How to Identify a Good Headhunter

In most of our posts, we focus on giving candidates exclusive tips on the operation of headhunters and insights directly from their side. But it’s not just the candidates who are looking for the best headhunters. For you as business owners or hiring managers or HR managers trying to fill the new vacancy in your teams, selecting a trustworthy and good recruiter is extremely important.

This will not only make finding the suitable candidates for a vacancy easy, but at the same time also represent you as a trustworthy client to all potential candidates when they respond to the search mandate. Here are some tips that can help you identify a good headhunter.

3 aspects on how to identify a good headhunter

1) Experience and competence

Two of the most important features for a good headhunters are their expertise and experience. Therefore these need to be reviewed when selecting a headhunter. It is important to check whether the headhunters have experience in the respective industry already (checkpoint: existing customers) and how long the Headhunter has been in business (checkpoint: years in of business).

In the case of executive search, professional experience at the relevant career levels is very important. This information allows you to be able to draw conclusions on the individual expertise of the Headhunters and the size of their networks.

2) Independent, open – and yet discreet

A little more difficult to check, is the independence of the Headhunters. Working with a headhunter showing signs of influence by third parties should be terminated immediately as it may give rise to doubts around complacency by candidates. Also a good headhunter will speak as openly as possible about his recent client work – but also be very discreet about sharing key information.

Discretion is a top priority in this industry. Many clients do not want that the headhunter should reveal them by name. References are often shared anonymously. The headhunter will share that he/she has, for example, worked to fill in a leading position in the marketing department of a multinational company in industry XY, but the may not share a company name.

3) Reliability – and not just in payments

The reliability of a headhunter can be seen in the way the fee negotiations take place. The rule is: The agreed upon payment is mandatory, subsequent additional changes in the fee are not common. Good headhunters usually also give their clients a performance guarantee. Thus, if the candidate search fails within a given period, maybe it is not charged at all by the headhunter.

In addition, a headhunter is usually either part of a headhunter network or host association whose rules apply. If such membership is not given a separate statement of principles should at least be available – ideally directly on the website of the headhunters. There may also be quality assurance by way of certifications and other quality standards that the headhunters comply with.

Certainly, the above points can only be a rough guide when it comes to finding a good and trusted headhunter. Ultimately, the decision-process and the gut feeling in personal contact is often something that will play an important role. And having said that, it is critical to follow through and ensure you go through the basics in the checklist! We wish you luck hiring the best minds!



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