How recruiters select headhunters

How recruiters select headhunters, tells you a lot about how headhunters and recruiters from larger companies select candidates.  De following a list of questions recruiters are suggested to use to select a headhunter. Bear in mind that the list is made by a headhunter from Signium international.

1. What is your firm’s industry focuses – who are some of your current clients?

This determining factor allows a hiring organization to assess a firm’s market and functional knowledge relevant to their specific situation and need. One must have confidence that the consultant knows where to look for the top talent, and how to engage and recruit them. This confidence will support a cohesive and functional client/consultant relationship throughout the course of the project.

2. Who will be doing the work; how is your firm structured?

Given the consultative nature of search, it is critical to determine how involved and engaged the lead consultant will be during the course of the project. Will the consultant who sells or ‘pitches’ the assignment do the majority of the work? Is the research and candidate development conducted in-house, or outsourced to a third party? Does the firm have the appropriate project management and communication tools to ensure timely and accurate feedback? Who, exactly, will be accountable for your specific project?

3. How many searches does the consultant handle simultaneously?

Here is a good question to ask as a follow up to the previous discussion. A consultant handling over six or seven projects at one time is average. You need to be comfortable that your project is going to receive the time and attention needed to be a success.

4. What percentages of searches are successfully completed? Is there a guarantee should the placement fail?

The industry average for completing projects is between 65% and 70%. This is partially a result of cases when specifications and/or business conditions change, organizations restructure, or the skill set you seek does not exist. While there are many variables that can affect this number, a reliable number should be in the 75% – 90% range. The key here is to be wary of the consultant who tells you that they have a 100% completion rate. This is not realistic!

Most firms offer at least a one year replacement guarantee, and will replace a candidate who does not work out for expenses only.

5. What are the timing and key milestones of the process?

In most cases, executive level searches take between 90 and 150 days to complete. Most professional and competent firms/consultants will be able to provide you a well defined and detailed outline of their process and timeline. Typically, you should expect a detailed progress review, including a list of pre screened and qualified candidate backgrounds between weeks four and six, and begin to see candidates face to face between weeks six and eight.

Note: Often times searches are lengthened because of candidate availability and scheduling conflicts, especially for those candidates currently employed.

6. What are the firms current “off limits,” i.e., where is a firm blocked from recruiting candidates based on existing client relationships?

This is a critical question to ask either large firms with specialty practice groups, or smaller firms focused on specific functions or market sectors. Firms typically cannot recruit from an existing client for one to two years after an assignment. If a large number of target companies (those where the majority of potential candidates are currently employed) are blocked, your ability to access a strong candidate pool could be severely limited.

You must also ensure that there is agreement with your chosen firm as to the length of time they may not recruit from your organization. Be careful not to let the fox into the hen house.

7. How is candidate quality assured?

The lead consultant needs to have a clear understanding of the performance metrics and evaluation tools that will be used by you and your organization to judge candidates. It is important to have confidence in their abilities to understand both your organization’s culture and the scope and requirements of the position to be filled. The search consultant must function as your agent in the market to both engage and recruit the best available talent. They must have the ability to recruit the best candidate for the job, not the best candidate looking for a job.

8. How and when are references conducted?

This has continually been a key issue and one that is fraught with pitfalls. Consultants must be able to reach beyond just career history and focus references on discussing competency, character and potential. References should be sequenced into the process. We recommend that at least two are done before you decide on a final candidate. This will go a long way in eliminating the possibility of costly and potentially embarrassing problems later in the process! Final references should be checked with a combination of supervisors, peers, and subordinates, and with individuals other than those provided by the candidate. Keep in mind that while you may want to do ‘backdoor’ references yourself, in order to protect a candidate’s privacy, all references should be coordinated through your search consultant.

9. What is the firm’s role in candidate negotiations and closing?

This is a crucial step in the recruitment process, one in which a professional search consultant should be both comfortable and experienced. He/she must be able to effectively negotiate and communicate with both parties to achieve successful outcomes.

10. What are fees and expenses?

Retained firms typically bill between 30% and 33% of a candidate’s first years total cash compensation, paid in three equal installments over the first three months of a search. Most firms bill you for all expenses directly attributable to conducting the search, and some firm’s bill for non-itemized, or communication expenses. Upon request, firms may agree to a flat fee, or a discount based on volume of work. In some cases, firms will tie the timing of their invoices to their successfully attaining specific stage gates during the search process, including linking a portion of the professional fee to the completion of the assignment.

11. Is your firm accredited, are you a member of an Industry Association?

There are several key industry associations for retained Executive Search Firms, the most visible and important being the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants). AESC members comprise an elite group of top tiered retained Executive Search Firms. All members agree to abide by the Associations Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines, and meet strict membership criteria. Membership in the AESC is the only form of quality accreditation that exists for retained executive search consulting. The other key organization is the IACPR (International Association for Corporate & Professional Recruitment) whose mission is to provide the senior-level recruitment community with opportunities to network, share best practices and build cutting-edge expertise within a collaborative environment, and whose members are comprised of both corporate recruiters and executive search consultants

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