Headhunting: Do You Know How it Works?

Headhunting: Do You Know How it Works?

Last update: 26 April, 2018

If we look at the original meaning of headhunting, it’s not too pretty. It’s pretty shocking, actually. But in the modern world, this term has evolved. Today, headhunting is a popular recruitment method.

It involves looking for the ideal candidate for a job position without the candidate actively looking for employment. It tasks the headhunter with finding people whose profiles best fit the job position.

What is it used for?

It emerged relatively recently. In the 50’s and 60’s in New York companies started using it as a way of finding people trained to fill management positions. In those years, small headhunting companies sprang up in the United State. These later on became huge multinational headhunting firms.

Today, this method is not used exclusively for high-level candidates. It’s mainly used to find people with skills that are difficult to find. It could be that they’re scarce in the market, they have high rates, or they have somewhat unique training, skills, and competencies.



man looking for candidates representing headhunting

How is headhunting done?

The internet and new technologies have helped enormously, and in some ways have transformed headhunting. Before, when we weren’t so “connected”, finding candidates was a much harder task. Recruiters had to use their own little black book to look for possible candidates.

But, with social media, email, and cell phones, the job became far easier. In addition, there are now platforms designed especially to highlight each person’s work, education, and experience. With just one look you can see if that profile is what you’re looking for or not.

It’s like a catalog of candidates just several clicks away. But, despite the apparent time savings, headhunting is a long process that goes through several phases.


Phases of the process

Normally, companies hire headhunting agencies. They give the agency a very specific profile for a position. For this, listening to their client’s needs is the first step.

  • Researching the employee profile the client needs: they hold various bilateral meetings to establish what the client does and does not want. This is the foundation for the rest of their work.
  • Classification of recruitment sources: social media, contacts, employment portals, the competition, databases… The headhunter searches all their networks, like a headhunting Sherlock Holmes.  
  • First contact with the candidate: they explain what the position being offered is, the profile they need, and they request additional information 
  • Holding interviews: these sometimes start as group interviews, then go on to individual interviews.
  • Creating and presenting a report about the candidate to the client: after screening the client, they create a small file about the candidates they believe to be the best.   
  • Presentation of final candidates for the client: of course, the client gets the final say. 
interview representing headhunting


From cologne to clothes

In human resources, one very important aspect is a candidate’s resume or career history. But there is one more essential part: the human touch, the non-verbal. They look at everything. From the candidate’s way of shaking hands, their clothing, their appearance, their posture during the interview, their cologne, and their way of expressing themselves.

Once the headhunter observes all of this, they can then see if that they meet the client’s needs or not. Rakesh Khurana, who holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, says that the work of headhunting professionals is coordinating, mediating, and verifying. They decide who is talented, and who should be allowed into networks that provide access to elite job positions.

Advantages of headhunting

There are many advantages of headhunting. Compared to traditional techniques, it saves money and time. What before took weeks, now may only take a few hours. Their personalized approach, the way resources are optimized, and their dedication give employers the health and peace of mind they need.

Additionally, externalizing the selection process makes it more likely they’ll find the ideal candidate. Since these headhunting companies are exclusively dedicated to finding talent, they’ll do it better than any internal HR department.


woman doing headhunting

If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain

If you are unemployed or looking for a job that is better aligned to your preferences, why not headhunt the headhunters? W hy don’t you look for headhunters so that they will also “hunt” you?

First of all, it’s a good idea to keep your professional social media profile up-to-date. Once there, identify the companies you’d most like to work for and filter your search for the positions you want. Look for the people responsible for hiring… and add them! Before, you were invisible. But by taking these small measures, it’s much more probable that they’ll keep you in mind for that position that you want so badly.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.