Secrets to finding the best candidates

Secrets to finding the best candidates

As a headhunter your job seems pretty simple: find the right person for the job. And yet the industry is broad and challenging for a reason. Finding the right person is so very hard to do. Some are better at it and some worse. And it’s all very much a team effort and depends a lot on how you work with your team as well. But what makes the difference between just finding anyone and finding the best one? Here are some of my secrets:

Finding out who that is

First of all: who are you actually looking for? Meaning: who are you ACTUALLY looking for? One very first step in a search process is often to read between the job description, briefing papers and advertisements to find out who really is the best candidate for the position. That may – in some cases – even differ from who the company thinks they are looking for. But headhunters have a lot of experience with filling all kinds of positions and that gives them quite an eye for the “right” candidate.

Where they are

Once you know who you’re looking for, you obviously need to know where to look. What does the ideal candidate do all day and where and when is he appropriately approached? Which state of mind or position is he in and how is he doing there. This is a necessary scenario to sketch since it decides about the channels and formats you’ll use to find the candidate.

Make a match

I often find myself in a position where neither job nor candidate are a perfect match. Surprisingly that doesn’t at all mean that it will not be a successfully filled position. On the contrary, more often than not do “unconventional” candidates turn out to be the best choice. The best candidate is often the right match that lies somewhere between what the company thinks they want and what the candidate thinks he or she is looking for. In a way, as a headhunter, you’re quite the matchmaker. If you know what it takes for “life-long happiness together”.

Don’t rely on job ads

In the executive search business often searches are already considered to have failed when you need to turn to job ads to fill a position. That’s not what the client hires you for. Be that as accurate as it may, the reason behind it is that job ads tend to produce a lot of work and rather little results. Try to work you case around them.

Make the right approach

Executive Search is a people business. Of course you need to know how to deal with your candidates the right way. That includes finding out how you need to talk to them, when you should make an offer, what kind of tone you should use and how you make the person want to buy what you have. See your candidates as investors into your client’s business because after all, they need to believe into what they’re getting before they actually get it.

The recruiter as a brand

Things go much easier for a headhunter – obviously – when he or she is well connected. That goes hand in hand with a solid industry reputation and a certain visibility and track record. All these things require hard work on your personal brand. What you’re aiming for is the person you call already knowing who you are or knowing at least your recruiting company. Better though: you. Invest in your own brand and build it over time. There is nothing more valuable to get to the best candidates than that.

Look at the long term fit

Don’t forget the perspective. You want to fill positions long-term. Because word travels when your candidates skip out after 6 months. That’s not a good track record. So always go for a candidate that’s really going to be happy in the position for a long time. Don’t just fill the gap with anyone, but with the best candidate.


By Stephan Breitfeld, Partner Life Sciences – ingeniam
Tel.:+49 (0) 69 / 959091989
Mobil: +49 (0) 172 / 6685350

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