Search & Ye Shall Find

“I’ll do that for you cheaper. You know, mate’s rates”.

Sound familiar?

Your friend from school runs a small garage/decorators/builders firm and says that he can fix your car/walls/house for a bit less than it would cost to go to a more reputable company.

And admittedly sometimes they’re right. A quick oil change or re-pointing some brickwork and everything’s fine, all done for less than you’d usually pay (plus the cost of a couple of beers afterwards).

However for those of us who’ve had the benefits of this there also those who are aware that relying on a friend for work can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth. You often have to wait until ‘proper’ paying customers have their jobs completed before yours is looked at, and then if something goes wrong or the quality of work isn’t up to scratch you leave yourself in an awkward position as to how you approach a complaint.

So what do you do? Well on those occasions you may have to bite the bullet and accept that you should have gone to the experts in the first place. Hopefully any sub-standard work can be remedied, but in other instances you have to accept that damage can be permanent. Your mate’s lack of knowledge of the intricacies of Bentley engines is only too evident when it seizes up halfway down the M1 and the pistons come through the bonnet.

Relying on personal relationships is never the most productive way forward in a business transaction. The reason that you pay an expert is to get an expert’s level of service, the benefit of their having spent years doing work of this nature, as well as the fact that both parties know that the expert can be held to account for a poor result in a way that a mate can’t.

Also, isn’t there just that extra ‘warm’ feeling you get when you go to the garage to collect your car and its there, gleaming and ready to go? Where you know that you may have paid a little more than that at the garage down the road but as these guys ONLY deal with cars like yours day-in, day-out, you know that it’s had the best possible care and attention?

At the time of writing this blog we are presently working on seven live, and specifically retained, search assignments. Allow me to put the emphasis on the ‘retained’ aspect; anything else isn’t a ‘true’ headhunt, it’s tyre-kicking (no mechanic-related pun intended).

What a retained assignment means is that a firm places enough importance on this role that they feel it is worth paying money up front for a professional headhunter to go into the market and approach specifically-agreed people for them. It means that the firm recognises that the particular search consultancy that they have appointed are the best of the best in terms of understanding what the opportunity offers, and who can effectively communicate this to key individuals within this sector.

The role of a headhunter has, to some extent, been diluted by the number of people who use this (often badly) as another way of recruiting for other positions; however when it is done well it remains the most effective and flattering way of finding the right talent for the right role. Firstly, it is a way of attracting people who are not actively looking for a new role, meaning that these are the individuals with live and profitable practices which would move with them.

Secondly, and crucially, it sends out a clear message to the potential candidate, similar to the ‘warm’ feeling you get at the prestigious garage:- ‘You are important enough to us, and we rate you highly enough that we want to invest significant levels of time and money in someone to approach you on our behalf. Someone who does this as a profession, not some chancer with a phone or a partner you met at an event once. Someone who can not only effectively communicate our message, but also who understands the market well enough to know your current firm inside out including its pros and cons, and hence can explain why our opening may be of interest.’

Quite simply, it is a question of gravitas. If you want someone to feel that their car has been well looked after you bring out the head mechanic in his pristine overalls to explain what has been done and answer any questions in as much depth as required.

If you want to impress the owner of the house you send the foreman to discuss in detail how the extension will be constructed and the timescales, not the lackey who carries the bricks round from the lorry.

If you want your candidate to be impressed from the initial approach right through to the offer and acceptance then you need to use a headhunter. If you get one of your partners to make the call to a woman he worked with ten years ago then you need to accept that, unless she is presently unhappy where she is then you are likely to get a polite decline. If you use a headhunter who can make an approach and outline not only what the opportunity is but also specifically why the firm is interested in this particular individual (interested enough to appoint a professional to make the approach) then you are more likely to be successful.

Not only that, but as professionals who maintain a huge amount of confidentiality you can be confident that a headhunter will not be disclosing which firm is recruiting until the right moment; if anyone from the practice itself makes the approach then not only is the firm disclosed at an early stage but it can easily get out into the market that Firm X is recruiting. Like the Bentley with the blown engine the damage then can be permanent; it’s hard to then employ a headhunter to re-approach the individual in question and professionally attempt to sell them a position which has already been declined.

It may sound clichéd but if you want to sell your house you use an estate agent. If you want your teeth looked after then you go to a dentists. If you want someone to negotiate a point of law then you use a solicitor. If you are looking to recruit then surely you should be looking to use a professional for this too?

Because if you’re not then you can be damned sure your competitors are. Perhaps whilst you are out trying to source a spare engine for a Bentley.



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