A headhunter is not a matchmaker

A headhunter is not a matchmaker

February 27, 2017

In my 25+ years as a headhunter I have assisted in hundreds of placements.

During recent years I have had some rare cases where the headhunting process did not result in an employment relationship. I decided to share one of the reasons, for the benefit of future clients and candidates.

It is important for the client to realize that on their first meeting with a candidate the deal is far from done. The candidate has agreed to meet them, but this does not mean being convinced that this is the place to spend a considerable amount of his/her time for years to come.

I think of a first client meeting as being like a first date – two people agree to meet with the intention to see if there is any more interest for a deeper and long-term relationship. You don’t expect your date to be sure and ready for marriage, unless this is one of those pre-arranged traditional marriages where the matchmaker and parents have already agreed everything before the first meeting takes place. This is definitely not the way it is in today’s working world, and a headhunter doesn’t want to make deals like this. We bring people together in the hope that they might want to go on and discuss a potential employment relationship or any other kind of partnership – if they like. And there are two sides at this meeting, both having every reason and right to choose. So – your potential employee is choosing too – and this is true not only during the first meeting but in fact every single day while the working relationship lasts.

My personal experience and relevant research are in accord here: 70% of professionals today are passive job-seekers. More often than not they don’t apply, they don’t send their CVs themselves. And that’s one of the main reasons why headhunters are needed: they are happy to talk to us, to discuss other opportunities out there, if contacted directly and in the proper way. So – beware of your employees – they have much less reason to stay at a workplace they are not entirely happy with than to stay in an unhappy marriage.

To summarize with a tip: the question – “why should we hire you?” is not appropriate in the talent deficit era. This question may easily harm the potential relationship, by definition fragile at such an early stage. It makes much more sense to ask, “what could we do to get you?” – if you really want to get this candidate working for you. Or even if you are not sure yet – asking this question might be one of the ways to find out.