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Reasons NOT to Hire Headhunter (written by a headhunter!)

Not all recruitment agencies and headhunters are the parasites some think they are.

Shock horror, some can actually save you money! But you need to know when/how to use them to maximise your ROI....

Photo by James Orr on Unsplash

Step 1. Ask yourself, can I avoid using a recruitment agency or headhunter?

You shouldn’t spend your money on external recruitment firms if:

  1. You have oodles of time/internal resources – Some organisations are lucky enough to have a dedicated recruitment team with the time and resources to invest in the protracted recruitment process.

  2. The role your looking for has a common skills set – If the skills set you’re looking for is common in the market, you probably won't have trouble getting active job seekers to apply.

  3. You have a clear strategy to address biases and judgements – Sadly, research shows our decision-making is subject to multiple biases. In 2018 more than 8 in 10 HR decision-makers admitted their organisation had made bad recruitment decisions, and 39% of them realised it within two weeks of an individual starting work. The cost of such a mistake can range from £30,000 to £130,000, depending on the seniority of the individual involved.

Step 2. Do you know your apples from your oranges?

For those considering using a recruitment agency or headhunter, you first need to know the difference.

Then which one you actually use should depend on the needs of the specific role and skills remit you’re hiring for......

Recruitment Agencies

This is a non-exclusive or speculative arrangement, typically for more junior roles. Although the organisation doesn’t have to pay anything up front, this is often a false economy because multiple agencies typically bombard the hiring team with CVs in a race to be the “first past the post”.


  1. Good for volume or junior hires

  2. Focuses on active job seekers

Headhunters/Executive Search

These firms are paid to proactively seek out and convince seemingly happily employed, highly qualified Senior-level and Executive candidates, of the virtues of joining your organisation. The Search agency is held accountable using key milestones for a specialised and targeted recruitment search, with an extended filter process (check out our 5 Step Process). They guarantee a placement for a period of time and don't rest until the right hire is made.


  1. Good for confidential hires e.g. when someone's currently occupying the job and unaware they’re being replaced. This is a normal practice for senior roles where the organisation can’t afford to have a vacant role for 6-12 months, so they start a confidential search first.

  2. When your Preferred Supplier List (PSL) doesn't fit the bill e.g. when your go-to headhunting partner has a “hands-off” agreement, meaning they can’t headhunt from any of their other clients. If this happens to be a direct competitor with an amazing C-suite Executive you’d really like to talk to, then that might leave you a little stuck.

  3. Good for brands with a less established reputation e.g. the brand may be new, under the radar, not have had the same exposure as bigger brands, or hiring for a function for which they're not known. This requires someone with the time to champion and explain your brand strategy, to convince potential candidates of your offering.

Remember, a certain amount of proactive due diligence before you have a need will position you to make the best decision when the time comes.

Do you use recruitment agencies or headhunters? Why? We’d love to hear from you.

Email us your thoughts.


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