The Top 3 Headhunting Mistakes, and How To Fix Them.

For organisations within niche sectors, or companies searching for C-Suite candidates, there’s a high possibility you’ve engaged with a Headhunter, or have rolled out Headhunting Techniques within your team. These three mistakes are costing you a serious amount of time.

 1.       Ignoring Cultural Fit


Headhunting usually occurs when there’s a real shortage of activate candidates within your target market. You’re struggling crawling through your CV Searching platform, struggling to find any form of relevancy due to how niche the vacancy is. Next step? Proactivity. Actively reach out to candidates. When there’s a level of desperation, you may end up losing sight of your employer brand, and company culture.

If you’re up against time, you’ll sense desperation, possibly caused from above. When desperation kicks in, in any scenario, we’re naturally hard-wired to cut corners in order to complete a task as quick as possible. Persuading a candidate that looks right on paper to join your organisation, regardless of their cultural fit, will only end badly, and the candidate will be less likely to stay in the long term. If you haven’t experienced this first-hand yet, take it from me. Or don’t and watch your new employee feel more and more isolated from your employer brand as time goes on.

The fix for this mistake is pretty self explanatory. If you haven’t already, spend time with your employees, both at work, and out of work. Spend some time understanding their happiness triggers, and personality traits, and be ready at any given time to make a judgement as to whether or not someone personally could fit in with your company culture.

From your research, 35% of your Employees have a keen interest in cars, and 20% have a keen interest in extreme sports. At interview, you learn your prospective new employee is an avid mountain biker, and attends car shows at the weekend. Bingo.

Employees progress, deliver, and grow within an organisation when they’re most comfortable. Reverse engineering the same statement, the most talented employees, if they feel isolated, end up with an unintentionally stunted productivity level.


 2.       Treading on Toes


As tempting as it may be, for some, don’t call your target candidates while they’re at their desk, in their current role. They’ll feel hugely under pressure, and will 95% of the time, be completely unable to relay the relevant information when answering your questions. If they’re in ear-shot of their line manager, they’ll also feel pretty uncomfortable saying ‘would you mind calling me back after 6pm?’.

When said line manager hears of the direct tactics, with your intentions on poaching their staff, it’ll leave a sour taste for both sides. It’s been seen many-a-time for the InHouse, and Agency recruiters that self-proclaim themselves as the Wolf of (Insert Road Name) Street to pick up the phone, tread on toes, cause a digital riot, and end up with all bridges within their chosen sector burned to the ground. The next time that organisation looks for a Headhunter to actively source candidates for their open roles, the chances are, it won’t be you. However, don’t worry if it’s all you know. Times are changing, and approaches are also shifting, in terms of how possible to reach out to candidates.

The fix for this? A casual, two-three line email or InMail on LinkedIn.

“Hey Joe, hope you don’t mind the message. I’m really struggling to find candidates for the Head of Digital role we’ve got here at XYZ Marketing. I saw you were in the industry so thought I’d ask… do you, or do you know anyone that might be looking for a role like this? Maybe someone that’s recently left your organisation, or a previous colleague?”

This message works in two ways. You’re highlighting the prospective candidate in the light of someone that’s knowledgeable within their field, and ever so slightly elevating their digital ego. Not only this, but by asking to reach out to their connections, you’ll find yourself exploring other avenues you may not have looked at. Even if your selected candidate isn’t necessarily looking for a role, but knows someone that is, sending a job description across is almost guaranteed to be viewed by the candidate you’re chatting to. Curiosity kicks in, they read about the package in mind, and how awesome your organisation is, and next thing you know, a call is arranged to discuss more details.

It’s subtle, empowers the candidate, and offers a chance to broaden your reach. Great success.


3.       Too Professional!


You’ve been tasked with approaching the select few candidates that could be right for your vacancy. Your nerves are through the roof, as losing possible contact with these candidates significantly narrows your chances of filling the role. You end up going with a copy & paste message in a professional format, with bags of text. Blew it.

The candidate will likely see the message and think one of two things. “That’s a seriously long message. I’ll get back to it later… or when I can…” or, “Sounds a little corporate for me, maybe there’s a lack of interesting company culture”

Long messages, or using corporate jargon can really put off a candidate. They’ll either feel underqualified, uninterested, or simply won’t have the time to read the essay you’ve provided. Whether or not the fact that your paragraphs of text were 100% accurate doesn’t come into play. First impressions are key, and you want to show the candidate your organisation is fun, interesting, and has a great culture.

Fix for this? Going back to the point above, a quick message will suffice. You can’t provide the candidate with a job description if you have no idea they’ll be open to looking. Be colloquial, be laid back, even have a joke. It’ll instantly place yourself and the candidate on the same level. A short message will be read, and a light-hearted message will be responded to (most of the time!). Not only this, but by providing a laid-back element to your message, the ‘help me out a little here!’ or ‘You know more than I do, where should I look’ comes across in a far greater light than the ‘Our organisation is perfect and you’ve been lucky enough to be contacted by us’ message will.


In summary, headhunting is a difficult task that’s for sure. You’re approaching candidates you’ve never spoken to before, without knowing if they’re needing a new job, and without trying to burn bridges or step on toes. You’ll feel like you’re walking on eggshells. However, a softer, quicker, quirkier tone to your message, with a tone of ‘I need some help, I don’t suppose…’, will allow you to thank the candidate for their time and help, and to move on should the candidate not be interested. We’re all human, and we all hate conflict. Keep the bridges in your industry strong and stable, and make your selected candidates feel empowered and comfortable from the start.


Select Jobs is a UK Job Board listing over 350,000 live vacancies, with the exclusive option that allows Recruiters to advertise an unlimited amount of vacancies, paying only for what’s delivered to each advert. A re-invented form of job advertising that removes surplus spend from online candidate attraction.

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