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How do headhunters work?



Virginie Graziani

Talent Management & Synergologist

23 May 2017

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Because this is an area of work not many people know much about, we are often asked this question. Here are a few facts to demystify this uncommon yet very particular profession. A headhunter is a recruiter. The job of a headhunter is to find and select candidates who match a customer’s requirements. However, the difference between traditional recruiters and headhunters is that headhunters use investigation techniques and approach candidates directly when they’re already in a job.


What are headhunters’ preferred methods of approach?


According to a study by CADREO-REGIONJOB, headhunting firms tend to use the most direct tools: telephone (the most common method of communication given by 73% of executives) and email. Social networks don’t yet feature among the preferred means of contacting executives. However, they are still in third place among the most common methods mentioned, ahead of personal networking and networking events. Firms also prefer direct contact for keeping their approaches as confidential as possible.


How do you prepare for an approach by a headhunter?


It may seem like common sense, but it’s important to remember that headhunters will appreciate above all else your willingness to talk, but also your authenticity when dealing with them. The person who contacts you may be doing a job you don’t know much about, but they are working in a world that operates primarily on person-to-person contact.

The first thing the recruiter experiences is your personality, which is expressed in your soft skills. It’s difficult to “learn” to be a person who’s nice to be around. The only thing you can do anything about is your environment when you receive the unexpected call. It’s unlikely that the call will come at a convenient time. So, don’t be afraid to tell the headhunter that you’re not in the ideal environment for talking about your career and your professional aspirations. This will enable you both to schedule a conversation at a more convenient time.

What if the headhunter puts an opportunity to you that you’re not interested in? Why not suggest other people you know who might be interested – you will be remembered kindly for this!


What’s the standard impression of a headhunter? A woman?


Be warned, the headhunter at the other end of the phone could be a male or female researcher working for a consultant, who will take over in face-to-face interviews, or the consultant themselves, who is responsible for all parts of the process. But in both cases, you’re more likely to be contacted by a woman.

All you have to do is a quick search of both jobs on Viadeo to see that there are more women than men in these two roles: around 150 men to more than 800 women in research roles, and around 900 men to 2 000 women in recruitment consultant roles (though not all of them are headhunters). That’s good news for feminists!




Head hunting helps you to target rare and high profils. Attract, engage and match the best talent thanks to Executive Search.

Explore how an individual will perform in the future : Discover our Assessment Center based on simulation of a professional environment.
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RH Consulting – Talent Management
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Expert in the evaluation and development of resources, skills and potential, Apostrof helps you make the right decisions regarding recruitment, annual interviews, professional training, organisation of operational staff, career management and professional development, succession plans and high potential..

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