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Headhunting: Securing Top Talent for Demanding Roles 

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Headhunting is a method of recruiting where recruiters actively seek out and approach potential candidates for job openings. After reading this article, you will understand what headhunting involves, the roles and responsibilities of a headhunter, and how to be successful in headhunting.  

It is especially useful for finding highly skilled and senior-level professionals, which can be challenging using traditional recruitment methods. 

What is Headhunting? 

Headhunting, or executive search, involves recruitment professionals—headhunters—actively searching for suitable candidates, especially for leadership and specialist roles. Headhunting uses a personal approach, unlike traditional recruitment, which often relies on public job postings. It can reach candidates who might not be actively seeking new opportunities. 

Headhunting is particularly useful for roles that are hard to fill or require specialized expertise, where finding suitable candidates through conventional job-seeking channels is challenging. 

Recruitment is often likened to searching for a needle in a haystack. In headhunting, the aim is to find the brightest star among many shining stars. 

Headhunting in Practice 

The headhunting process consists of several steps. First, the recruitment need is defined, detailing the desired characteristics and skills of the candidate. A search specialist then acts, beginning with mapping out potential candidates. These candidates are then presented to the hiring entity, and the headhunter contacts the most promising ones and conducts interviews before making final recruitment recommendations. 

To find the best people for a job, you need to plan carefully and know a lot about the job market and the hiring company. Headhunting is different from normal hiring because instead of the job seeker looking for a job, the company looks for the right person and tries to convince them to join. It’s important to know a lot about how the company works. You also need to understand exactly what the job requires and what good things it can offer to the person who takes it. 

“In executive searches, you cannot speak in broad recruitment jargon about ‘visions for career development’ nor describe the salary as merely competitive. It’s important to be specific. Candidates are often interested in the job description and the future of the workplace—how operations will evolve, how they can develop in their roles, and what the financial future looks like. Workplace well-being and company culture are also key factors,” says Emma Hjorth a recruitment manager at Barona who has conducted executive searches. 

What Does a Headhunter Do? 

A headhunter identifies suitable candidates and assesses their suitability and interest in the open role. This includes extensive candidate scouting, conducting interviews, and keeping in touch with candidates. 

As new, intriguing roles become available, headhunters search for the right talent from LinkedIn and their networks. The most capable headhunters, with extensive experience in their fields, have built broad contact networks. Many also specialize in searching for specific industries or roles. 

The right talent can also be sourced from a recruitment partner’s talent pool. Barona’s headhunting process, for instance, taps into a talent bank of over 300,000 professionals from various fields to find the appropriate candidate. 

When to use headhunting? 

Particularly in senior management and specialist recruitment, headhunting offers an effective way to find the best possible candidates. Headhunters often find experienced and qualified candidates who are not actively looking for new jobs but are open to changes in their careers. 

“Executive search is advisable when there is a recognized scarcity of talent. For instance, in the engineering and IT sectors, top professionals often do not follow job advertisements. Executive search finds top talent and captures their interest,” Emma explains. 

LinkedIn and Personal Branding in Executive Search 

LinkedIn and other social media channels are significant tools for headhunters. They use these platforms to find candidates and assess their suitability. If you want to be found by a headhunter on LinkedIn or elsewhere on social media, it is advisable to invest in your social media profiles. Build your profile carefully and clearly communicate your skills and career goals. Dive deeper into the world of personal branding by reading our article with tips on personal branding. 

The Pleasant Surprise of Being Headhunted 

For job seekers, being approached by a headhunter is often a pleasant surprise. “We have received feedback from many candidates that being contacted by a headhunter was a nice surprise. Job hunting is often a daunting task, and candidates are happy when they don’t have to search for jobs themselves but are instead directly approached,” Emma notes. 

Using a partner company for headhunting 

Headhunting can be conducted independently or with a partner. Using an external partner can add value through objectivity, fresh perspectives, and an extensive network. “With a partner’s help, the recruiting company gains expertise in executive search. Having been involved in dozens or even hundreds of projects, there is a different feel, for example, in job interviews,” explains Emma. 

“Our executive searches involve both recruiters and search specialists, specializing in finding candidates. The recruiting company saves time and money when the parameters of the search are clearly communicated at the start of the project: whether the sought-after specialists exist, where they are, and under what salary and conditions they are willing to join the company,” Emma concludes.