17 Sep, 2014

The top 5 questions you should ask – Part One

17 Sep, 2014

So you have an urgent hire to make and you need to find someone from your industry and fast. You realise that advertising for the post won’t actually reach the true individuals you need from your competitors. The best people are happy and busy in their jobs hitting targets and achieving results so why would they respond to an ad? You realise the fastest and most effective route to attracting and identifying the best people is to use a Headhunter. So how do I select a good Headhunter and how do I know what to look for?

Here are the 5 most important questions you need to ask.

  1. What method of Headhunting do they offer?

A good retained Headhunter will work with the client to understand their requirement, their business and industry sector. They will want to know about the dynamics of your organisation, the history and culture as well as management personalities.

The next stage in the process is to understand specifically where you want candidates to be sourced from to ensure the research phase identifies a large amount of relevant potential candidates. The shortlist should all be face to face interviewed by the Headhunter with every phase of the process carefully managed by them.

Contingency recruitment isn’t really headhunting. Often a database of candidates is used to source candidates who may be unemployed, redundant, unhappy in their position, not achieving results etc. This is why they are quickly available to start new jobs and immediately motivated to move. Contingency recruiting does not require any skill or experience and is a more agency method of hiring. Contingency candidates are generally not interviewed on a face to face basis.

  1. How much do they charge?

Generally contingency recruitment fees for executive level projects can be around 20% to 25% of the basic salary give or take a few percent. This is quite expensive considering the skill and time and effort involved. However many factors will affect the price including the location, industry, number of roles and seniority. A contingency fee is due only after the client has made a hire.

Retained recruitment projects are more complex in nature and so is the pricing structure. Anywhere between 25% to 33% of the basic salary plus benefits and travel is normal but make sure you are receiving the highest level of service for this fee. Considering the detail, team/ research involvement and experience needed to successfully complete a retained assignment the fee levels are very reasonable. Just make sure that every project is bespoke and the company are not using a data base of old candidates. Retained fees are generally paid in 3 equal stages due to the sophistication of the assignments and detailed work and research levels required.

  1. What guarantees will I receive?

Some recruiters will work on retained assignments and not guarantee success. As clients are expected to pay fees in advance it is perfectly acceptable to demand pre agreed results, deadlines and targets.

  1. What am I being promised?

Any promises made by a Headhunter should always be backed up by experience and past performance. Furthermore guarantees should be included as part of the terms and conditions making them legally binding.

  1. What methods are the Headhunters actually using?

Do they use researchers or a database or can they provide evidence that each project is bespoke. Weekly reports and updates are very useful to prove to clients what stage the project is at, who has been contacted and what further work needs to be done.


If you are able to gain the confidence from your preferred headhunting partner by asking these critical questions then you should be assured of a high quality and effective service that helps your business hire the Industry’s best people and fast! The next 5 most important questions you should ask a Headhunter will follow this article……

Author: Ed Robertson is a seasoned Marketing Manager writing about a range of topics covering executive search, employment and education. MSC Headhunters is a retained executive search firm serving corporations around the world.