By Engineers Sourcing Marketing


Learn all the tips to be a successful headhunter

Headhunting is an interesting, if not well understood, function in the business world. People reading this article will have encountered several headhunters throughout their career, however much of the world needs the role explained to them. I have been working for various companies in Asia for seven years. It is a great job when personality suits it, but what does it take to become a good headhunter and how should a new headhunter start their journey in the industry?

Let’s start with the most logical thing.

What is your learning in your first two weeks on the job? How are you introduced to the profession and what is the first thing you do in your hiring process?

  • On your first day on the job, you’ll get to know your co-workers and their hiring specialties. Each professional will set a goal, which will be divided by function or industry. If you specialize in a role, you will most likely focus on candidates from Human Resources, Internal Finance, Supply Chain, Software Engineering, Sales and Marketing… As a headhunter, understanding your specialization and the talent in is one part fundamental of his work. Quickly becoming an expert in your stated target and talent pool will be very important in your success as a headhunter. Clients and candidates care more about understanding the profession and its corresponding career paths. There are many ways to learn this information. You must know the opinions of influencers and experts, study courses, read articles and have the time to investigate the different internal curiosities of the chosen specialty.

How to interview candidates?

My first piece of advice is to meet with people who are relevant to the position and interview them. There are many things that are acquired by talking to experts and they are very essential. Communicating should be your main goal while in the headhunting industry. Interviewing a candidate is a task that should take approximately an hour and these face-to-face meetings are the real time to give a good image. The goal is to foster a relationship of trust, mutual respect and friendship. During this hour, you will also ask several questions, not only about that specific interviewee, but also about relevant information. Some examples of questions are…

How does the market work? What is your job? What is your day to day like? What are the challenges?

  • What is your team structure? What is your specific company like? The storage of this information from candidate interviews should be centralized and this will ensure that everyone in your company has access to the updates. Headhunting companies use a cloud-based software system that is shared by all of the company’s recruiting consultants. This system houses all interviewees and clients, their information. After each interaction with a candidate, you should write notes about what they did. Learning how to use this software will also be essential for your position; It will be what you use the most during your entire stay in the company. You collect large amounts of data and ultimately using it well will greatly affect your growth as a headhunter. But how does a headhunter organize these interviews with candidates? Do they magically appear in the diary at the beginning of each day?
  • It’s complicated and takes a long time to get used to. The sooner you put it into practice the better. The best recruiting companies in our industry pay special attention to calls. When I was starting out and learning the ropes, I was expected to make 55 calls a day. This means looking at the system database for your target market and making a simple call to a stranger. Every time you follow the same awkward conversation: «Hey, hello, I’m Alan McIvor, I’m a are you busy/do you have time to talk?» When a stranger suddenly calls a person normally during their work day, it can be difficult to make real progress. You’ll encounter a lot of confused and often irritated people on the other end of the line and, overall, it’s not a good experience. But don’t worry! Headhunting is about accumulating and building relationships and that takes time. Don’t give up at first, just go through the first few rounds like a disciplined boxer.
  • The next most important thing for a new trainee is LinkedIn! In the old days, before the Internet, work used to be much harder. Headhunters found new candidates by making a call to a company and lying about their intentions so that the receptionist would pass them on to a relevant party. It was very complicated and laborious. Nowadays, the Internet has completely revolutionized social networks at the work level and if you are smart, the line between a “business contact” and a “friend” is blurred.
  • Thanks to LinkedIn you can have access to millions of future workers and potential clients, and learning how to use the platform is very important to drive success in the modern era of recruiting. For example, I have a complete profile using keywords to rise in the LinkedIn search algorithm and their internal recruitment software can help you a lot when you are sitting at a desk. Become an expert and spend your time and effort maximizing your business value.

Focus and recycle!

I’m going to say some advice I was given a long time ago: the key to successful revenue generation is to focus on a specific area and retrain candidates. This probably doesn’t sound very relevant to you, but believe me, it is. Each job that headhunters work in is slightly different. If you invest a lot of time in the development of the company, you will already know that you will occupy a place where working is something to celebrate in itself. This means that when a client says to me: «Alan, can you help me hire a senior operations manager for my business in Taichung? The first thing I would say is: «Yes, I can do that!» and get down to business. However, success in this work has a lot to do with good and efficient time management. If you limit yourself to working only in marketing functions and spend all your time interviewing future marketing professionals, then you will not only know a lot better your market and your candidate pool, but you’ll also spend much less time searching for people who fit the profile to send to your client. This is what my old friend meant by retraining candidates. Meet the best people! in your market and then submit them to as many available jobs as you can! This points to another unfortunate truth within the headhunting industry: KPIs (key performance indicators)!

  • The ancient pyramid Headhunters typically fall into three categories; Retained C level, mid to senior level contingency and junior level/mass recruitment. If that industry classification doesn’t tell you anything, it’s actually pretty simple. They set a completely different salary. If you hire primarily high-level candidates, salaries and rates tend to be much higher. For example, in Taiwan, if they place the CEO of a large multinational company, the bill could be up to 3,000,000 NTD. It involves a lot of money, as is logical. Junior level contracts would be between 150,000 and 250,000 NTD per person and the average mid-level is usually between 350,000 and 600,000 NTD.

So, it may seem logical to think that the best strategy that headhunters use is to target high-level candidates and placements, right? Not to be the bearer of bad news but it is not that easy. First, there are far fewer General Manager jobs than junior-level searches available at the job level. Also talking to the head of HR at your client’s office so you can move on to the party is much more complicated in C-level cases. Human Resources will partner with different recruiting agencies so that you are chosen to help recruit their high-level personnel. The stakes are high, so you need a good expert. The vast majority of C-level applicants are busy, multitasking, and often intimidating people. Talking to them and gaining their respect and trust requires intense work.

You might ask yourself, «What if I found junior-level candidates for a smaller amount, but increased my volume and placed more than 12 per year? Would it pay off?»

  • Yes, I would give them. It is possible to make money from headhunting by focusing on all levels and functions to a greater or lesser extent. The entry requirements and experience to work in junior positions are also lower. Clients will also have low requirements when hiring a young person. They will look for what in the future and with experience will be great potential. I have headhunting friends who have done great with this type of hiring. Money is not earned alone. Challenges and problems are constantly there, and that is why junior-level candidates are less reliable. Another issue is that HR often finds it difficult to hire junior staff. In general, companies prefer to use headhunters in specific senior-level positions, since recruiting young professionals can be as difficult as recruiting managers.

Then you have to know what type of clients you want to work with. Are you looking for famous multinationals, top brands like Apple, Nike…or do you work with smaller, little-known companies?

Let’s discuss some advantages and disadvantages.

  • Some advantages of working with large multinationals are: famous companies attract better and more candidates, so it is easier to find people interested in the position. On the other hand, large multinationals have more money and therefore larger budgets for services.
  • However, some disadvantages of working with the big boys are that they are much more demanding, so sometimes you send 50 applicants and don’t raise money because your client doesn’t consider anyone good enough to make an offer. They also use more headhunter for a search, sometimes you are playing for the position against 5 or 15 other headhunters, so the chances of a salary are lower. So if you work with smaller, lesser-known companies, sometimes you are the only one who can push them and can really focus and complete the search well and on time.

Personality generalizations

  • We have already talked about practical advice for headhunters, focusing more on the tangible and measurable parts. But, I think the most important thing is social skills and personality in the success and development of talent hunting. What should a good talent scout be like?
  • On the one hand, headhunting is a sales job, so being tough, aggressive and persistent is a positive factor. On the other hand, headhunting focuses on people with an attractive, charming, trustworthy and intelligent . The ideal would be to have both types of personality traits, although it is understood that it can be complicated. Some of my former colleagues were everyone’s best friends and were nice and friendly. They seemed to know and get along with absolutely everyone and had hundreds of strong relationships in their market. Softer headhunters get distressed and have a hard time making difficult phone calls and rejecting candidates. However, others were super unpleasant people with no empathy for others and edges. These personality traits reach the goal of work with maximum efficiency. They don’t waste time on inappropriate candidates or working with unprofessional clients. They negotiate hard and talk forcefully and directly; If you are not suitable for the jobs they are working on, they will tell you without any taboo. Both positions are acceptable and can achieve success.
  • If you do not identify with any typology, you should consider whether headhunting is really for you, because introverts and shy people are usually not a good fit for the social aspects of the job and are therefore hired. We add that there is a high percentage of professionals who cannot carry out sales functions. If you can’t stand the pressure of a job setting goals, just tell yourself what you’re looking for.
    Hard work and determination is essential in most occupations. Additionally, you should have a good memory to help you remember people and retain detailed information.

In conclusion, we conclude that successful talent hunting is both an art and a science. To be victorious you have to work hard, constantly and not give up. Don’t be ashamed, socialize, learn new things, send resumes to your clients and close deals. The higher you aim and the more you work at it, the more reputation you will get. If you do your job well enough, clients and candidates will start finding you! And little by little there will be growth in your professional career. Which must be a source of pride for you. If you put everything that has been said into practice, you will rise and be increasingly recognized. Finally, say that this is the goal if you want to receive financial compensation for your work.