Head-hunters: Should you still be paying them?

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Just as Hoover became synonymous with the vacuum cleaner, and Kleenex with the tissue, HR experts are beginning to view LinkedIn as the ‘must-use’ product for any head-hunting campaign.

Recruiters’ databases are frequently connected directly to LinkedIn, to allow them to constantly stay on top of updates.

“We don’t even have to go to the LinkedIn site – that information is available through our core business system,” says Jeff Aplin, president of David Aplin Group recruiting agency. “It’s almost like an ecosystem of living, breathing information about people’s professional lives, the business decisions they’re making, what impact they’re having with their career and organization. That kind of information has never been more available to a broad audience.”

Indeed, insiders have said the lion’s share of LinkedIn’s profit comes from recruiters who purchase access to user details as a means of recruitment and headhunting. But while professional recruiters have long since recognized and utilized the social network as a means for head-hunting, HR is often just starting to clue-in to the same process.

The quality of information is one of the factors making it required reading when looking for new staff, Aplin says. If you’re looking for someone with very specific experience, LinkedIn can tell you, for example, which candidate with COO experience has also worked in the packaged-goods industry and is interested in hearing about job opportunities.

“By sifting through, you can develop a long list of candidates fairly quickly. In a traditional database you might be able to find some of that information, but you wouldn’t know anything about what was happening currently in their life and career and whether they’re looking.”

Head-hunters typically charge between 30% and 35% of a role’s annual salary, and for a top executive position this figure can run into many tens of thousands of dollars. HR can seek the assistance of CEOs and MDs to tap into the specialist knowledge of the industry and then target top candidates on LinkedIn, saving significant sums in the process.

LinkedIn has changed the game for head-hunters, and they are being forced to adapt to a new environment where DIY head-hunting is not only an option but the future for companies.

“The proliferation of substitute services and sources of competition has never been higher and I think it’s accelerating,” said Aplin, at the same time warning that all the technology in the world won’t change the fact that good relationships are key to head-hunting and recruiting. “Humans are all about relationships,” he said. “All the social media, smartphones and resources aren’t going to replace that human contact factor.”

Tips for using LinkedIn for DIY headhunting

  • Searching for candidates should always start with LinkedIn’s ‘Advanced People Search’ – cast the net widely and experiment using territory, industry, company names and more as keywords
  • Contact your potential candidates – if you aren’t connected directly, you may choose to ask for a ‘warm introduction’ from a mutual connection
  • Try increasing indirect connections to target candidates – connect with people in the same industry or geographic location to help provide new introductions to top candidates
  • Join LinkedIn Groups and get involved in online networking
  • Develop an appealing and keyword-rich profile for your company on LinkedIn – potential employees often search LinkedIn by keywords when looking for employers. Make sure that they can find you.

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