Headhunting - The key beliefs to generate success

Headhunting has been on my mind a lot recently. It may even have been on yours. Looking at the recruitment market (national and international) the need to engage top quality candidates is paramount. The majority of my clients are developing good relationships with clients and generating high quality mandates and assignments to work. Finding talent is the challenge. Having been a (more than) competent headhunting practitioner for a number of years I have a robust understanding of what it takes to succeed first hand when headhunting.

There are more and more recruiters who think that they are “headhunters” and some of these recruiters are right. The visibility of individuals within a specific market (I would not call them a candidate as this suggests they are actively applying for something) on platforms like Linkedin has meant that more recruiters than ever are ‘trying’ to headhunt. Trying, as I am sure you recognise, predicts failure. Some of this comes down to beliefs. I wanted to share 3 beliefs that anyone who is making unsolicited approaches to individuals, with the explicit intent to headhunt them, must have:

Belief 1

It is possible to headhunt everyone. That may sound like a bold statement, so let me qualify: For every person in the market, there could be a better opportunity for them. Anyone who says “I’m not looking” could therefore be missing out. A good headhunter is able to ensure they position things so that they have a meaningful conversation to allow both parties to make educated decisions about pursuing specific opportunities.

Belief 2

I am dealing with a genuine opportunity rather than “a job to fill”. If you don’t feel it is a genuine opportunity then how will you get someone else to feel it is? A lack of belief here will also effect the action you take to identify and engage your prospects. If you doubt the quality of the opportunity (or know little about it) then you are more likely to email people on linkedin and hope they bite. If they do you did not headhunt them, you provided a personal job concierge service (there is nothing wrong with dealing with people who are interested as there are some good people out there but don’t sell to your clients and yourself that this is headhunting).

Belief 3

The individuals I target want to hear about this opportunity. When you believe this then you provide yourself with much more momentum to track down their mobile number. You will be more energetic in your pursuit of a conversation today rather than tomorrow. You know in your heart if you don’t get to speak then you could be letting them down. It is imperative to you, your client and the individual prospect that you secure the opportunity to discuss the opportunity.

Beliefs are incredible things as they shape our potential and our actions. Believing the right things creates excellence. Limiting beliefs hold us back and our results reassure us that our original belief was true. It doesn’t matter a great deal if these beliefs are true! Debating the truth in these beliefs does not change their importance and the power they can have on you.

There is more to headhunting than just belief but, as we all know, it is a great place to start to influence the results we achieve. Then we can consider techniques and methodology.


This article was originally published in Escouter Magazine December 2011