How to ensure you get in front of a headhunter


So, you’ve heard about a fantastic search through a network contact or found the perfect role advertised online but the first hurdle is often getting past the search provider who is handling the assignment.

“If I had a penny for the amount of time that people have told me the story of how they have found it difficult with ‘said head hunter’.”

The head hunter who doesn’t give you a look in, who always goes to their preferred list of people when you have the perfect experience for the role. You know that person, right?

In the past a job-driven market has been partly to blame – it’s given clients optimum choice, so when times are tough they can go for the safe option.

But times have changed! The job/candidate ratio has changed and the companies that succeed in hiring top talent SHOULD be looking at more diverse options when hiring (although some search providers might not get this for some time!).

But, let’s throw out some home truths…Sometimes, you won’t have the right experience for a job and there is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes, you might think you’re perfect for it, but you’re just not right and sometimes clients can be incredibly picky (which is their prerogative) and there is not a lot you can do about it!

But sometimes, people can’t see the wood for the trees – and this is where you can make a difference.

So, here are our top tips on how to take an innovative approach:

1. Don’t apply, get referred! LinkedIn makes it easy these days to find connections in common and people take more notice of a referral.

2. Get noticed. Become a ‘thought leader’ in your market and you’ll soon gain kudos.

3. Don’t be too keen! No-one likes to be hassled all the time. It’s a little bit like dating, the keener you seem for something, the less people are interested.

4. Find commonality. Given the nature of the need to deliver in roles quickly these days, clients like to hire people that can hit the ground running; so make sure you highlight that you can do this.

5. Be Boolean smart. Make sure your CV has all of the buzzwords, as it may get rejected by technology if not.

6. Think outside of the box. Whilst you might not totally hit the brief, certain sectors have a lot of common themes i.e. business services firms, logistics and construction are all typically contract led, across multiple sites and employ large workforces.

7. Demonstrate commercial impact. If you’re just good at what you do, people will overlook minor things that don’t hit the brief.

8. Go nuclear! Not my preferred route for obvious reasons but sometimes if all else fails and you are getting nowhere with said provider… go directly to a business. Sometimes, people just get it wrong or you don’t connect, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t fit with the end client.

But most importantly, don’t give up!

We’re in the midst of a changing market and those that try hardest and push the boundaries, tend to open up options for themselves.


To discuss further, you can email me on


You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Shared Services, want to attract the best talent to join your business?

Shared services
Credit: The Office, NBC

I recently published an eBook called “Why Top Performing Shared Services Talent Won’t Join Your Business & What To Do About It”. In this eBook, I explain why it is that big reputable brands (which have world-class shared services centres) still find it difficult to recruit and retain the best talent. Even though these brands may believe that “everyone loves our brand and it’s a nice place to work…” this isn’t necessarily the truth.

Is that the message you are giving off to a passive candidate market?

With over 75% of shared services professionals passively looking (and not actively seeking) a new role, then it’s no wonder that it’s difficult to attract and retain the best talent!

Delivering the right message to shared services professionals

Candidates are being increasingly selective over their future employer, and considering that Monarch Airlines, Carillion, Toys R us, House of Fraser, and Maplin (just to name a few!) have gone into administration during the past year, why would you want to leave your cushy job where you’ve worked for years, and where Betty knows how to make the perfect cup of tea, for somewhere that isn’t as secure and may be at risk of joining all of the companies mentioned in the previous sentence?

It’s important that shared services give off the right message, follow the right process and keep up with their competitors when it comes to recruiting.

The most desired Shared Services assignments in the past 12 months that I’ve managed have been within newly created roles. But why is this?

Is it because there isn’t an expectation there, or because they feel the company are performing well by creating these new roles?

Newly created positions offer a chance for candidates to put their stamp on a role and make it their own. As these positions are created due to demand for a certain skillset within a business, they also provide candidates with a sense of feeling wanted and allows them to see these roles as a challenge and the chance to pursue something new.

It’s all about how you deliver the message, and how this message is perceived by your potential future employees!

So the big question is, how do you excite people to work for your shared service centre if the role is replacing someone who lacked motivation, was bored and didn’t enjoy coming into work….

It’s all in your message.

How you get this right in your Shared Services team!

And I have just the thing that can help you with this… In my free eBook, I examine the steps you can take to stay ahead in the field.

If you would like your free copy, email me at

You can view more about Sam Perry our Shared Services Executive Search expert here

What makes a good HR business partner?

HR has seen quite a change over the past few years, thanks to the introduction of new technologies and changing cultural attitudes. So it makes sense that the qualities of a successful HR business partner may have gone through a similar metamorphosis since Ulrich first introduced the concept.


These days more focus is needed on how they add value to a company. But you can’t just go from being traditional HR to HR business partner overnight, as a completely different set of attitudes, beliefs and skills are required to pull off this role.

So, what exactly makes a successful HR business partner (HRBP)?
  • A well-rounded knowledge base. As the job description for a HR business manager has become all-encompassing, the knowledge base of a HRBP must be as well. Similar to a typical HR manager, a HRBP should have a sound understanding of the law so that the company they work for understands their legal obligations to their employees. Additionally, a basic understanding of psychology is also beneficial as the role now entails more interaction directly with employees.
  • Business-minded. Originally the key characteristic of a HRBP is that they were someone who understood a company’s financial goals and worked to create solutions for HR-focused issues. This characteristic still remains highly important in a modern day HRBP, as without a clear business focus and understanding, a HRBP is not adding value.
  • People skills. Now that this role involves more interaction with employees, it means that a HRBP needs engaging social skills. There’s no point in having great ideas if you can’t sell them and communicate them effectively. If the right person is in the role, then they will be able to enable employees to feel safe and motivated in their workplace and more open to change.
  • Self-belief. If you don’t believe in the impact that HR can have on a business or your own influencing skills, then why should other people? If a business is going to reach its targets, everyone in that business needs to believe that they can make a difference. And those differences start with HR!
What about the top qualities of a good HR business partner?
  • The ability to build good relationships
  • Business acumen – they know the business well
  • Good work ethic and attitude
  • Experts in their field
  • Challenge authority
A change in the role of HRBP

There has been a huge change in the role of HRBP’s today compared to the same role a few years ago. HR was previously considered an extra department that was nice to have a security blanket for everyone else. Now, HR is essential, and businesses are missing out if they do not adopt this new approach.

Convincing people that ‘HR business partner’ is more than just the latest buzzword means being able to demonstrate value in your work, and with the correct skills and attitudes, the benefits that you can bring to a business are truly limitless.

There is still plenty of debate around what makes a successful HR business partner

There is plenty of resource to help you form your own opinion:

Carl Hinett is our Director & Executive Search Specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch

Want to hear more about our senior HR professionals golf society? Sign up here.

The worst advice we’ve ever heard from HR

There is a common misconception that more means more… When in reality more, often means less. You see this when you decide to go for an all you can eat buffet, the restaurant has tried to create a number of fantastic dishes but dismally failed to produce anything of decent quality.

I find it equally as unsavoury when I hear from a potential client that they want to get the ‘best’ talent in the market and to do that they are going to engage exactly five agencies or to send it out to everyone on their PSL.

They then wonder why it hasn’t produced the superstar they are after??

Now, I’m not here to bash internal recruitment, or HR, for that matter, I am keen just to point out the problem with having a model where volume wins and how you can avoid making these mistakes when you make your next hire.

Many people fail to understand how recruitment agencies operate and their mindset. If only clients fully understood, in reality, what happens with multi-agency briefs, they might decide to approach things slightly differently.

In my earlier career at a large recruitment firm we were taught how to prioritise job roles, the theory was simple:

This isn’t just taught at one particular business, it is pretty universal in the big box recruitment industry.

Therefore the client may think they are getting ‘the best’ but in reality, they are getting what people can get their hands on quickly.

This is what also drives terrible candidate experience. As many agents ring, as many people as humanly possible (as quickly as possible) and then forget about it as they know they will never get any feedback!

For me, the solution is an easy one… (and this is why, when I launched re:find, I promised we would never work on multi-agent briefs.)

· Choose someone you like, who you preferably have a relationship with and who understands your business. They are more likely to get it right and go the extra mile for you.

· Ideally, give it to them retained or exclusively (with some time) to go and find the best in the market. Ultimately, this will save you time during the recruitment process and a headache in the long-run.

· At most, give the assignment to two businesses, one of them can be a large agency who utilise a database, the other a boutique firm that sources proactively, then you have covered all bases in the market for that ‘Superstar’ you are after.

· Ensure the firm you are using has good ethics and treats candidates well, you want to start your new recruit on a positive journey so that they are engaged about your business from day one.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.