As headhunters we interact with two broad categories of candidates; those we pursue and those who pursue us. The former can be elusive, the latter can be challenging.
Our bread and butter are finding candidates on behalf of our clients. We scour databases, web sites, tradeshows, directories and the like for the high performing candidates most likely to thrive in the specialized roles we are trying to fill.
The others are candidates who reach out to us. Some are individuals who maintain regular contact while others are unknown to us. More than a few are what might be termed foul weather friends. They only return out calls or seek us out when betwixt and between jobs.
The vast majority simply want to be on our radar screens. They may be looking for feedback on their resumes, or advice on how to think through their next career move. Others want a barometer on the market or our impressions of certain organizations. For these enquiries we are always, always happy to help.
Some candidates ask us to act as their agents in the marketplace. Though the distinction may appear little more than semantics, we are an executive search firm not a placement agency and thus not equipped do this. In fact, when it comes to jobs, we are only useful to candidates if we happen to be looking for their credentials on behalf of one of our clients. Such an occurrence is most often a matter of timing and luck.
Finally, a few candidates expect us to perform slight of hand tricks on their behalf. While most candidates impress with the coherence and thoughtfulness of their career plans and aspirations, others drop fanciful leaps of logic on our laps. They seek to make improbable roles, or switch functions or industries. They seek consideration for entrepreneurial roles though their careers to date have never been in the vicinity of entrepreneurial companies. Their chances are not high, for while aspirations are the prerogative of the candidate, smell tests are administered by us and the market.
While headhunters seek exceptional talent they also endeavor to mitigate risk for their clients by looking for evidence that candidates have addressed similar challenges in similar contexts to those being faced by clients. We try to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of their previous successes and failures, and we try to map those answers onto what we believe our clients want and need. The word ‘believe’ is critical, for executive search is the art (dare I say contemporary art) of managing distortion. It is a world where clients and candidates try to make informed decisions while tentatively offering only one foot for the other to see, their best foot. It is rife with challenges and anyone who suggests it is easy, is asking for trouble.
So, to our fair and foul weather friends, please keep in mind that our relationship holds much greater promise if we all understand what each of us can and cannot do for the other.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.
Contact Robert by email at email@example.com or call (1) 416-365-9494 Ext. 777