Affiliate Program

Earn $1,000 per Referral

Blog Page CTA

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Headhunting is a vital and absolutely necessary practice in our industry. So crucial is this element, it coins our colloquial job title – headhunter, because this is what we do: identify and approach (a suitable person employed elsewhere) to fill a business position with our client.

Why is headhunting so essential? It validates our existence! To put it in more pragmatic terms, what clients pay formidable recruiter fees for is to find talent for their business that they cannot find themselves. This is the “value-added” component of our service – to find and engage with passive talent and win it over. Headhunting is what good recruiters do all the time, our bread and butter.

What I find absolutely bewildering is the attitude of some Recruitment Managers towards a highly proactive rec-to-rec agency, such as ours, headhunting staff from their ranks. Now, a crucial point here – if a particular Recruitment Agency is a fee-paying client, no rec-to-rec in their right mind would headhunt from there. Do not bite the hand that feeds you, as the saying goes.

On the other hand, if a Recruitment Agency is not a fee-paying client, it automatically becomes part of the market that we actively map and headhunt in for good talent – on behalf of those Agencies that make up our small yet distinguished client base.

So, whenever approached by an exasperated Recruitment Manager, hopelessly clamouring that we stop headhunting their staff, one of two conclusions come to mind – they are either a total hypocrite or they do not understand Recruitment.

Scenario 1 – Hypocrite
A Recruitment Manager in Agency A is a successful Headhunter with a blossoming career and many a senior placement behind her belt. She does not want to pay rec-to-rec fees and does no business with a particular Rec-to-Rec. When the said Rec-to-Rec headhunts her staff, she demands that the Rec-to-Rec stops. A Total Hypocrite.

Scenario 2 – Does not understand Recruitment
A Recruitment Manager in Agency B may not be a bad Recruiter at all, but relies heavily on Seek and other Job Boards to source his candidates. More often than not this is a high-volume type of work that his team is doing. He does not understand what a candidate-short market is really like to operate in. This manager does not understand Rec-to-Rec Recruitment.

We pride ourselves on the Recruitment Agencies that we partner with. They are innovative, well-managed and offer uncapped, transparent commission structures. Recruitment Consultants within our Clients are proactive, treated well, remunerated accordingly for their hard work and ultimately find longevity and a long-term career.

The best and most successful Recruitment Consultants headhunt. It is what we all do for a living; both in rec-to-rec and regular recruitment world. As long as we are not headhunting from our clients, there is nothing unethical about it. For those agencies that do not want to partner with us, it is completely hypocritical (and ineffective) to protest against us headhunting from their ranks. When such occasion does occur an obvious question arises – do these people understand recruitment?

What do you think? Are you a proactive Recruiter or do you rely on Applicants from Job Boards to fill your roles?

I would love to hear your comments, and… Happy Headhunting.

Dmitri Goloub is a Senior Consultant and all-around good bloke at Hamilton Professional. He is interested in human behaviour and decision making within contemporary corporate and business culture. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Tom Murphy on August 27, 2015 at 12:40 am

    Haha Paul this did make me laugh. In short I am a proactive recruiter and clearly not afraid of my staff being approached by other agencies or rec2recs. If they arent given the best possible opportunity and remuneration at Aptus I simply dont deserve to have them with us. Having said this leave my staff alone 😉

    • Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 1:15 am

      Hi Tom, Thanks for comments. As Dmitri says in the article “you don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

    • Dmitri Goloub on August 27, 2015 at 1:21 am

      Hi Tom, glad to provide at the very least some good entertainment value;)

  2. Harry the Headhunter on August 27, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Real simple, you’re either on the Guest List or on the Menu. Side note: A manager ringing a past colleague or friend currently working elsewhere with a job opportunity is no different, other than we get a fee for service.

    • Dmitri Goloub on August 27, 2015 at 1:22 am

      On the Guest List of the Menu – Love It Harry!

  3. Mark on August 27, 2015 at 12:45 am

    Good points… Very valid. I work in regular recruitment world and we get the calls all the time asking us not to headhunt… 9 times out 10 that is from businesses that have at some stage has chosen not to partner with us.

    To coin an old industry saying, you’re either a source or client. No grey area! Grey area doesn’t help us or our clients!

    • Dmitri Goloub on August 27, 2015 at 1:26 am

      Thanks Mark. I have long stood for the abolition of all grey areas:)

  4. Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Hi Mark and “Harry the Headhunter”. Great comments. I once worked with a Recruiter who actually used to say “We can either fill your car park or we can empty it”. A little aggressive for me but you get the point.

  5. Richard Triggs on August 27, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Agree completely. I am a dedicated, retained headhunter only and make no bones about it. Your comments are equally if not more applicable to internal HR/recruitment with client organisations, who expect a headhunting service whilst only paying contingent fees.

    The recruitment industry only has itself to blame for this, as no other professional services work contingently – lawyers, engineers, architects etc. only work when they are being paid.

    My personal opinion is that recruitment should become a profession, with professional qualifications and stop being a contingent, “body-shopper” industry. Until the time that recruiters stop offering contingent solutions, then the attitude you talk about in your blog will continue, to everyone’s detriment.

    • Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 2:06 am

      Thanks Richard. Great comment. Couldn’t agree with you more.
      Clearly you are a true professional that brings a great service to your clients.

    • Dmitri Goloub on August 27, 2015 at 7:24 am

      Thanks for your input @richardtriggs:disqus – agree with you absolutely, paraphrasing Greg Savage’s example, imagine being an Accountant and have your client bring you a project, saying also “I am now going to go to two other accountants and whoever gets it done first will get paid”.

  6. Mark on August 27, 2015 at 1:39 am

    Most aggressive I knew was a retained Exec specialist who refused to limit herself from headhunting out of clients… Her stance was that she has to find the best person and when she is retained she will do exactly that whether they work for client or not – find the best person.

    • Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Hi Mark, our philosophy is that you “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. The big question is when is a client no longer a client? What are your thoughts?

      • Mark on August 27, 2015 at 2:41 am

        Yeah I agree, in my sector we just don’t headhunt from clients and see it as unethical but I can see the Exec Recruiters point…. It’s actually rather purest… She’s retained to find the best person, if the best person sits in another client, well that is the best person. Her job is to find the best person not the best person who doesn’t work for one of her clients and she makes well sure her clients understand that.
        In terms of your question, I reckon a business ceases to be a client when, for whatever reason, they say no to working with you OR you say no to working with them.

  7. Jonathan Rice on August 27, 2015 at 1:54 am

    Very well said Dmitri, I agree with everything you say. As long as the headhunt call is made in a professional, respectful, and targeted way (ie. not calling from phone to phone in an agency just to see if anyone will look to leave, without having a specific role to discuss with anyone).

    • Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 2:02 am

      Hi Jonathan, I hear on the grapevine that you are the best in New Zealand. The “go to” man for NZ Recruiters.
      Good to hear from you.

      • Jonathan Rice on August 27, 2015 at 2:09 am

        Maybe so, but I attribute it to the inspirational training I received upon first entering the rec-to-rec world

        • Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 3:30 am

          They say that Michael Clarke had a good junior batting coach but it was about how he applied it, and built on it that ensured his success.
          You are a great operator mate. Keep up the good work.

    • Dmitri Goloub on August 27, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Thanks @disqus_91D8SUkvqk:disqus have heard some good things about you mate. Luckily, we have a number of options at any given time so it’s just a matter of finding the right talent!

  8. Justin on August 27, 2015 at 3:01 am

    I totally agree with you Paul. Two examples this week – I send my 4 shortlisted candidates to my client who then proceeds to say he is going to carry on using the other agency that have failed twice to fill the role. No coincidence my candidates start getting hits on their Linked In profiles from the other firm. Another case a well known academic institution approach me for services only to then disclose after being previously asked about internal applications to now find out they are interviewing 6 of their own staff (government process) These idiots totally waste our time, intelligence and ethical approach. I agree with some of the comments that are posted that we have ourselves to blame but I have been saying for years we should charge the same way professional services do – by the hour or retained only. Stuff contingent a total waste of time and tells you your client doesn’t understand or know any better. So solution – only offer one product each and every time. We all should consult this way so it becomes the norm. If they don’t want to partner then headhunt. Fair and reasonable playing field.

    • Paul Hamilton on August 27, 2015 at 3:32 am

      That’s a disgrace with your first example. They’ve earned the right to be an ex-client now.

Leave a Comment