On the surface both of these businesses appear to offer the same service – helping companies to hire people. However in truth the routes to finding clients a solution are extremely different as they each have distinctive business models with little in common. Recruitment agencies match employers to employees and so they work with candidates trying to help them find a job within their large network of clients. They have a database of candidates and often post advertisements on behalf of a client making the position publicised. This tends to keep fees down because of the higher volume of placements, fast turnaround and the competitive recruitment market space ensures a lower fee rate. Recruitment agencies work with people who are actively looking to change jobs and have proactively engaged with a recruitment agent to get on their books. They have a large portfolio of clients and are therefore able to arrange a large volume of interviews making agency recruitment ideal for mid-level to junior positions where there may be a high demand and turnover of staff.
A headhunter or Executive Search Consultant is much more consultative and client focused because they find very specialist candidates for specific opportunities. The positions are often highly confidential due to an incumbent still being in place or secrecy for a variety of other reasons. The headhunter will work closely with the client to understand their exact requirements and help create an attractive proposition. This will include gaining detailed information about the business and its products or services, the organisational structure (and where the new hire will fit), potential of the role and career progression prospects. Additionally a headhunter will either already know or need to understand the wider market including the competitor landscape and any other external factors that may affect the business.
Once all the background market and company information has been collated and the position profile created then the headhunter can set to work on researching, identifying, attracting and approaching candidates who are working for their clients competitors. These individuals are already in employment and happy in their roles so are not actively looking for a new challenge. It is the headhunters role to put forward a compelling case and an appealing opportunity that the prospective candidate cannot afford to dismiss. The initial screening and interviews will be conducted by the headhunting firm and then a shortlist of the best people will be submitted to the client. This process should be driven by quality, skill and experience, resulting in the client being able to make a selection of the industry’s finest people. A good retained headhunter will work with a small selection of companies at any given time to ensure their hiring process is expertly managed with regular updates and a continuous flow of communication. Candidates should be comfortable with the flow of information as well as the carefully structured methodology and professional executive guidance that enables a trust relationship to quickly develop.
Due to the detailed levels of research and high profile intensive executive relationship management involved in a headhunting process the fees are relatively high compared to recruitment agencies. However for senior level hiring where specific skills are required then headhunting is often the only assured method of attracting the best people. As long as the headhunter guarantees success you cannot fail to ensure a return on the investment. Good candidates from your sector will add value to your business and if they come from a competitive environment you can expect them to have a a track record of success as well as perhaps a portfolio of customers and detailed knowledge of your products and services. Your clients and prospective staff will have a high perception of your business if you are willing to invest in attracting great people that can bring fresh new ideas as well as some competitive insight.