How to choose your headhunter

How to choose your headhunter? Charles Belle Isle, Partner at Métivier Conseil Group answers you.

You are a company executive and you have just lost a senior executive on the management team. No one in your organization has the necessary qualities to fulfill this important function.  Time is running out and you decide to call upon the services of a headhunter to take on the recruitment of this indispensable position.

But where do you start? And why is it important to choose wisely?

I’ve been doing this job for more than thirty years and I’m still amazed to see to what extent the decision making process of the headhunting firm selection is sometimes left up to chance and sometimes hurried in a state of panic due to a pressing need.

It is often said (and rightly so) that a good manager must know how to surround himself/herself well to excel in his/her own work. This is also true when it comes to choosing a lawyer, a financial expert, in short, those who bring a precious touch to the success of the company. Therefore, surrounding oneself well is essential both internally and externally through the different expertise that exist in our market.

Often, our business leaders have developed during their respective careers a network of contacts that allows them to surround themselves with experts according to their needs.  A headhunter falls into a broad category……Let’s eliminate from the outset the mass recruiters who provide a very specific service at the intermediate level, who undoubtedly have their utility and market space however who meet very different needs than an Executive Search firm.  I am addressing those who are looking for the expert at identifying, soliciting, and evaluating the talent of senior executives, in other words, the headhunter.

When the executive sets up a selection committee to choose an executive search firm, it must ensure the integrity of each individual and his or her intimate knowledge of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.  Developing a partnership with a firm or headhunter is not simple.  We must agree to reveal privileged information about our executives and go beyond the figures shown on the financial statements. All the information about the position to be filled and about the company is essential for an exhaustive talent search. Needless to say, all this is done with great discretion, especially since at Métivier Groupe Conseil, our headhunters are governed by a Code of Ethics specific to the executive search profession imposed by the Chartered Human Resources Advisors Order. Choosing to opt for transparency in a new business partnership for a company executive is not always easy and requires great maturity to do so. Sometimes choosing the recruiter who does not dig as deep may seem wiser or simpler. However, think about it, if your headhunter stays on the surface with you as a company, how will you know that he/she will go deep with the candidates he/she qualifies?

All of this is the preamble that will ensure that our talent search will be

Now that you’re ready to recruit in the marketplace: which headhunter will you choose? Eliminate the idea of partnering with an executive search firm that specializes in your market. This may sound reassuring, but it is not a condition for success. Sometimes it can even be detrimental since the firm that serves your competitors may have non-solicitation clauses. An experienced headhunter can understand your business model, learn the language of your industry and approach potential candidates directly.

You have identified a few executive search firms, you have obtained their service offer and it is now time to plan meetings that will be aimed at:

  • Validate the competence of the headhunter
  • Obtain details on the methodology, exclusivity clause, OFF limits
  • Understand what drives him/her (if this headhunter can convince you, know that he/she will do the same with the candidates you want to attract).
  • Ask about more difficult mandates, to understand how he/she reacts in the face of adversity (does he/she know how to be creative, resilient, frank).
  • Evaluate the famous fit: this recruitment expert will become your ambassador in the market, so will he/she represent you well?
  • Clarify the terms and conditions: Does this headhunter offer a guarantee? For how long after your collaboration will he/she respect his non-solicitation clause in your organization ?
  • Is he or she able to understand your business plan? Your strategic plan?
  • Is this headhunter able to warn you about your requirements and the state of the market?

This first meeting will allow you to determine if a relationship of trust and transparency can be established between you. You wish to surround yourself with a headhunter who will quickly become a partner of choice for the growth of your company. He/she will be able to update you on the state of the market in your sector and can also provide you with useful data that will help you refine your final offer.

Other important elements to validate before choosing your headhunter:

  •   Ask who will do the work. Are you looking at a business developer who brings the mandate and who will have it executed by a member of the firm? Who will be in contact with the candidates?
  • What kind of team does this headhunter have around him/her? What tools and techniques are used?
  • What is the history of the firm? What are its achievements, its network of contacts, its database, is it up to date?
  • If necessary, ask for details regarding fees? We always look to get our money’s worth! However, if your choice is based solely on price, you will be disappointed.  Recruitment firms rarely differentiate themselves all that much on price.

You will learn how to develop a very special relationship with this headhunter: he/she will become your confidant, will listen to you in complete discretion, will guide you in the strategy to close a recruitment project, will follow up on the integration process and will continue to act as a consultant to both the hired candidate and you, his/her client.

If you are well prepared, you will make the right choice. Think of the exercise as a long-term investment and not as an expense. Because at the end of this process, you will have a new business partner committed to your success and you will welcome a new executive to your management team who will have the skills to help your organization grow. This is how we at Métivier Groupe Conseil define the role of a headhunter. As we often hear success breeds success!

Do not hesitate to contact us at 514 398-9345 or by filling out this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Yours truly,

Charles Belle Isle

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