In-House Headhunters – Would you use them?

Last week’s Social Recruiting Conference hosted in London provided another opportunity to learn about new and innovative ways companies are recruiting. However in this case one of the most interesting recruiting examples I came across stemmed from a conversation I had while having coffee before the event kicked off.

I was talking with a couple of guys who worked as part of the in-house recruitment function at a large brewery company. What was unique about their roles compared to many other companies and clients I’ve spoken to and worked with, was that they were actual headhunters. They researched, sourced, contacted and sold candidates on the benefits of working for their company.

Most in-house recruiters I’ve come across help to attract staff directly via more passive means such as advertising. I’ve had meetings with clients who have told me they know the exact people they would like to hire/approach from competitors, but did not feel it was ethical or appropriate to contact them directly. Indeed the headhunters I spoke to also mentioned that to begin with their management were not comfortable with their approach; once they begun hiring top talent from their competitors however, the resistance diminished somewhat.

So in summary I’d be interested to hear your thoughts or opinions on the use of in-house headhunters. Do you share the opinion of some direct employers that it’s unethical? Or do you think it’s a function of in-house recruiting that will grow in the future?

Views: 367

Comment by James Todd on December 10, 2010 at 9:20am

Paul you make several excellent observations.  I have always viewed the difference between internal and external recruiting as farming vs hunting.   A corporate trend of properly incentivized in-house headhunters would probably cause more TPR's to attempt the move, but even then they would likely never get the superstars.  If corporations ever tried to compensate internal recruiters at the level of what the top performers on the TPR side make they would have a revolution on there hands.

Comment by Heather R. Huhman on December 10, 2010 at 10:20am
Hi Jean-Paul,

Great post and questions! I think that a more ethical approach to reaching passive candidates is utilizing a business-oriented social networking site or social talent communities (such as LinkedIn or Cachinko, respectively). Technologically speaking, this is a function of in-house recruiting that will continue to grow.
Comment by Paul Alfred on December 10, 2010 at 4:43pm

Good point James ... I think the key for TPR's is to contract their services out - deliver and show value.  A contractual relationship is not such a bad thing ... :)

Comment by Justin McMillin on December 10, 2010 at 7:27pm

In this economy and the way things are going - I'm seeing sourcing for some areas of industry becoming increasingly more simplistic. The problem is, or at least with my organization, the specialized crazy skills and combinations of what hiring managers want. That is the one area that is a struggle and would be worth obtaining some extra help in the form of a topical expert with a network made of gold. :) 

Comment by Paul Alfred on December 10, 2010 at 8:08pm

Hmmm that's funny Robert I know quite a few Power Headhunters who have moved over to the Corporate World and are doing quite well especially the ones that have a Contractual relationship with the firms they support ...


I have not heard of any Professional Recruiters (even the boys in the Executive Retained Search World) making Fortune 500 CEO Salaries yet... Pleaseeee point me in that direction.

Comment by Gene Leshinsky on December 30, 2010 at 2:36pm

Not everyone is looking for an upside all the time.

Comment by Al Merrill on December 30, 2010 at 7:00pm
Interesting question- I was hired in 1997 by a company president to build a headhunting practice I was to run for him, from my home office. His market was the largest fifty banks world wide, and he needed consultants from BIG 4-6, and certain skilled senior staff out of banking to do the implementations. My clients were the division VP's, who thought I worked for myself. I raided the the banks who were not clients, and no one was the wiser. To those who wonder, headhunting is not recruiting-  
Comment by Mark on January 3, 2011 at 6:48pm

Excellent post.

My approach is very straightforward.  I have a requirement and I work to fill it.  Now, I'm from an engineering background and I go after technical people only so, my comments will not apply across the board.


Having said that, I really don't care where the candidate is from.  In fact, if I can give my competitor a black eye by hiring a good engineer away from him, so much the better.  If things were so great there at Company X, why would he want to join Company Y in the first place?


It seems to me that if Company X wants to keep me out of their talent pool, they had best start respecting their engineering talent.  Of course that means not treating them like a commodity that can be outsourced to another country for a few buck less but hey, what do I know?  I'm just the guy who is hiring away your staff.





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