It’s The Headhunter Fee, Stupid!
Employers seldom complain about the services of headhunters, it’s the headhunters’ fee that has become the pain point.
A few months ago I was a presenting at a seminar to about 35 business owners and HR professionals. The topic of my presentation was “How to recruit like a Headhunter” and during the presentation I made the statement “if you are not using headhunters as your primary recruitment weapon, then you are not hiring the best talent in-the-market”
One individual took offence to that particular statement and became very irate. He literally stood up from his seat and while pointing his finger directly at me he said “you don’t know what you’re talking about-because we hired some pretty good people-and they are working out just fine-and we d didn’t use headhunters”
Without any hesitation, here’s how I responded:
Sir, you are absolutely correct…you really don’t need headhunters to hire the best talent on-the-market. However, what would you say was the difference between the best talent in-the-market and the best talent on-the-market?
I watched his eyes rolled over into the back of his head as he struggled to find a good answer. But, without waiting for his response, I asked if anyone in the audience knew the difference between the best talent in-the-market compared to the best talent on-the-market. What I heard was a number of resume related answers such as: the ones with the best resumes; or the ones presently work for the big brand name organizations or the ones that were educated from the most prestigious universities.
My reply was that they were all very good answers, but they were not the number one answer. My number one answer is; the best talent in-the-market are most likely the individuals that are not active searching for a job. Why? It has been my experience that to be wooed by a competitor is the expectation of the top talents. They don’t get excited just because a job that matches their skills and experience was advertised-they have to be strategically motivated and sold on that particular job opportunity.
So, if you are not using headhunters, then you are hiring the best talent from only the individuals that are actively looking for a new job. And, there is a significant difference in the caliber of talent when you compare the ones that are actively looking to the ones that are not actively looking for a new job.
To prove my point, I tried to get the audience emotionally involved in the debate. I took a quick survey by asking four simple questions. The questions are as followed:
- How many of you knew of someone that was actively searching for a job? Almost everyone raised their hands.
- How many of you are actively searching for a new job? Three individuals raised their hands.
- How many of you that is not actively looking, but would listen to details regarding another job opportunity if you believed that it could be of some interest to you? Half of the number of individuals in the room raised their hands.
- How many of you that are not actively looking, but would seriously consider another job opportunity because you believed that the job would improve your present standard of living and would also advance you career to the next level? Almost everyone raised their hands.
I pointed out that the result of the survey was consistent with recruitment activities in a niche market. The best talent most likely will be from the group of individuals that were not actively looking. So, if you are not using headhunters-you are not hiring the best talent from the entire talent pool; you are hiring the best talent from a small puddle.
With all the new recruitment apps that are available, the big job boards and the growing appeal of social media are you trying to tell us that headhunting is the most effective recruitment method available? That was the question asked by the same individual.
I said yes it is and I will tell you why!
The reason headhunting remains the most effective recruitment method is because as headhunters we recruit ahead of the need!
Recruit ahead of the need; I’ve never heard of that, he said.
I said: it means that we don’t wait for a job to become open to start recruiting individuals to fill that job; we recruit the individuals for a job before that job becomes open. And the only way that is possible is if you are committed to building relationships from a recruitment perspective. But, you also have to be passionate about recruiting to be committed to it; and when you are committed you will live and breathe recruiting 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Make no mistake, recruiting takes time and a lot of hard work, but that is the level of commitment it takes to earn a living as a professional headhunter.
Apologetically, he said “I didn’t mean to imply that headhunters were not effective, but what else can you do if you don’t have the budget to pay headhunter fees?
Therein lies the problem, the headhunter fee. But it is also a tremendous opportunity for headhunters to make more placements. How? They just need to do a better job of effectively selling the economic value of using professional headhunters or demonstrate creative ingenuity in the pricing of their headhunting services. The economic value is more profits because the employers that hire the best talent tend to win and retain more customers. Cost savings in salaries paid to trainees and the trainer is also another advantage because headhunters deliver talent that are trained and will pay for themselves through their superior performance on the job.
By pricing, I‘m not suggesting simply to reduce your fees, but to make your services stand out from the rest. If all headhunters charges the same fee for their services, does it mean that they all provide the same level of service? No, but that is the perception. Nothing will change until you change something and that perception is a good place to start.