Idealpeople Blog: Be Nice to Headhunters

Friday, August 31, 2007

Be Nice to Headhunters

We've all had it. It's Friday, and you've just taken a call from the tenth recruiter this week asking for some business. You're fed up with it. You've had enough, so you snap.

Believe me, we've heard all kinds of responses to cold calls. Believe it or not, we get quite a few ourselves from "Recruitment to Recruitment" companies looking to supply us with Recruiters. It's easy (and often quite amusing) to be rude, arrogant - even downright nasty...

Some of the feedback we've had from clients suggests that companies receive a far greater volume of calls from recruiters than they do any other type of sales call. The reasons for this are simple to explain: it's widely known (and if it isn't, we can assure that this is true) that the cost of entering the recruitment industry is low, whilst the potential gains are high. The result of this is a high number of recruitment agencies, most of whom offer little or no service differentation and employ simple high-volume sales tactics to get results.

Accordingly, HR and Resourcing teams (and indeed Line Managers) get a high-volume of cold calls whilst they are busy or concentrating on other things. The fact that the majority of these calls are done badly, are over-pushy and under-researched just makes this worse.

However, it's important to make a distinction between an "agent", who will make underesearched calls and probably won't know your market from a genuine enquiry from an industry specialist headhunter - one who has been working in your industry for many years and who has a good grasp on what you do and places a high value on your staff. Most quality recruiters would far rather work with your company than not, but the truth is if they see no chance of doing business with you, you could find yourself on their "source company" list, which means that they could end up targetting your staff*.

So what is a manager to do with all these calls from recruiters from all sectors, with different approaches? Here's some tips from us:

1) Always take the call, unless you're really busy. They'll probably just keep trying if you don't.
2) Listen to how they sell themselves. If they show any signs of knowing your industry, it's worth carrying on listening, and throwing out some questions to test their knowledge. If they fall over with these questions, then explain that you only deal with recruiters who specialise in your industry. Try to make them feel out of depth.
3) If the headhunter appears to "know their stuff", then be polite, even if you have not interest in working with them for now. Don't enrage them. Invite them to keep dialogue open. This will feel like a victory for them - and for you.

Ultimately, it pays to keep good headhunters happy, even if you have no immediate use for them. If it's the difference between hearing about an absolute star of a candidate than not hearing about them, and having your staff constantly headhunted, then surely it's worth the bother...

*Please note, Idealpeople neither endorse nor practice this "you're with us or your not" approach. In fact, we're not guilty of much cold calling at all. However, we're aware that this is very much common practice throughout the rest of the industry.

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