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The Dos and Don’ts of headhunting

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But scouting for exceptional individuals who possess the know-how, experience and potential to help drive an organisation’s success requires a careful skill.

In this post, Rapid Formations, the UK’s leading company formation agent, uncovers the unwritten rules of successfully headhunting your ideal candidate. Let’s dive straight into the dos and don’ts of headhunting.

The don’ts of headhunting

1. Don’t do a mass outreach

Sending generic, bulk messages to multiple candidates at once is one of the most common faux pas amongst headhunters.

Remember, your prospective candidate will likely have an overflowing inbox so it’s important to tailor each communication and add personalisation to demonstrate to the candidate that you’ve taken time to evaluate their background and that you value their unique skills and experience.

Talk about their relevant qualifications, be considerate of their aspirations and communicate why you think they may be a perfect fit for the role in question.

2. Don’t talk to candidates as if they applied for the job

Remember that you reached out to them. Don’t engage with headhunted candidates as if they’ve submitted a job application and you’re doing them a favour. Instead approach each candidate with the context of their unique qualifications for the role and their potential to contribute.

Consistently reinforcing this perspective throughout the entire process will help uphold your commitment to personalised and respectful engagement.

3. Don’t talk only about the job

In today’s working world, a new job offer or a salary increase may not be enough to tempt candidates into leaving their current role.

Since the pandemic, people are re-evaluating how they want to work and prioritising more complex factors such as culture, flexibility, and work-life balance.

Instead of only highlighting the technical aspects and required skillset, you should focus on any unique perks of the job, the company culture, and the working environment so candidates can grasp what a typical working day might look and feel like.

4. Don’t be pushy

Pushing candidates into quick decisions can backfire. Respect their need for time to evaluate the opportunity, taking into account their existing commitments and responsibilities.

Remember, a rushed decision could lead to regrets and an ill-fitting match for both the candidate and the role. It’s crucial to allow them the space to make an informed choice that aligns with their aspirations and career path.

5. Don’t ‘ghost’ candidates

Communication is key in maintaining a positive candidate experience. ‘Ghosting’ candidates is unprofessional and can damage your reputation as a recruiter.

Even if a candidate isn’t an immediate fit, they could be valuable for future roles or referrals. Follow up with each person, offering feedback and gratitude for their time. Consistently applying this respect will leave a lasting positive impression.

6. Don’t breach confidentiality

Maintaining confidentiality is essential. Be sure to treat any sensitive information, including CVs and personal data, with the utmost care, ensuring it remains secure before, during and after the headhunting process.

Never share details without concrete authorisation, respecting the trust placed in you by all parties involved. Upholding confidentiality not only demonstrates your professionalism but also safeguards the relationships you’ve built in the industry.

The do’s of headhunting

1. Do define clear criteria

Before reaching out to potential candidates, take time to outline clear criteria for the ideal candidate.

If you are headhunting for your own organisation, collaborate with any team members or management who will be working closely with the individual to gain a clear picture of who you are looking for.

Likewise, if you are headhunting on behalf of a client, talk to them to gain a clear scope of the necessary skills and qualities required to fulfil the role effectively.

These criteria should encompass technical skills, experience, cultural fit, as well as soft skills.

2. Do research thoroughly

Effective headhunting begins with meticulous research. If you are headhunting as a professional recruiter on behalf of a client then you should take time to understand the industry, the role’s specific requirements and the company.

Being aware of the nuances of the sector and the specific needs of the role will enable you to identify candidates who are genuinely suitable and approach them with added context.

3. Do focus on soft skills

While technical skills are certainly important, a candidate’s ability to collaborate, communicate and adapt can have a significant impact on their success within a business.

Ask potential candidates open-ended questions that provide insight into their teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership abilities.

Look for instances where candidates have demonstrated effective conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, as well as the capacity to thrive in diverse environments. Evaluating these skills helps ensure a well-rounded match for the role and the company’s values.

4. Do set realistic expectations

Transparency is key to successful headhunting. As well as focussing on the perks of the job, it’s important to openly discuss the role’s expectations and any potential challenges. Experienced candidates will understand that every role has unique obstacles and communicating these in advance will help establish a sense of trust.

Not only this, but their responses and any transferrable experience they can offer may prove crucial in forming your decision.

5. Do build relationships

Headhunting is about cultivating relationships, not just transactions. Even if a candidate doesn’t fit the current position, maintain a connection. They could prove valuable for future opportunities or referrals.

Provide feedback to the candidate and don’t leave them waiting on a response. Even if there is a delay in the process, communicate this to them so they’re always kept in the loop.

6. Do seek referrals

If your target candidate isn’t interested in the presented role, then they may well know someone who is. If they happen to be experienced in the field you’re recruiting for, then they will likely have a network of invaluable contacts who could potentially align with your recruitment needs.

Tap into this resource by asking for any recommendations to help expand your reach.

Final thoughts

So, there you have it, the dos and don’ts of headhunting.

By applying these rules, you’re well equipped to establish meaningful relationships with candidates, that may even expand beyond a simple job offer. Remember, every interaction is an opportunity to leave a positive impression that can prove vital to your own growth and success.