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The Practice of Corporate “Headhunting”

Headhunting, Recruitment, International Recruitment...

A corporate ‘headhunter’ is a professional recruiter that works independently as a contract consultant, or as part of a recruitment firm.   The human resource professional differs from other recruiters by definition, as they can be hired to specifically recruit talent from one organization for another, i.e., a competitor.

When thinking about corporate headhunter’s, you can best describe them as highly driven and persistent. Their fees are commission based, and so the drive to place a highly coveted professional with the hiring organization is strong.    Sometimes in the recruitment agency, headhunter’s can earn themselves the disdain of companies, which is understandable.  All organizations work hard to recruit and retain key talent, and having someone walk away with an employee that you may have invested years of training into, can be understandably frustrating.

We’ll discuss the role of a headhunter in global recruitment, and how the practice is accepted (or frowned upon) in different countries.   We will also share some advice from our top recruiters on managing repeated requests, or even aggressive contacts by a corporate headhunter professionally.

Hard Markets for Headhunters

Which countries dislike the practice of aggressive corporate recruitment by headhunters?  Despite the fact that being contacted should be considered flattering in most cases (it means you have earned a good reputation as a talented employee in your field), in Germany, Benelux, and the United Kingdom, the practice is typically disliked by candidates, whether they are looking for a new employer or not.

Job markets that lean toward conservative practice are not open to being approached with new opportunities, when they are not actively seeking new employment.  Rather than being flattered, candidates in these countries are often annoyed by the approach, and then concerned about their employer discovering that they were a target.

No matter how much you assure your employer that you are not looking for a new opportunity, being followed on LinkedIn by companies, competitors or independent recruiters, searched or inquired about can seem suspicious to the employer. Candidates may feel like they have to prove to their employer that they are quite happy in their current role, or that the unwelcome scrutiny or suspicion may be career limiting.

Does it seem reasonable to assume that an employee who is repeatedly approached by recruiters, that he or she may be looking for a new job? Of course it is, which is why the response to an aggressive or unsolicited recruiter may not always be polite, particularly if it is a repeat occurrence.   If you love your job, the last thing you want to do is make it seem like you are ready to make a move; and in some circumstances, it can present problems.

Countries That Culturally Welcome Unsolicited Recruitment

In liberal work environments and countries that are culturally more open, being approached by a headhunter is actually something that can be boasted about.  In fact, in countries like Canada, the United States, Latin countries and Southern Europe, personal networking is essential to business and career success.  A new opportunity is exciting, and professional candidates at all levels from entry to C-Level executives are open to reviewing propositions and interviewing confidentially for exciting new roles.   In fact, if the candidate is truly not interested in making a move, he or she may personally recommend several people for the unsolicited recruiter to contact.

In Asia Pacific countries, the culture of “work hard and get ahead” is not always tied to long term tenures with employers.  Rapid advancement is culturally ingrained in most candidates from APAC, and they are very open to confidentially interviewing for roles, and even lateral moves if they feel there is a greater opportunity for increased salary or responsibility with a new employer.

How to Respond to Headhunters

If you have been approached by an unsolicited recruiter, you should give yourself a “pat on the back”.  Truthfully, headhunters are very selective about who they contact, and if you have been identified as a talented and resourceful employee, your skills combined with your reputation is in demand.  That is a good thing, as it means your personal branding within your industry is polished and effective.

Being assertive with a headhunter is appreciated also.  If you cannot imagine yourself wanting to leave your current employer for any reason, don’t waste time; simply express that.  It is reasonable to review the details of the job and the salary and benefits, as it is valuable information you can use to weigh whether you feel your compensation is competitive or not.  We recommend that all professionals review their skillset, experience and salary annually.

If you are interested in making a possible move, remember that headhunters are commission based professionals that will keep your interest confidential.   Be aware that while the headhunter may be silent on your review of the role, the prospective employer may not, unless a confidential disclosure is signed.   Before you confirm or deny interest or review the details, ensure that a two-way confidentiality agreement is signed, to protect yourself from malicious and unwanted sharing, should you decline the prospective employers offer.

At reesmarx, we maintain an active and updated database of thousands of career professionals in every major market, and there are new candidates registering in our portal daily.   Our recruiters do not contact candidates unsolicited, and we do not employ the use of aggressive recruiting tactics.

Share with us!  Have you had a positive or a negative experience with a corporate headhunter?   Leave a comment below.