A-Z of Headhunting

by Giles Hampson

We have a large framed poster standing prominently in our office kitchen that is named “The A-Zen of Life” by the Dalai Lama which is designed to help you live a day at a time and make it a masterpiece.

Whilst I’m unlikely to relocate to Tibet anytime soon and take up Monasticism, I must admit the snippets they provide with each letter of the alphabet do offer some balanced reflection and a chance to detach from the day job now and again.

In line with this, I thought I’d share some snippets from my 10+years in the executive search industry and hope they provide a small insight into our world and what it takes to be a successful head-hunter in an increasingly ‘noisy’ market.

A – ACCESS – clients retain headhunters because they have the ability to access talent that they can’t themselves

B – BASIC SALARY – it’s not all about it! Trying to entice a passive candidate immediately with an offer of better money, whilst a factor, should not form the basis of your approach

C – CURIOSITY – coupled with interest, leads to better engagement with your target candidate

D – DETERMINATION - the best candidates in the market have their head down and are often not receptive to an approach, you need to find a way to engage them

E – ENGAGE – no matter how big a brand you are representing, the candidate must engage with you first, and you need to make it worth their while

F – FAIL FAST – if a candidate simply isn’t engaging and is on a ‘fishing trip’ bring things to a close, you need to focus your time on the right people

G – GUILE – can often be associated with deception, but it’s a hugely important trait to be successful

H – HUMAN APPROACH – in a world of social media and push notifications, human engagement and interaction is a valuable commodity that will endure in the world of headhunters for years to come

I – INQUISITIVE – ask the right questions, with purpose

J – JUDICIOUS – when preparing a short-list to present to a client, you have to make tough calls as to candidate selection, you won’t be everyone’s friend for doing so, but it is your job

K – KINETIC – you must energise your target candidates with a positive mindset of your client and the opportunity with them

L – LATERAL THINKING – in headhunting things are rarely ‘black and white’, you’re only successful if you can operate in the shades of grey

M – MANAGE EXPECTATIONS – no prospective candidate will appreciate an opportunity being oversold to them and a client wants frank feedback of their brand and offering in the marketplace

N – NIMBLE MIND – engaging a sales director or a finance director are very different propositions, they will buy into different styles and conversation topics

O – OBSERVE – it’s often what a candidate doesn’t do than what they do do that can give away their true interest levels and credentials

P – PERSUASIVE – this one speaks for itself

Q – QUESTIONING – in social settings I sometimes have to stop myself asking questions, but in work this is crucial to finding out what you need to about a prospective candidates abilities

R – RESEARCH – with the plethora of information available, there is no excuse for not researching your target candidate thoroughly

S – SELL – everyone in our business, from researchers to consultants are selling, whether selling RMG or our clients

T – TACTFUL – making a career change can be a highly-stressful time, showing tact and understanding is crucial

U – UNDERSTANDING – in recruitment people let you down, it’s important to understand their motivations before deciding your next move

V – VERIFY – everything you can! When researching try to cross-reference views and opinions where possible

W – WILLING – you must be willing to work hard, willing to think of ways to engage people that others wouldn’t

X – XENODOCHIAL – OK, I admit I looked this one up! This means friendly to strangers, we interact with, and meet new people every day – you need to be comfortable around people you don’t know

Y – YOU – be you, people buy into people with authenticity, you’ll never make it as a headhunter by trying to copycat someone else’s style

Z – ZOOM – in on your target and go for it!


You can see from the above that the role of a headhunter is varied, challenging, but ultimately rewarding – if the above has caused a level of curiosity in our business or if you’d like to talk to us about working for RMG, please take a look at our website or call 01928 711800 and ask for either myself or Joshua Guest for an initial conversation.

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