Filling a high-profile position, e.g. in the C-Suite, is a delicate task and often (rightfully so) involves a headhunter / executive search company. For the company that needs to fill the position, in case they don’t already have a go-to-consultant, that means they have to find a good headhunter to help them. Often they ask themselves: how do I know who’s a good headhunter and who isn’t? What are the characteristics of quality there? Is it the price? Is it the size? Or is it the profile?
Helping to set the scope
Well, it’s kind of all of the above. And more. But it usually isn’t just one of these criteria. It’s a mix of them and much more importantly: it’s personal. It’s not possible to decide “from the outside”. The future client needs a personal meeting and needs to get an understanding of how the headhunter is approaching the project. Does he understand the position? Does he understand the company? Is he helpful with a realistic approach and setting the scope for the search? Is he an asset in the process of setting it all up?
Good reputation in all directions
Yes, obviously a good headhunter has a good reputation. He/she is known in your industry. People have worked with him/her and recommend him/her. But beyond that you also want a headhunter who works well not only with his clients but also with the candidates. Try to get a view in from their perspective. Professional relationships should work on both ends. Usually that results in a good reputation.
The person behind the company
It can make a lot of sense to get involved with a big and successful executive search firm but always have an eye on the actual headhunter who is “on your project”. Try to find out who is actually handling the search. It matters very VERY much. You can’t really understand what will work for you unless the right person is working with you.
Network and methods
Naturally good headhunters need to have good networks. They need to just know who the project is right for and use a sustainable network that builds on past relationships. Anyone can put out an ad or search in social media. That’s not what you need a headhunter for. A headhunter needs to make a proposal which combination of methods are needed and go into the direct search.
It can make sense to check whether the headhunter’s network works rather locally or works internationally as well. Any scenario can make sense for you depending on the position and the industry concerned. And a good headhunter should know exactly that.