What is the main contribution of headhunters to companies?

What is the main contribution of headhunters to companies?

The members of the InterSearch Board of Directors answered this question for us. They highlighted the field of action of executive search firms from “identifying and recruiting senior executives to greatly enhance the talent pool” to “a highly holistic and sophisticated service offering” and “supporting the international expansion thanks to the most professional local and global knowledge”.

Like any service, the one offered by headhunters can be measured and qualified according to the contribution they provide to their clients, that is, to companies that seek to add a new executive to their ranks.

Frank Schelstraete, Chairman of the InterSearch organization:

Every organization needs leadership and for over 30 years InterSearch has partnered with thousands of companies worldwide to identify and assess their top-profiled executives. Among several good reasons why it’s advisable to use a headhunting firm, I would draw attention to the following circumstances:

Frank Schelstraete: “Change” is the new normal and it happens faster and faster.

The economy has shifted from energy driven to information-driven (digitization, Metaverse, Artificial Intelligence), the market demands more sustainable solutions to produce and sell products and services, Diversity & Inclusion rapidly became a major factor to attract and retain clients and candidates. These and further quick changes require Executives who can keep pace with the speed of change and innovation, leaders who will have to plan and anticipate, which is probably the only way to create sustainable value for stakeholders. This calls for a constant review of a company’s leadership potential – within the firm as well as in the outside job market – requires the support of headhunting firms to be effective and always a step ahead of the competitors.

Succession planning within companies is also of utmost importance, especially within Big Family steered firms. This needs a thorough analysis by a specialized consultant, a deep assessment of the potential within the firm (including family members), careful research to find external candidates and, finally, the right advice to guide the client towards the best choice for the future of the business.

The business environment has become highly international.

Whatever the size of the company, one of the development keys for many companies nowadays is having an international footprint. At this stage, a good headhunter with multicultural mindset and deep knowledge of local job markets can make a difference because its researchers and consultants are definitely qualified to find the right talent everywhere in the world, inform the client company about the local talent pool and advise on the most appealing compensation packages either in case of ex-pats or foreign candidates.

The current candidate’s driven market requires big investments in terms of resources, time, energy and corporate branding: using a good headhunting company helps the client to spare strategic resources, meet only those candidates for Executive positions who really match the ideal profile, and later choose the ones who perfectly fit the company culture and strategy.

Peter Waite: “Executive search firms can identify and approach hard-to-find candidates”

“Executive search firms can help companies identify and recruit senior executives to greatly enhance the talent pool. In a tight job market, particularly in Asia-Pacific and many Western countries, it’s hard to find high-quality executives and convince them to leave their current company.

An experienced search firm with an excellent reputation can work with a company to help with organizational structure and use research techniques to identify, approach, interview and recommend the right candidates. Although many companies have their own talent acquisition teams, if a candidate from a competitor is approached, the candidate is often very reluctant to respond because of concerns about confidentiality and jeopardizing their current employment. Therefore, by using an honest third party, such as a reputable executive search firm, the candidate is more likely to participate in discussions as long as confidentiality is guaranteed. Executive search firms have numerous research techniques and don’t just rely on LinkedIn to identify candidates – they can identify and approach hard-to-find candidates, especially in specialized roles that may be under the radar.”

Alexander Wilhelm: From “provider of candidates” to “acting as a consultant in the HR strategy”

I would respond with different answers, depending on the relationship with the customer:

  • Provider of relevant candidates based on specific profiles (that’s mostly the situation).
  • Having a long-standing association, also guide the clients in their search processes and act as a consultant for the current candidate market.
  • Having a real partnership for a long time and acting as a consultant in the HR strategy of clients, also in case of long-term replacement (i.e. at the time of retirement), as well as in people development, creating new job profiles, looking for the right people and not ‘just candidates’”.

Jyorden Misra: “The old image of just being a ‘headhunter’ is fading fast”

“’Often the best solution to a management problem is the right person,’ said one of the inspirations of the executive search industry, Edwin Booz, co-founder of Booz Allen Hamilton, in 1914. The pandemic has forced CEOs around the world to think dynamically in tandem with the rapidly changing business environment. Business leaders are now putting digital transformation, innovative cultures, and developing a new generation of leaders high on their agendas. Making these critical decisions requires a thorough understanding of the rapid currents of the market and forecasting the future. This creates a need for a well-equipped, trusted partner who understands the organization at a fundamental level and provides future-ready talent solutions to help the client.

Search is a dynamic concept: Tightly cradled with culture, traditional command structures are increasingly giving way to a more collaborative and consensus-based co-authorship management style. Both the teams and the markets have moved away from an ‘everything under one roof’ formula. In most cases, employees can be located anywhere, and customers can also access products and services from virtually anywhere. This means a big change in the way organizations are structured and operate, triggering a transformative shift in their cultural paradigm. How do you keep the spirit of camaraderie, team connections and motivation high with just the sounds and sights of virtuality, but no touching or feeling of reality? A more conventionally conditioned official would struggle in such scenarios. Similarly, it becomes vitally important for search firms to accurately assess the culture to determine a safe and most comprehensive fit. It is an established fact that 70% of people who fail in any organization worldwide do so because of a cultural mismatch. Cracking the code and reading the cultural contours, both existing and anticipated, is key.

The old image of just being a ‘headhunter’ is fading fast. Current needs require advice on a broader basis, e.g. talent assessment of the client’s competition in the market, talent audit of the client’s own company (compared to industry standards), advice on efficiency and effectiveness, leadership succession planning, culture assessment, and more.

Leadership Talent: The critical (search) differentiator in executive search, in its true form, is a highly holistic and sophisticated service offering. You have a profound capacity to absorb, proven characteristics to discern, the ability to deploy organic tools, and the awareness to connect on a human level. This combination, in its final analysis, is the most powerful and valuable asset that search, as “human software”, successfully delivers. There is invaluable value in human perception, judgment, discernment, and appreciation of nuance that an algorithm cannot replace. From resume screening to background screening, technology can provide a huge boost. When it comes to helping choose the best option among great candidates, technology allows you to do it well, but it soon reaches its limits. There are too many immeasurable details between the conscious, the subconscious and the sublime that require a human being to be in that process. The catalyst and the bridge in this case is the search consultant. These are the issues that today’s leaders will need to plan for and consider in the future. The pandemic has been a driver to test and realign leadership mettle and metrics. “A knife of the sharpest steel requires the whetstone, and the wisest man needs advice.” These ancient and insightful words from Zoroaster capture the essence of where the leadership talent search profession is today and the direction it is headed.”

Leslie Cooper: “It allows access to high-level talent”

“Hiring a headhunter is beneficial for a company since it has an advisor who supports companies in their talent search and selection processes, making the approach objective, specialized and personalized. It allows access to high-level talent, saves time and resources, guarantees confidentiality, and provides specialized advice that facilitates negotiation and closing. Headhunters’ knowledge of labor market trends allows them to provide information and strategic advice helping the company stay competitive in their search for professionals. They are companies that have experience and specialized in-depth knowledge of the labor market, industries, and executives, which allows them to understand the needs of the client company and find the most suitable candidates based on the requirements of the position and the organizational culture. In addition, they can provide valuable information on the availability of talent, salary trends, the most in-demand skills and other relevant data.

Through a headhunter, access to high-level talent is achieved also thanks to a wide network of contacts and access to highly qualified candidates that may not be so easily reached through traditional recruitment channels. They have the ability to attract and motivate professionals with successful experience and attractive skills who are not actively seeking a job change and who can be a great asset to the company. This broadens the company’s recruiting reach and increases the chances of finding the best talent.

Those of us who are part of international networks can accompany our clients in the search for global talent. We can identify and attract international candidates, facilitating the hiring of talent specialized in less developed functions or expertise in our country, as well as accompanying our clients in the formation of their teams in other countries.

In some cases, the company is not able to contact candidates due to the required confidentiality of a senior executive. A headhunter can guarantee confidentiality and manage the search in a confidential manner, protecting the interests and reputation of the company.

Headhunters are companies that are trained to objectively and thoroughly evaluate candidates using different evaluation techniques, such as in-depth interviews and reference checks, to ensure that the proposed candidates meet the company’s requirements both in terms of technical and relational skills as well as cultural fit. Such expertise in finding candidates who fit the profile and culture of the client company reduces the risk of a bad hire and increases the chances of long-term success.

Their role is also to be an intermediary between the company and the candidate, facilitating salary negotiations and other benefits. Their experience in managing these negotiations can help ensure that both parties reach a satisfactory agreement and that the contracting process closes effectively.

Headhunters are not only in charge of identifying and attracting talent, but they also help in the insertion and onboarding process of the new executive. This can include regular follow-up to make sure the transition is successful and that both the candidate and the company are happy with the hire.”


About Intersearch

InterSearch Worldwide is a global organization of executive search firms consistently ranked amongst the largest retained executive search practices in the world. InterSearch is currently operating with over 90 offices in more than 50 countries, able to operate in 70+. Established in 1989 in the UK, InterSearch carefully selects the best executive search firms to partner with as a member of a global entity with high integrity, transparency, and depth of experience. InterSearch prides itself on having a global reach with local impact.