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Avoid 4 pitfalls when you’re choosing a headhunter


interviewBecause it’s not something they do every day, hiring and negotiating with an executive recruiter makes many HR pros nervous. The stakes are high indeed: Slip-ups can result in excess costs, a painfully prolonged hiring process and bad hires.

You’ll increase the odds of making a good hire by avoiding these common headhunter mistakes:

1. Automatically picking a big firm

Sure, a big firm may be able to provide a large pool of candidates. However, a small recruiting firm may offer more personalized service—and charge less.

Find the firm with the best networks and expertise in your market, whether it’s large or small. Seek recommendations from HR colleagues.

2. Neglecting to check references

Request references from clients who requested job searches in the same occupational areas that you need filled.

Ask how satisfied they were with the degree of hands-on help they received.

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3. Accepting a replacement guarantee in the contract

A replacement guarantee calls for the search firm to find another candidate if the person you hire leaves the job after a certain period, usually 90 days.

Search firms prefer replacement guarantees, which call for finding another candidate if your new hire quits or doesn’t work out.

You probably want a money-back guarantee, instead.

4. Negotiating the recruiter’s fee down too low

Fees generally range from 15% to 35% of the employee’s first-year salary. Headhunting is a process in which you tend to get what you pay for. Be cost-conscious but not cheap. Pay enough to allow the recruiting firm to succeed.

On the other hand, watch out for recruiters who justify a high-percentage with an offhand, “Oh, that’s the industry average.” Don’t hesitate to negotiate.

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Definition: 2 kinds of searches

Contingency searches pit recruiters against each other in competition. The one that fills the opening gets paid.

Retained searches offer recruiters an exclusive hiring assignment. They receive installment payments throughout the process. Retained searches usually work best for hiring executives.