The headhunting of consultants is part and parcel of running a recruitment business, but there are signs to look out for and ways to minimise the impact.
The recruitment industry is rife with headhunters because the best consultants – the ‘high billers’ – are worth so much to their agency, and subsequently their competitors, that it is worth trying to poach them.
How recruitment consultants are headhunted, or poached, tends to be done in the same way, with either freelance headhunters or other consultants used to try to tempt them to leave their current agency and join a new one. Here is a list of the most popular headhunting techniques and how to spot the signs that one of your consultants has been approached.
Furtive Phone Calls
With everyone having their own mobile phones this is no longer such an easy sign to spot – it used to be that headhunters had to call their target consultant and work and they would then have to ‘pretend’ they were talking to a candidate or client! But even if your consultants are constantly taking calls on their mobiles at work, there are ways to spot a headhunting call. Usually, the consultant will blush or look a little furtive when speaking on the phone, and their initial conversation will sound strained, and then sound a bit too friendly as the headhunter on the line will say to pretend they are talking to someone they know.
Taking Days Off
Not many recruitment consultants take random days off without saying why, so when one of your consultants takes a sick day or one day off without what sounds like a genuine reason, you should suspect they are going for interviews. This may not necessarily be because they have been headhunted, but it is certainly worth talking to them about how they feel about their role.
When a consultant has been headhunted by a competitor, it is common for counter offers to be made in order to keep them. If your consultant tells you they’ve been headhunted and you are keen to hang on to them, you will have to consider whether or not it is worth your while to counter offer, bearing in mind that this sets a precedent and that your consultant probably wants to leave anyway. A counter offer usually at least matches the new job offer in terms of salary, percentage of fees and other benefits, so it is not always a good idea to get into a bidding war.
When one consultant is headhunted and leaves to work for a competitor, it is all too common that they take their favourite colleagues with them. This is often because their new employer offers them a ‘finder’s fee’, which is usually part of their original plan anyway. This means that you have to be extra-vigilant about spotting the warning signs as it is rarely just one consultant that leaves! It will often be two consultants from the same desk that leave, or consultants that are particularly good friends, as they are usually encouraged to suggest other people and will want to work with people that they like.