I’ve been accused of many weird and wonderful things in my decade as a recruiter but last week took the biscuit. Shock, horror and scandal…I was accused of being a headhunter “well-known for poaching staff from other agencies…” Well blow me down.
Some context is probably needed:
I was speaking about the emerging “Flex Economy” and Non-Traditional Talent in Wellington last week, at a very pleasant event hosted by the guys at Flexitime and The Detail. In broadcasting the upcoming event, they sent out some invites to various good people of the Wellington recruitment community. The response, from this one particular quarter, was what you read above, and that they would be surprised if many in the industry would want to come along.
It surprises me that this Director of a recruitment agency is critical of this kind of behaviour. I mean, are they suggesting they never headhunt candidates for their clients? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as recruiters? Are there really businesses out there who are simply happy to pay us large placement fees for throwing up ads onto online job boards to farm the unhappy, the disenfranchised, and the displaced active job seekers of this world?
What’s the point in that? They might as well get WINZ to do their recruitment, although this could be an insult to WINZ in comparison to this agency, for which I apologise.
Headhunting is a delicate, complicated, but necessary function of our profession. I think that what is important is the way, and the style, in which the approach is made. Everyone has their own moral compass around these things but here’s the compass I take my directions from:
- It’s not appropriate to “spam” headhunting approaches. Whether calling from desk to desk within an office, or sending out bulk InMails just to see if anyone might happen to be “interested in exploring new opportunities”. I think a direct headhunt should only be made to one person for one specific role, preferably one they have been recommended for by someone else in your network.
- It is not necessary, in fact I would actively discourage, revealing to your target who it was you were referred by.
- It goes without saying that you don’t headhunt from your clients, and then seek to back-fill the vacancy your efforts created.
- The question of “who is a client” is really open to debate. In my mind a business is only a client when they have paid one of your invoices for work done in the past. There is also, I feel, a time limit on this and I think that if you’ve done no business for around 2 years or more then it’s fair game. Before the hysterical brigade pipe up, let me also say that this doesn’t automatically mean that if you’re a previous client of more than 2 years past that I’m going to headhunt from you, there’s many I still hope to recruit for in the future.
- It’s never OK to headhunt a candidate you placed in the past, even if the past client is no longer a current client as per above.
Do you agree or disagree? What are your guidelines that you believe apply to headhunting? Or are you in agreement with this Director and feel it shouldn’t be done at all?
I’d like to finish with a couple more quick points: Firstly, it was nice to meet all of the recruiters, managers, clients, Directors, and suppliers at last week’s event in Wellington. I’m glad that you didn’t all feel the same way as my accuser, and I appreciate you making the effort to come and listen to my presentation.
Secondly, the irony of all of this is that I’ve never headhunted anyone directly out of this particular agency anyway. Their recruiters have always come to me directly. But hey, I don’t mind being a scapegoat for poor retention strategies and rudderless leadership. We headhunters are well used to bearing that mantle.