What is the actual relationship between a headhunter and a professional?

January 19, 2016 3 mins read
What is the actual relationship between a headhunter and a professional?

I recall a few years ago I saw a post on the internet from a professional asking, "What kind of relationship should professionals maintain with their headhunters?"

Many professionals seek the answer to this question; in the end, it really comes down to two misgivings: 1) If they think that the headhunter in question is not bad, then they may worry that, once their relationship becomes more close, they will divulge all of their bottom lines and ideas and then, when they need the headhunter to help them negotiate, they won't deliver. 2) If they feel that the headhunter is like any other intermediary and that they only need them on this one occasion, then they may deliberately maintain their distance, adopting an aloof attitude towards the headhunter, and revealing their ideas and information in a reserved manner.

Based on my experiences throughout these last few years, my belief is that: headhunters are long-term business partners; they can be your friends, but they shouldn't be your enemy. This post analyzes three different common ways of thinking among professionals:

1) It is irrefutable that headhunters and professionals are business partners, because the interests and gains of the two parties are closely related. The result that professionals wish to obtain is about 80% the same as the result that headhunters wish to obtain; sometimes, the remaining 20% is what the headhunter wants but has no means of achieving. Professionals need to make use of the headhunter's negotiation skills when discussing offers, avoiding direct conflict between themselves and HR by using the headhunter as a cushion. Professionals may also make use of headhunters' connections and their understanding of the company in question in order to help themselves stand out during the interview.

2) Should you make your headhunter your friend? Before we may begin the task at hand, we must learn how to relate to one another. Businesses place a significant emphasis on sincerity, and throughout a short collaboration, it is extremely easy to ascertain a headhunter's personal values and degree of professionalism. Should you encounter a headhunter whose temperament and values match your own, then your collaboration will naturally go more smoothly. You don't need to deliberately maintain distance between yourself and your headhunter; sometimes, even if you divulge your bottom line to the headhunter, they will still help you obtain a fair offer. This is because, as far as the headhunter is concerned, obtaining the result that is most beneficial to the client is the least risky plan of action.

3) Headhunters are a kind of intermediary - is it best to maintain your distance? Based on my experiences as a headhunter, the most successful collaborations are often with professionals who the headhunter has known for over a year and with whom the headhunter has a relatively strong bond. After all, if a headhunter has already had pleasant interactions with a professional, then they will find it easier to keep that professional's interests in mind. If one of the parties (whether it be the headhunter or the professional) adopts an eager attitude during each collaboration but fails to show basic respect at other times, then neither of the two parties are likely to succeed.

Remember, if a headhunter is good at their job, the professional’s relationship will flow easily with them without having to make too much of an effort.

Tracy Luo's picture
Associate Director | Finance & Strategy Recruitment