Business team smiling welcoming new hire, manager's hand extended for handshake

In a talent shortage, job boards alone won’t bring you the candidates you need—this is where headhunting comes in. And candidates who have been headhunted (by yourself or by a recruiter) need a different approach to entice them to choose your organization.

Tips for hiring headhunted candidates:

DON’T
Talk to headhunted candidates as if they applied for the job.

DO
Remember that you reached out to them and adjust your communications (emails, calls, interviews, etc.). Shift your mindset away from “we’re interviewing several candidates and each one would be lucky to work for us” to “we’ve actively sought out this exceptional candidate and we want them to choose us.” Examples to reframe communications »


DON’T
Expect a one-way conversation with a focus on the candidate trying to impress you.

DO
Be prepared for a two-way conversation and to ‘sell’ your company and the role. Why is your company a great place to work? If you aren’t comfortable doing this, have a colleague join your calls/interviews; someone who can act as your employer brand ambassador. Tip: If you’re working with a recruiter, selling your organization is part of what they’ll do for you!


DON’T
Leave the entire process up to HR.

DO
Involve the direct manager / line manager in the hiring process. They’ll know the work environment more intimately, speak the industry lingo, and be able to answer more in-depth questions about the day-to-day.


DON’T
Talk only about the job.

DO
Talk about your corporate culture, work environment and team. An interesting new job or salary increase may not be enough for a candidate to leave their current job. People are re-thinking how they want to work and choosing companies based on more complex factors like culture, flexibility and work-life balance. This shift has been happening for years, but the pandemic was a catalyst for workers to reflect and re-evaluate what they want. Headhunted candidates need to know they’re leaving for something better.


DON’T
Be rigid with your interview scheduling.

DO
Be open to conducting interviews over the lunch hour or outside of normal business hours. Recognize that these candidates are currently working, and you may need to be more flexible to accommodate their schedule.


DON’T
Lowball your offer.

DO
Come to the table with your best offer. Expect that headhunted candidates are likely to receive a counteroffer from their current employer, and you may have to counter their counteroffer.


DON’T
Rush the process or ghost candidates.

DO
Strike a balance between moving too slowly and rushing. Think of it like dating—don’t rush to a marriage proposal on the first date, but don’t ghost or leave the other person hanging. Keep in mind that headhunted candidates often need more time to consider their options or navigate a counteroffer from their current employer.


DON’T
Focus your offer just on salary.

DO
Think about the full compensation package, which could include salary, commission, bonuses, equity or profit-sharing, health and wellness benefits, retirement and savings plans, vacation and other time off, remote or hybrid work, childcare, vehicle allowance or paid meals. People also care about more intangible aspects such as work-life balance, flexibility, job security, professional growth opportunities, inclusion and equity policies, values alignment with the organization, job autonomy and a sense of purpose.


DON’T
Assume that you’re done once the offer has been accepted.

DO
Keep up the same effort after the offer has been accepted. Go the distance to make your new hire feel welcome—show them how excited you are for them to join your team, whether that’s through something as simple as an enthusiastic and well-crafted email, a team lunch on their first day, or something more creative like a customized welcome GIF! Make sure your onboarding and training process is smooth and thorough, and that you have a strong retention strategy in place. Start thinking about where this individual will fit in your succession plan.


Additional tips if you’re working with a recruiter:

DON’T
Circumvent your recruiter and make an offer directly with the candidate

DO
Respect the relationships your recruiter builds with the candidates they represent. Allow your recruiter to present the offer, or at least review the offer with them first. They are tuned into the candidate’s goals and expectations and will carefully manage the offer stage—trust that they have the best interests of both parties in mind and will help negotiate a win-win.


DON’T
Ignore or ‘backburner’ your recruiter’s calls and emails.

DO
Be responsive. If they’ve sent you resumes to review or interviews to conduct, make it a priority. Headhunted candidates will get scooped up quickly if you drag your heels.


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