Secret Life of a Headhunter: Engagement and Closure

Part 2 of our three part series on headhunting. We are outlining the key steps of the executive search process, looking at what happens behind the scenes when headhunters research, approach and secure senior people for leadership positions.

In Part 1 we looked at all the early, identification phases of a search assignment. Here we go in to the meaty stuff - the engagement and closure phases.

Step 6: Engagement

Once the approaches are complete, the list is probably down to about 10. If they were not already doing so, the search consultant takes over the target/candidate prospect communication at this point. The communication now gets more intense and searching, the aim being to evaluate your suitability and interest to the point of selecting you for interview. This is likely to take the form of several phone calls and probably a few informal meetings out of the office. The headhunter will be ‘selling’ the opportunity of course, but also evaluating your fit and suitability to both the role and the client’s organisation and culture.

Step 7. Evaluation/Interview

A small number of prospective candidates will be invited for interview with the headhunter. The search consultant’s role is to closely evaluate your fit and get inside your head to test your motivation. They will only want to put you forward to their client if a) they are convinced you are a strong candidate and b) they believe you are genuinely interested in the opportunity. You can expect this to be a detailed, probing interview process.

Step 8: First-pass Reference Checking

The search consultant will not put you forward to their client without further checking your background, reputation and capabilities. This won’t be the only reference check phase, but it is a very important one.

Step 9: Closure/Short-List/Interview

If you make it through Stage 8 you’re put onto a final short-list of about 3 people for presentation to the headhunter’s client. In many ways it is now up to you as a confirmed candidate - much like any other employment interview. You now stand as good a chance as any of the candidates, but bear in mind that your competition will be very strong. You have all been evaluated as suitable by this point, so the interview is an important step.

Step 10: Detailed Reference Checks

The preferred one or two candidates will go though a final reference check phase. This will cover points raised in the interviews, seeking to confirm claims of success, enumerate achievements, probe weaknesses and invite comments on suitability for the position in question. This reference check phase is usually very intense and detailed.

Only once all of the above are completed will you start talking about a job offer. As you can see, there are a lot of opportunities to get filtered out of the process. The aim of the head-hunter and the employer is to appoint the best possible candidate, not just to fill the position.

In Part 3 we will go though what actions you can take to increase your chances of success as a search target.

For more information or help

See our Career Planning Coaching page, email us or give us a call on 1300 97 87 66. We will be pleased to help.