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 that can 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? Many do not even have the basic information, vital puzzle pieces you need to take a decision with a major impact on you. Ask 2-3 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: when considering me to fill one of his vacancies, one of my client asked me “how many people of this qualification did you personally recruit in the last 6 months?”. 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 specificand it is not easy to understand how these areas tick)? How many years has your headhunter been working in this industry? On which positioning (“recruitment” can mean temp staffing, middle management or top executives. Every market and every approach is completely different)? And how many candidates has s/he recruited by the way in his/her career?
- 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.
Find and test 2-3 headhunters, 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.