nature, empathy, ability to network
  2. Exceptional communication skills (oral and written) also in situations of conflict or when having to deliver ‘unpleasant news’
  3. Quick comprehension and questioning techniques
  4. Enthusiasm and persuasiveness
  5. Tenacity and dauntlessness
  6. Project management and perseverance
  7. Professional use of digital tools
  8. Complex and networked thinking (meaning comprehensive understanding of various positions, industries, and companies)
  9. Curiosity, enjoying challenges and high intrinsic motivation
  10. Confidentiality
  11. Customer and service orientation
  12. Organizational strength (parallel handling of projects)

As these qualities particularly aim at a person’s character and personality, it is difficult to specifically look for them. Therefore, the question arises as to which professional groups should be targeted, in which companies they can be identified, or which keywords can be introduced as a filter to active sourcing?

There is no patent solution.

We ourselves have had particularly successful experiences in the past with hiring interns and working students: the easier young professionals can “get a taste”, try out themselves and at the same time experience the complexity of the tasks, the more enthusiastic they are. And if then, additionally, they also have a sense of achievement, they are happy to join after concluding their training. For us this has the advantage that the onboarding has already taken place and the person has integrated into the team. A win-win solution where everyone benefits.

Article written by Mientje Krüger, CFR Global Executive Search Germany

Photo source: Freepik

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