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What does the future hold for headhunters?

Reading Time of Article: 8 min

New technology and its daily use has changed recruitment. The channels to source potential candidates have drastically changed over the past fifteen years. So, are sourcing champions[1] the recruiters of the future? What does the future hold for headhunters? Is it a role threatened with extinction over the next few years?  I invite you to look at things differently.

Sourcing in the Direct Approach

When I first started out in the world of headhunting, I discovered a strict discipline that offered the precise tracking of actions to find managers and directors. The Direct Approach methodology is implacable; the definition of sought-after skills is used to develop sourcing (lists of companies) to then identify and contact at least 100 relevant profiles. The perfectly oiled mechanism relies on well-known probabilities. We approach a large population of professionals, as very few contacts are actually genuinely inclined to be interested in our client’s job opportunity. Some employees are not experienced enough, others do not want to leave their current employer or will only leave if the proposed opportunity is abroad, etc. The headhunter therefore meets very few candidates (six to eight profiles) to select three to four finalists, among whom the future employee is to be found. For a headhunter, sourcing mainly involves compiling a list of companies, or even organizations where alumni are working, where the required skills may be found. It is rather like a “to do list” for the consultant at the start of their mission.

An evolution in sourcing vs. a change in recruitment

Sourcing now comes up in all conversations, among consultants and in companies. It is, therefore, not the sole preserve of headhunters. The war for talent has, first and foremost, revolutionised companies’ habits. On the niche market of managers and directors, candidates are increasingly hard to find. At the same time as this scarcity, which can even turn to a labour shortage, new technology has developed at a crazy pace, affecting most employees individually. For example, who has not personally received a professional e-mail? As the majority use this  new technology, certain direct approach techniques have become more accessible, namely for HR departments in charge of recruitment. There is a real craze for sourcing training among French companies. It has to be said that specialised headhunters are no match for the many companies that have their own HR department.

What lies ahead for head hunting?

With the popularisation of certain Direct Approach techniques, it is fair to wonder, “Will tomorrow’s recruiters necessarily be  headhunters?”. What will be the use of headhunters in the future? Recruitment in the twenty-first century is increasingly a process that integrates applications created by new technology. However, sourcing has been part of the direct approach method for the past fifty years. Furthermore, recruitment also consists of two fundamental stages: the search for a profile, where tools facilitate the work, and skills and potential assessment, where the relationship is key. How can an IT and/or automatic interface feel the range of feelings that we experience (despite ourselves) throughout the day, which impact our motivations and aspirations for working with a specific manager or fully committing to supporting a specific director’s strategy? Headhunters are, therefore, like all professionals. It is not only in their interest to master the latest sourcing tools, but they often develop them themselves, given that they are a daily requirement for each assignment they conduct in a rigorous and professional way.

What type of training could benefit the recruitment industry?

Headhunters are, therefore, the first to be delighted at the development of sourcing tools and professions. Within agencies, sourcing techniques are mainly used by search managers. Usually peer-trained on the job by consultants, headhunters do not always receive formal training. You can count the existing courses to train and certify them in specific direct approach techniques on one hand. The world of business and those who have effectively identified its needs (former recruitment consultants, obviously) have, therefore, given a new strong focus to skills that were beginning to disappear! Because it has to be said, search managers in agencies have a quintessentially “touchy” job, except when their role is an integral part of the business, as it is at Apostrof, where the Consultant steers their mission from A to Z. New technology provides precious tools in the fulfilment of this specific profession. However, headhunters remain artisans who need to handle each recruitment like a unique project, because companies do not need the same employee, nor do they share the same corporate culture.

[1] Originally the expression “sourcing” was used to describe the act of searching for, locating and assessing an ad-hoc supplier, in order to satisfy a need identified by a company. The term comes the verb “to source”, used in purchasing and IT departments to designate the search for suppliers. By analogy, in human resources, it describes the means to find candidates as part of a recruitment process.

 

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