Working with Headhunters: Communication is Key

As we discovered in a headhunter survey last year, the number one complaint headhunters have with their clients is poor communication.

We’ve found that much of the communication between HR departments and headhunters is either related to the job (required vs desired skills, responsibilities, systems used, etc) or specific candidates (culture fit, experience levels, skill sets, etc), and that staying on the same page through frequent communications can help reduce time to fill. You see, an informed headhunter can send you better candidates, faster – but only with your help!

You need to keep your headhunter up-to-date every step of the way:

  • Once you agree to work together: From the start, you should establish good communication with your headhunter by scheduling a kick-off call to review your job description, what makes your company different, and what kind of candidate would be the best fit with your organization.

    Remember, your headhunter is not a mind reader: if you want a candidate that is an expert in a specific technology, or that has great creative writing skills, you need to pass that information along.

  • Once candidates are submitted: Whether the candidates are good or bad, it’s critical that you provide feedback to your headhunter so they know whether to keep doing what they’re doing, or refocus their search. You should move as quickly as possible after this point, sending feedback within 2-3 days and setting an interview schedule as soon thereafter as possible to ensure that you don’t lose good candidates to other companies.

    2015 is the year of the candidate, and companies that don’t move fast will miss out on the best ones. Once you’ve shortlisted your candidates to interview, let your headhunter know who made the cut and the expected timeline for interviews.

  • After the interview: Again, it’s critical for the headhunter to get detailed feedback on the candidates they submitted, since they are likely still sourcing candidates in case your first round of interviews don’t produce a hire. Giving them feedback at this stage can help them identify candidates that more closely align with what you’re after.

    If you were happy with your candidates and wish to continue the interview process, make sure you give your headhunter your anticipated next steps and timeline. Follow up after each round of interviews so your headhunter can keep their candidates in the loop and source new ones if necessary.

  • Once you’ve decided to make an offer: Regardless of whether you chose your headhunter’s candidate or not, you should follow up once you’re ready to make an offer so that your headhunter can be kept in the loop. Obviously, it’s important to inform a headhunter when you’ve chosen their candidate so they can pre-close your candidate and deliver the offer.

    However, if you don’t choose their candidate, they will need to send out some updates to anyone who was expecting to hear of your decision. While you may want to stall on turning down your final candidates until an offer has been accepted, informing your headhunter can buy you some time and keep candidates from getting frustrated.

  • If the status of anything changes, at any time: If, at any point, you change your mind on a candidate, change the timing of next steps, change the requirements of the role, etc., you should inform your headhunters as soon as possible so they’re aware, can adjust and can pass pertinent information along to candidates.

In general, it’s critical to communicate with your headhunters throughout your relationship to ensure that they can adequately do their job and provide you with the best possible service.

Be proactive in letting them know about the status of your job and their candidates, and follow up on incoming communications within one business day. Communication and responsiveness show the headhunter that they have a solid business relationship with you, and will motivate them to keep producing results so you can find the best possible candidates for your open positions.

Are there any tips you’d add for communicating more effectively? Let us know with a comment!

2017-08-03T05:30:40+00:00 January 23rd, 2015|

About the Author:

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for recruiters, corporate HR professionals, and staffing agency owners. She has spent the past 10 years working with a wide variety of companies — from corporate marketing for healthcare organizations and recruitment firms, to startup marketing for both Identified and Bright.com, prior to their respective acquisitions. When she's not doing marketing, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe with her husband, traveling abroad, or enjoying a night in with friends and a good bottle of wine. She's a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in Socio-Economic and Political Global Studies.