When Is A Headhunter Worth The Investment?

Headhunting Blog Author
Author: Eleanor Hill
Published: 14th November 2017
Categories: Recruitment

In short:

Headhunting Investment

Headhunting firms, recruitment agencies and internal resources all have their purpose in recruitment. But there are specific situations better suited to each.

This post will explain when headhunting is worth the investment, or when other methods make more sense.

In detail:

A headhunter might not be necessary if:

  • The position is not senior, urgent, confidential or critical for business or revenue.
  • Your company can recruit internally without wasting or exhausting time, money or resources.
  • The skillset is very broad and readily available on the market.
  • The best talent in the industry is not necessary for the role.
  • The opportunity is not a professional step up for the profile of candidates which the business is targeting. If the candidate is happy in their current position, they will need a reason to move. This could mean more seniority, a salary increase, a highly regarded company or more exciting job responsibilities.

You should use a headhunter if:

  • The position requires a mix of skills which are very unique or industry-specific. You will need a specialist with the expertise and the right network rather than a generalist recruiter.
  • You are recruiting for a senior position (typically from mid-management and above). Senior executives can make or break a company, so investing in a recruitment process which mitigates the risk is essential.
  • The position is business-critical or needs filling urgently. Perhaps an important senior executive role can’t afford to be left open for long, or those front-line salespeople need hiring to generate revenue ASAP. The support and experience of a headhunter will considerably speed up the time-to-hire.
  • The hiring process needs to be confidential. You may need to replace an underperforming employee, or you may not want the vacancy known to the public or your competitors.
  • You do not have the time or resources to conduct a search. Your internal recruiting channels might have been exhausted or the HR staff might need extra support.
  • The position is candidate-scarce. This type of role is not going to bring in many candidates from online advertisements.
  • The company is recruiting for a new position that it just created. As a brand new function, this role is likely to be outside of the Hiring Manager’s expertise. A headhunter from the right background will be able to plug the knowledge gap.
  • You want to give your business a strategic advantage by hiring the top-performing talent in the industry, and weaken a competitor at the same time. The search methods used by recruitment agencies are ineffective in finding the top 20%, because a company's best hire will be the candidates who are not actively jobseeking.

The cost of a bad hire for an important position far outweighs the cost of a rigorous hiring strategy that avoids these pitfalls. If the role is suitable, a headhunting strategy provides a greater return on investment in the long run, by delivering better talent, faster.


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