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Hunting it down: The role of today’s headhunter
Having conversations with fellow headhunters has raised a widely speculated topic, that of the possible extinction of headhunters. Is recruitment an industry that sees headhunters as replaceable by social media and faced with a short life span?
As companies struggle to find a balance between cost and efficiency in the Chinese market, it is a recurring trend for them to consider having in-house recruiters.
Spoilt for choice
A variety of recruitment channels are also at play including international brand powerhouses, smaller boutique agencies and job boards on LinkedIn, Zhaopin and 51job, all bringing employers and job seekers closer. However, through personal experience, one observes headhunters are pressured to be more competitive and have their services more relied on by firms. The increasing reliance on headhunters also shows a desire from entrepreneurial, cost conscious business people to engage recruitment companies to strengthen their hunt for talent.
What can be more valuable than talent?
Imagine a major corporation is trying to expand its business in China through stronger sales, a bigger workforce and wider M&A efforts. Think of the challenges that follow. Similarly, think of a company doing badly in China and needs talent of the right quality and fit to turn the business around. What is then more valuable than talent? It could possibly be the time and cost to identify these talent.
In essence, using a good headhunter can save companies months of delay and minimise the risk of candidate rejection and them not showing up.
It may seem easier to hire an internal team and source candidates using social media and job boards. However the time it takes for companies to build an internal database is as painstaking as the hunt for talent itself. You may get one or two roles filled; filling a portion of the pie but not getting the big picture.
The role of the headhunter
An in-house HR person would have to rely on posting web advertisements, scouring through numerous CVs and meeting with candidates multiple times to identify those that are suitable.
The in-house HR person may also face issues such as the candidate dropping out during the process, a risk of candidate rejection or buy backs during their notice period and the possibility of ‘no-show’ risks months after.
In retrospect, the in-house recruiter is doing exactly what a headhunter does but at a slower pace and not with the similar level of market knowledge or depth of relationships. In essence, using a good headhunter can save companies months of delay and minimise the risk of candidate rejection and them not showing up.
Recruitment firms promise to offer a consultant who will coach you on the entire process from understanding the talent market to ensuring processes for candidate acceptance, resignation and onboarding are made secure.
Headhunters as a necessity
In the near future, companies are likely to continue seeing headhunters as a necessity. This is especially so in fast- emerging markets like China for jobs deemed urgent and critical to their organisation. Risk management is critical to selecting the ideal recruiter. From deciding which recruitment company to partner with or understanding their expertise and scope of service, it is wise to be patient and persistent. Indeed, a useful bottom line to weigh the recruiter’s risk is “past performance is the best indicator of future behaviour.”Although not every agency is able to deliver on the said quality of service and speed, developing a relationship with the right recruiter will allow your organisation to widen its opportunities and respond to risks and challenges better.