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  • Writer's picturePatrick Flanagan

The real value of a specialist Headhunter

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

I still feel there is a stigma attached to the recruitment industry. There was a "wild west" approach in the past, which the industry has not yet managed to shake off. The industry has matured so much nowadays, that you have to be a highly effective recruiter to even survive. We are up against very sophisticated technology, LinkedIn, internal recruitment teams and outsourced recruitment. People have the right to ask: what real value can a headhunter offer?

I am more akin to an agent than a sales person – similar to film, music or sport with agents managing professional careers. The key advantages that I have over previous recruitment options are: my many years of experience, expert knowledge, contact network, work ethic and full commitment to my market – Life Insurance & Retirement Solutions. I am fortunate enough to work in a market that values this approach – it is specialist and niche with professionally qualified candidates who take their careers seriously.

The best career opportunities are not sitting on job boards or company websites. The best people are rarely looking for new jobs. They are usually very well looked after by their current employers. So, how does a business get access to the very best talent in the market? How does an individual get access to the best jobs? This is where a good agent comes in. Within my network of clients, I meet with key people to find out about their future plans, growth, problems and strategy – I am always thinking about my passive network of candidates and how they could potentially add value to businesses. I regularly meet them for a catch-up coffee to keep up to date with their career and even personal situations, as this factor alone is often the reason why people move jobs.

It is a grown up, smarter and long-term approach that few recruiters can even attempt. Their Directors are closely monitoring their Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) – call times, CV sends, interviews arranged and current billings. This puts immediate pressure on the recruiter to become pushy and try to force through unworkable solutions for both the client and candidate, hence giving the industry its negative connotations. My professional advice is to find a skilled agent in your profession to build a meaningful relationship with (even if you are not recruiting or looking for a new job). You should question them on their experience, clients that they work with and high-profile people in the market they have placed. At the very least, you would want to know this information if you are going to enlist someone to be a key part of your future career plan.

I run a boutique search firm and we really value the personal and tailored approach. Our primary focus is to get out of the office and meet as many relevant people in our market and build relationships. We want to find out what is happening and who is moving in order to be one step ahead of the competition. As you progress and become more senior in your career, then a strong relationship with an agent is paramount. There will be fewer opportunities at the top end and often roles are created around the individual. If you do not have an agent who can bring you key information and in some instances make discrete approaches to firms on your behalf, then it is putting you at a disadvantage to your peers.

I will finish on this anecdote. The most enjoyable placement that I was involved in took over 12 months. The individual was known and highly regarded by the business – however, even though this person was interested in what this business was doing, he was not actively looking. In the end, he was able to outline his ideal job and put the ball back in the court of the prospective hiring firm. They went away and after a few organisational tweaks were able to come up with the desired role. This was only achieved due to the trust, patience and goodwill of all involved. This is what I find most enjoyable about my role – helping professionals with their careers while coming up with solutions to complex recruitment needs.

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