Six major advantages of headhunting

Anyone involved in HR or management knows that recruitment is enormously challenging right now. We have too few skilled staff and far too many vacancies.

Simply posting a job advert isn’t enough in conditions like these. It’s time to try a different approach.

If you’re seeking candidates with exceptional skills or training, it’s even more important to go the extra mile to find and attract great candidates.

If you’re looking for the best talent, it’s worth considering the benefits of headhunting.

What is headhunting?

Before we look at the benefits (and costs) of headhunting, let’s just recap what headhunting is and how it differs from traditional recruiting.

Headhunting is the process of seeking the perfect candidate for a particular role, wherever they might currently be and their current employment status.

Headhunters contact individuals with the skills you’re looking for and encourage them to make a move to work for you.

6 major advantages of headhunting

Headhunting may not be your usual recruitment method, but it can have some impressive advantages compared to more traditional approaches.

1. Access to a wider talent pool

Traditional recruitment can only give you access to a limited talent pool — people who have seen your job advert and chosen to apply.

This excludes a wide variety of potential applicants. Possibly most importantly, it limits you to those who are currently job-hunting. 20% of workers are looking to change jobs this year, but that still leaves 80% inaccessible through job adverts.

A great headhunter is familiar with the skills you need and can be creative in finding candidates with those skills.

2. Focusing your efforts on high-quality candidates

Traditional recruitment can often feel like a long slog. You craft a job advert designed to attract as wide a range of candidates as possible, wade through piles of application forms and CVs, and try to find the diamonds in the rough.

Headhunting works by finding great-quality candidates and convincing them to come and work for you. Your time, attention, and effort are focused on high-quality candidates who you already know fulfil your needs.

By only looking at potential applicants with the skills, abilities, and experience you’re looking for, you save time and money. You’re also able to give potential candidates personalised attention, improving the chances that they’ll be enthusiastic about joining you. 

3. Improved chance of finding the best person for the role

Working with a great headhunter can help you find the best candidates for your role, especially if you’re looking for senior staff or an unusual skill set.

Because headhunters find potential new hires already performing well in their current roles, they have a track record for excelling.

4. Allows discrete hiring

It’s not always advantageous for people outside your company to know that you’re making a significant new hire.

If you’re looking to expand in an exciting new direction, take advantage of a unique opportunity, or make a significant restructure, you might want to keep the news to yourself for as long as possible.

Headhunting allows you to keep your hiring plans and decisions quiet in a way that’s simply not possible with traditional hiring practices.

5. Faster hiring

Headhunting can be a particularly efficient way of approaching recruitment, potentially allowing you to make faster hires.

Traditional recruitment can sometimes be a slow and cumbersome process. Your job advert will typically be active for at least a few weeks. You then need to whittle down applicants, create shortlists, arrange interviews, and more.

Headhunting circumvents much of this time-consuming process.

6. Lower hiring costs

Speeding up the hiring process can also mean lower costs.

Headhunting means that you don’t have to spend hours combing through CVs to find great candidates or interview your entire shortlist in the name of fairness, offering you significant savings on your recruitment costs.

Disadvantages of headhunting

Although headhunting has some huge advantages, it’s not all smooth sailing. Let’s look at some of the downsides of headhunting.

1. In-demand candidates can command a premium

Headhunting makes it very clear to potential new hires that their skills and abilities are in demand. When it comes to salary and benefits negotiations, that can put you in a tougher spot.

Additionally, headhunted applicants aren’t actively looking for a new job. This (presumably) means that they’re at least reasonably happy with their current situation. Attracting this kind of talent can be more complicated than recruiting someone unhappy in their job.

These factors mean that companies headhunting great talent may have to make more generous pay offers than those relying on traditional recruitment methods.

The ongoing expense of higher salaries can quickly outweigh any savings on recruitment costs.

2. ‘Poaching’ candidates can look bad

Here on the crooton blog, we talk a lot about employer branding, with good reason. Your employer branding is vital to your recruitment strategy, whether you use traditional methods or headhunting.

Being seen as a company that ‘poaches’ employees from their competitors can undermine your employer branding, making subsequent recruitment more difficult.

In deeply interconnected industries, it can create bad feelings with your competitors and clients or suppliers.

Poaching doesn’t just come with social ramifications. If you pursue too many employees from a single competitor, you may also be vulnerable to legal consequences.

3. You have to fit around the candidate

Headhunting turns the normal power balance of recruitment on its head. Typically, candidates are expected to adjust themselves to fit the needs of a new employer, for example, by taking annual leave from their current position to enable them to attend interviews.

When you’re headhunting a new employee, this pattern reverses. They’re happy in their current position, and you’re trying to convince them to change. This means you may have to schedule your conversations at their convenience.

You may need to offer interviews outside of regular office hours or adjust your expectations to fit their timeframe.

4. Diversity can be at risk

Companies often put significant time and effort into creating bias-free recruitment processes to improve team diversity. Headhunting doesn’t always undermine DEI efforts, but it often can.

Because headhunters are seeking out great talent, there’s a risk that they’ll only reach out to candidates who are similar to those already in the field. Potential new hires from diverse backgrounds or those who have taken a different career path may never appear on your radar.

Although traditional recruitment and headhunting have different approaches (and their own strengths and weaknesses), there can also be a middle way.

All the advantages of headhunting and recruitment rolled into one

Here at crooton, we’ve found a way to offer you the best of both worlds.

Our employer fencing technology allows you to use traditional job adverts and target them to precise locations — including your competitors’ workplaces.

This allows you to target potential new employees without pursuing them individually, including those not currently looking for a new job.

Contact our expert team to discuss your specific needs and learn more about how our services can bridge the gap between recruitment and headhunting.

And stay tuned to the crooton blog to stay up-to-date on all things recruitment, including candidate management, news topics like the four day work week trial, how recruitment fits into the changing world of work, and much more!