The Truth About Headhunters:
6 Myths Debunked

In the hustle and bustle of the business world, hiring the right people can mean the difference between mere survival and thriving triumph. A skilled, dedicated employee can often be the key to success, while the wrong hire can be a long and costly setback. Enter headhunters – professional talent scouts who specialise in orchestrating the perfect match between candidate and organisation. Yet, despite their potential to turn the recruitment process into a success, many companies still view the prospect of working with headhunters with a degree of scepticism. They perceive them as costly middlemen rather than valuable allies on the often rocky road to finding the right people. Concerns range from high costs to miscommunication, and many decision-makers are reluctant to relinquish control of the critical talent acquisition process. However, behind the professional facade of a headhunter is usually an arsenal of market insight, networking skills and recruitment expertise just waiting to be unleashed. In this article, we’ll debunk some common myths about headhunters and explain why it might be time to take off your skeptical glasses and see the numerous benefits of partnering with these talent acquisition maestros. Because when it comes to getting the best talent on board, a headhunter could be your ace in the hole.

Myth 1: Headhunters Cost Too Much

It’s a common myth that hiring a headhunter is a costly affair, putting companies off seeking their expertise. Ironically, many organisations only turn to headhunters after spending a lot of money on methods that haven’t worked, relying on the passive ‘post and pray’ approach. By using a headhunter’s active and targeted methods from the outset, companies can avoid these unnecessary costs. While initial fees may seem high, the value headhunters bring in finding the right candidate quickly can significantly offset this expenditure. Making the wrong hire can be expensive in terms of salary, onboarding and training, not to mention the cost of re-hiring. A headhunter’s expertise in ensuring the right fit significantly reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO).

Furthermore, the return on investment (ROI) goes beyond simply finding the perfect candidate. Headhunters offer invaluable market insight and a solid understanding of the competitive landscape, helping to position your job offer competitively. They can also provide critical insight into how your organisation is perceived in the marketplace through an employer branding check. Their networks also open doors to passive candidates who may not be actively looking for a job but could be a perfect fit for your company, saving you money in the long run. In essence, while the upfront cost may seem high, the strategic advantage, market insight and potential for attracting exceptional talent that headhunters offer justifies the investment and provides a significant return in the long run.

Myth 2: Headhunters Will Hijack Our Hiring Process

Many organisations are apprehensive about handing over control of the recruitment process to external parties. Entrusting such an important function to a headhunter can feel like opening the door to uncertainty or misalignment in hiring decisions.

However, the skills of a headhunter often equate to a more efficient and targeted recruitment process, leading to faster results. Unlike a scattergun approach, which can produce a mixed bag of candidates, headhunters operate more like sharpshooters, zeroing in on the right talent with precision. They tackle the hard nuts to crack in the recruitment challenge, using their expertise to speed up the process and ensure that the shortlisted candidates are a good fit for the company’s needs and culture. By leveraging the expertise of a headhunter, companies gain a strategic extension to their recruitment function, transforming a perceived dependency into a valuable partnership that delivers better recruitment outcomes.

Myth 3: Headhunters Will Drain Our Time

The concern that working with a headhunter can be time-consuming is a common one, especially in the early stages when the company needs to clarify its expectations and requirements. The idea of investing extra time at the outset may put some organisations off.

However, this initial investment of time ensures that the headhunter understands exactly what the company is looking for. By establishing a clear understanding from the outset, the headhunter can speed up and sharpen the candidate search process. Knowing exactly what profile they are looking for allows the headhunter to work more effectively and present only those candidates who are a good fit with the company’s needs and culture. As a result, the time spent in the initial collaboration phase can significantly shorten the overall recruitment time, leading to a faster, more accurate and more efficient hiring process in the long run. What is perceived as a time-consuming collaboration becomes a time-saving asset, demonstrating that a little time spent upfront can result in significant time savings and better hiring outcomes down the line.

Myth 4: With Headhunters, Communication Goes Dark

Another common concern is the potential for miscommunication between the company and the headhunter. The recruitment process, when handled by an external party, can seem like a black box, leaving companies feeling out of the loop about progress.

An experienced headhunter will emphasize clear communication and regular updates to avoid any misunderstandings. It’s in their interest to maintain an open line of communication and ensure that the company is well informed at every stage of the recruitment process. They provide insight into their methods, share progress, and seek feedback to ensure that the recruitment strategy is aligned with the company’s expectations. The fear of miscommunication often stems from a lack of experience or trust, but a professional headhunter aims to build a collaborative relationship where communication flows freely. Through regular discussions and updates, headhunters dispel the myth of the ‘black box’ process and instead promote transparency and collaboration, which in turn helps to achieve the desired recruitment outcomes more efficiently.

Myth 5: Your Secrets Are Not Safe with Headhunters

The fear of potential mishandling or disclosure of sensitive company information is a significant deterrent for many considering the services of a headhunter. Indeed, it seems a gamble to entrust confidential data to an external entity.

However, professional headhunters place a high value on discretion and adhere to strict ethical standards to ensure confidentiality. Bound by professional ethics and often backed by contractual agreements, they provide a solid shield around your company’s sensitive information. A headhunter’s reputation is built on trust and confidentiality, positioning them as a trusted ally in your recruitment efforts.

Furthermore, for those seeking an extra layer of security, headhunters are willing to work under non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). They often maintain a veil of anonymity around the company’s identity, revealing it only when a potential candidate demonstrates a genuine interest in the role, ensuring that sensitive information is carefully controlled and only shared when absolutely necessary.

Myth 6: Headhunters Inflate the Payroll

A widespread myth surrounding headhunters is that they tend to inflate salaries, ostensibly to the benefit of both the candidate and themselves, as a higher salary could mean a higher fee. It is true that people who are already employed may seek a higher salary when considering a change of job. However, the assumption that headhunters are solely on the side of the candidate and are extrinsically motivated to inflate the salary in order to increase their fee misses the point. Professional headhunters are more committed to fostering a fruitful long-term relationship between employer and candidate. Their primary goal is to find the right match, where both the employer’s budget and the candidate’s salary expectations are well aligned. Their fee is usually agreed in advance and isn’t tied to the candidate’s salary. Headhunters understand market salary rates and employer budget constraints and strive to balance these factors to ensure a successful recruitment outcome. By targeting individuals who aren’t actively looking for work, headhunters often find candidates who are a great fit for the role, not only financially, but also in terms of skills, experience, and alignment with the company’s ethos. This meticulous matching process often leads to better retention rates, which in turn reduces long-term recruitment costs for companies, providing a clear counterpoint to the myth of inflated salaries.

In summary, the world of headhunting seems to be like a good detective story – full of twists, turns and a few myths that, when debunked, reveal a conspiracy to succeed. The perceived dragons in the tale – be they cost, loss of control or miscommunication – often turn out to be more like friendly, misunderstood giants once you get to know them better. Far from being the villain of the piece, the headhunter can actually be the knight in shining armour, saving companies from the plight of endless candidate searches. So, the next time you hear a tale or two about the horrors of headhunting, remember that there are two sides to every story, and in the tale of recruitment, a headhunter may just be the hero waiting to lead your company to a happily ever after.

Article written by Lara Aebischer, CFR Global Executive Search Switzerland
Photo source: Freepik

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