Top Headhunters

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By what yardstick are we to judge who a "top headhunter" is? Is it the quantity of "heads" hunted, the quality, the time frame for filling a position, the compensation package for the placed employee, the commissions earned by the headhunter, the prestige of the client employer, the headhunter's business ethics or general reputation, the size and dependability of the headhunter's network?

Given the multifarious possible criteria for selecting a headhunter or for allowing oneself to be headhunted, which are the most critical? If a headhunter's performance history and reputation are sketchy or inaccessible, you have two choices: 1. to be wary; 2. to focus on those aspects that can be credibly confirmed,e.g., that the job and its package details are as described and that the headhunter does indeed have a pipeline to the job [or to the candidate].

This advice is applicable in both the instance in which a headhunter is looking for you and when you are looking for a headhunter.

"Top Headhunter" sounds great-but what does it mean? If, to you, it means "most influential", then this Bloomberg Businessweek list of the 100 most influential headhunters is the place to start when looking for a headhunter. But "influential" doesn't necessarily translate into what you may have in mind. Moreover, a top headhunter isn't necessarily with a top headhunting firm-[S]he may merely be a standout.

So, what else makes a headhunter firm or individual tops in the field? Common sense offers a pretty good list:

1. Knowledge-ability: A star headhunter will know the industry, the talent, the demand for that talent and stay abreast of developments and trends.

2. Thoroughness: This means attention to detail, thorough background preparation, follow-through.

3. Trustworthiness: Knowing that the headhunter will maintain strict client and candidate confidentiality is a prerequisite for trust.

4. Reputation: Yes, nothing succeeds like success; so, a well-regarded, successful headhunter is one that belongs on your short list.

5. Network: Headhunter resources count for a lot. Among them is the headhunter's network of connections, on both the company demand side and the job candidate supply side.

6. No hard-sell pressure tactics: Beware the headhunter who wants to rush things, predicts the direst outcomes if you don't act without careful review of the offer or the candidate, or who seems to be offering the Moon and more when you are looking for something well-grounded and credible.
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