Whilst it is almost impossible to recognize e.g. a good dentist (confirms my friend Carsten, a good dentist), this is much easier when you ask yourself the question how to recognize a good headhunter.
Here are the 3 triple x questions to recognize a good headhunter and help you understand if the recruiter in front of you is likely to be able to help you or not:
- X as in Expertise: How well does the headhunter know his/ her client/ candidate, the industry or at least the position/ candidate s/he represents? This will directly influence the quality of work and career advice delivered. Some recruiters do not even have the basic information, vital puzzle pieces you need to know to take a decision with such an impact on you. Ask these questions to sort the wheat from the chaff: What is the position’s/ candidate’s history, the reason for the vacancy/ the candidate’s real interest in the position? Who are the direct competitors of the company they recruit for, what are the current trends the industry is undergoing? How does your headhunter find his/ her candidates? How well can your headhunter describe the candidate’s personality/ the culture of his/ her client? And how does s/he resume your conversation and the job brief/ your key motivators??
- X as in Experience: Are you in front of a specialist or a generalist? Sector or industry specialization both co-exist. Even though being a generalist is nothing bad, some sectors like IT or insurance are very specific and it is not easy to understand how these areas tick. How many years has your executive search consultant been working in this industry and what exactly did s/ he do? “Recruitment” can mean temp staffing, interim management or direct search. Every market and every approach is completely different. And how many candidates has s/he recruited by the way in his/her career? These questions give you an indication of you are in front of a real professional or not.
- X as in X-Factor: The first two points are tangible and measurable but this is not the case with point 3: does your headhunter listen to you, give advice? Is s/he critical and maybe corrects what your perception of the market is? Does s/ he keep promises (“I call you back on Friday”), briefs you before client/ candidate meetings, stresses positive as well as critical parts of the candidate/ the job? These are the soft factors and they will determine if you keep in touch in the long run or not. Most headhunters are able to make a good first impression but few can establish a lasting relationship based on trust and with the goal to create a win-win alliance with you.
Use the “3X Expertise, Experience and X-Factor” to recognize a good headhunter, find and test 2-3 search consultants, keep in touch with them and talk to them on eye-level to a) manage your own career wisely and b) find the best talent in the market for your team.