Head HunterThe lines are getting blurred. Targets are being moved. Job titles are getting more and more, well… stupid.

Corporate recruiting departments have certainly evolved over the past ten years. Departments that were once bastions of generalist HR malaise are now specialized talent acquisition departments that hire and pull from the same recruiting talent pool as recruitment agencies. In the fight to both reduce recruitment agency fees and deliver top applicant talent in competitive industries, corporate recruiting has gotten strong injections of talent, technology, and (ensuing) sexiness. Recruiting is acknowledged by many larger enterprises as a strategic business asset, whereas other functions of HR, such as benefits and payroll, are viewed as administrative and outsource-able.

Head hunters used to be fundamentally different than corporate recruiters. They were money-driven, ambitious, neurotic and frank where the corporate recruiter was cautious and more passive, driven by corporate success. Now that everyone is money driven but passive, impolite yet litigious, we can all finally agree: great recruiters of any persuasion share common traits. Quality recruiting as a head hunter or corporate recruiter looks very similar.

Society now allows both sides (corporate recruiting and head hunting) to talk to the other side (gasp.) But if you hire recruiters for your recruiting department, it’s very easy to stumble down the path of least resistance. This means looking (as you do with most job descriptions) for candidates that match you and your department most closely. For the corporate recruiting department, this means hiring from the local insurance company if you are an insurance company, and from the local bottling company if you are a bottling company. However, if you don’t have core talent in your recruiting department from the “other side,” you are most likely missing out not just on solid recruiting talent, but on actual disciplines and recruitment workflow functions.

What does this mean? Corporate recruiting departments need to hire at least one head hunter. It is not to pull from some kind of mythical “better” or “more proactive” recruiting talent-pool, it’s to ensure that you have a robust and fully fleshed out recruitment process.

Five aspects of recruiting might be ignored if you don’t incorporate a “head hunter mentality” into your department or have a least one corporate recruiter that was a head hunter in their past life:

  1. Competitive Intelligence: It’s very easy for internal recruitment to focus on departmental needs and the requests from hiring managers. The secret of great agency recruiters is that they build candidates not through sourcing, but by developing new client business. Hiring managers become and recommend new candidates – internal recruiters often don’t have this advantage. They don’t usually talk to management level talent at other (possibly competing) organizations unless they have a job for them. It is through this rich network of external, management-level resources that head hunters get a lot of their candidates.
  2. Hiring Manager Relationships: Corporate recruiting is often unjustly put at odds with hiring managers. The hiring manager is given technology and procurement duties for recruitment, and is also reliant upon the corporate recruiter for the lifeblood of their department. Close relationships with hiring managers are often developed, but the “client” relationship that a head hunter has is a very different animal. The coffees, lunches, and back-and-forth that external agencies rely upon for business development is a very important step in developing knowledge about departmental talent. Without a money-motivated reason to develop a solid relationship, it’s often difficult to remember to build personal hiring manager relationships.
  3. Personal Involvement: Very much like the previous point, recruitment agencies often make it a point to develop personal relationships with key talent in their industries and communities. They are often more personal, informal relationships and communication than the formal assessment process that corporate job application promotes. These personal candidate relationships are of course strategic assets in developing talent pipelines or delivering qualified candidates in short order.
  4. “Preemptive” Sourcing: Much has been said about this point, but it’s easy to see why corporate recruiters are often focused on immediate job requirements – their job load is often unreasonable and hiring managers demand qualified candidates. It’s very hard to break out of sourcing and qualification mode to hunt for talent that “might” be a good fit for a “potentially open” job. The “fishing” that agency recruiters do (informed with knowledge about the hiring managers’ potential needs) often results in placements.
  5. CRM Focus: Recruiters and head hunters often work at firms that are very metrics and process driven. Head hunting has long been known to be somewhat of a “numbers game,” which means that most successful firms demand a certain amount of recruiter activity. They drive this activity and reporting through CRM systems. Corporate recruiting technology certainly now has much of the same CRM type functionality as agency software, however it is the management direction and attention to metrics that is often quite different. A healthy attention to common recruitment metrics and activity is a good thing.

The easiest method of ensuring that you do cover these areas is to hire a head hunter in your department – like any other department, you want your corporate recruiters to hold a myriad of differentiated skills and competencies in their backgrounds. Both corporate recruiting departments and recruitment agencies should strive to take the best of both worlds of recruiting. But instead of trying just to blur the line between a corporate recruiter and a head hunter, it’s often best to just hire one from the other side; acknowledge and respect the differences in order to build the healthiest team of recruiters.

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