March 28, 2023

Is ‘headhunting’ a bad word?


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Good old fashioned sematic discussion

Is ‘headhunting’ a bad word?

It’s the only accurate word, in my opinion. “Talent sourcing” doesn’t quite capture it.

But I’ve had people use it then immediately comment “sorry, didn’t mean to offend you.”

I’ll clarify: everything is headhunting. In our fun little world of external recruiting. (Done right.)

The alternative is resume farming. Which can be an effective way for companies to fill quite a few roles internally. Not even dumping on this. Well articulated job ads (not the same as boring af job descriptions) can attract a lot of great talent.

But at some point, it stops working. Either the volume is too high or the requirements are too niche or competitive.

That’s where the not-so-secret sauce comes in. I say ‘not so secret’ because everyone does some variation of the same process. The tldr of which: ideal candidate profile creation, sourcing, and outreach.

Profile creation: What kind of person can do this job? Where do they work?

Sourcing: What’s their name?

Outreach: Hit ‘em up. (Special bonus when you already know them. “Using your network” as the kids call it.)

Rinse and repeat. “Recruiting” encompasses more than this (still gotta vet, sell, advise, etc.) but that’s headhunting in a nutshell.

But is it a bad word?

It’s certainly dated. Perhaps it’s the old school, aggressive sounding nature. It just didn’t age well.

But until a better phrase comes along (and I’m all ears) I think it’s an important distinguisher between proactive outreach vs post-and-pray. 

Those who can get it done when it gets hard. And those who can’t.

Full episode of The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 61 “No One Understands Recruiting But Recruiters, Volume 3” here.

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

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