European Recruitment: What is the role of the Headhunter and are they worth the money?

Headhunters work for the employers. They are not recruitment consultants.


They have experience across various industries and can effectively “find” candidates for jobs who may not actually be looking for a job!

The headhunter will  have good negotiating skills, be good at networking and be skilled in spotting potential in the candidates they will put forward for job vacancies.

A headhunters job of finding their clients candidates can be very time consuming and intensive.

The key to successful headhunting is getting a detailed and accurate brief from the client and this is an iterative basis as the accomplished headhunter slowly pulls from the client exactly what they want.

The steps are varied but might include the following:

  • Researching the market place/industry for potential
  • Identifying who will be best to target within chosen companies
  • Discretely make contact with the chosen potential candidates
  • Organise interviews and screening required of the candidate
  • Negotiate between the candidate and the client on salary, bonuses etc.
  • If it arises deal with the counter offer from the candidates existing employer
  • Assist with the resignation of the candidate from their current post

A professional headhunter has to have a broad skill set. This is best tested by clients during the job briefing stage:

  • Do they understand the industry?
  • Do they understand the skill set requirements?
  • Do they understand how the role fits within the target company?

If that understanding is not there, move on. Clients need to understand that it is the skill of the individual headhunter that is key not the logo on the letterhead.

Headhunting results vary tremendously but expect to pay at least 20% of the package for a one off assignment and probably 15% for repeat business but if it is routine business more akin to to the role of a recruitment consultant then you might get away with 10%.

However, the key is not the cost but the impact of the successful candidate on the client organisation which means that 20% can seem cheap or expensive. You pay your money and you make your choice.


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