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How To Hire a Head Hunter: 10 questions that rarely get asked

how to choose

Need to use an executive search firm?

Here’s my insider advice on How To Hire A Head Hunter.

Ten questions that rarely get asked.



1.  What’s your firm’s capacity for research?

If a firm doesn’t have dedicated researchers, a large database, networked computers, and consultants who can think laterally to assist you, you’re about to waste your money.





2.  What’s your methodology?

Executive search is methodical research.  Consultants who don’t use a proven, reliable and successful methodology out to be avoided.


3.  Can I speak with your clients?

Only a customer can tell you what kind of service they’ve received.  If a head hunter cannot easily put you in touch with satisfied clients, there may not be any.

4.  What’s your failure rate?

Head hunters talk about their successes, but it’s far more informative to hear them describe their failures (which they all have).

5.  Do you work for my competitors?

This is the BIG one.  In 30 years, I’ve only been asked this twice.  Search firms cannot work for everyone.  If they already work for your competitors it places you at a disadvantage since a head hunter will not approach candidates within client companies.

6.  When did you last create a solution for a client?

Executive search is not just filling a vacancy: it’s creatively solving a business problem.  If a consultant simply wants to grab the assignment from you and run, then you should grab your wallet and run.

7.  Do you know my industry (…or, how quickly can you learn about it?)

The second question is more important than the first.  When hiring a head hunter you’re really paying them to objectively analyse your business problem and provide a solution through the recruitment of a specific person.  This is not the same as having lots of mates in an industry.  Rather it is the ability to learn quickly and think clearly in order to construction business solutions.

8.  Can (will) you add value?

Executive search is highly competitive.  Does your consultant provide extra services that differentiate him and benefit you?



9.  Do you use psychometric testing?

The jury is in.  It’s statistically proven that you’re four times more likely to predict a candidate’s performance if you use psychological assessments.  Most search firms don’t.  One managing director of a search firm told me that he believes he can intuitively assess other people accurately within minutes of meeting them.  Buyer beware!

10.  Are fees negotiable?

Everything is negotiable!  Especially if you give the head hunter more than one assignment. That reduces their cost of completing the work and gives you leverage with which to negotiate.

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About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


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Dr. Duff Watkins

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