At the executive level, you can’t make decisions based on the contents of someone’s CV. You have to dig far deeper. This applies to the hiring company, but it equally applies to the headhunter. The sheer depth of experience of every candidate cannot be conveyed by a two-page document. You have to hear their story, feel their passion, judge their experience.
You have to get to know them.
That is before you have even decided whether or not there are a fit for a particular role.
It is this process of getting to know the candidates that sets the headhunter apart from the mid-management recruitment crowd. We work at the end of the market where the most subtle insight can make all the difference. Not being able to quantify a candidate’s specific value is inexcusable – when we are suggesting that an individual should be invited for interview, we have to be able to make the business case for them. They know that and are happy to open up to us.
In the initial stages of the process, we are representing the executive to the hiring company. We know why they should be of interest and we use our position of trust with the client to secure them an opportunity to explain their value face-to-face. This influence works because the client knows that we have spent the time to understand the role and they know that we will not waste their time with unsuitable people.
So, we arrange the interview and they continue the dance.
However, our influence does not stop here.
Throughout the process, the clients are reassessing their priorities. The scope of the role may change depending on the candidates in the process and at every step they are turning to us for advice. All of our roles are exclusive, so we can afford to give our honest opinions without the complications of other recruiters’ candidates in the mix. If we feel that we don’t quite have the right people in the frame, we’ll go back to the market and search again. The process is iterative – every learning leads to new insights.
I often feel, however, that our most significant influence comes at the end of the process. We have got to know both client and candidate well, and when the ‘will they, won’t they’ moment comes, we are able to guide people towards the right conclusion. It is obviously the prerogative of the client to make an offer and we would never persuade a candidate to take it, but there are nearly always negotiations around various aspects of the package, so we are well placed to ensure that relationships stay cordial. We will stay in touch with the executive to support them in their resignation process (which is never an easy thing to do), and hopefully they will leave with a smile on their face with the thought of what is to come.
Headhunters have more influence than you think, and the statistics are there to back this up.