There are plenty of attributes that not only make a headhunter great, but as importantly, effective. When potential and current clients ask me to define what makes me different from others in my space, I can speak to a variety of different qualifiers, including years of experience, credibility and maybe even a little notoriety.  But if there is one word that I think defines the way I approach my craft,  this would be selectivity.

In a relationship business, who you select to do business with and represent can either elevate you or bury you in mediocrity.  Selectivity is at the base of every decision, from jobs that I accept to candidates I represent.

In the competitive world of recruiting, the temptation to disregard selective parameters can be  overwhelming.  The race to submit resumes that often disregard quality and careful screening are understandable, given their clients use of social media resources. The once sacrosanct boundary between companies stealing directly from their competitors no longer exits, so internal and external recruiters are often in direct competition with one another. Easy to get caught up in this game and not so easy to avoid. When competing with your client, you are decreasing your chances of filling the assignment considerably. Though they may or may not come up with a better candidate, the real reason you won’t succeed is because they are competing with you and they have the home team advantage.

This is where selectivity starts. Of course it’s good business sense to take on assignments with the greatest chance for success, ask for retainers and work with respectful clients. But the real value lies in how you’re perceived in the market by your potential candidate pool. My candidates know that when I bring an assignment to them it’s special. It’s a quality company, we’re not competing against other agencies and it’s most likely retained. The candidate knows they will be represented confidentially with a better probability of landing the opportunity. This is a huge advantage for the client company in terms of prestige, luring the best talent and ultimately securing the hire. The candidate understands that the client respects the process and values who they hire. The candidate is made to feel special.

This exclusivity differentiates the client and elevates their status. The candidate views them as being selective, rather than spreading the assignment around over multiple agencies. When candidates get calls from multiple recruiters regarding one opening, they are often backed off. The risk of exposure becomes much higher, as well as the discomfort of being caught in the middle of everyone fighting over them.   In smaller area markets, it’s all too easy for a candidate’s confidentiality to be blown.

The approach of exclusivity often means taking a pass on open jobs, seemingly much sought after, but ultimately over exposed in the marketplace. Calling on the same candidates for the same job every other recruiter in town is working on is redundant. The client company loses all advantage by having too many cooks in the kitchen. Besides, if an agency knows they are competing with 4 other of their contingency brethren, they’ll put the quickest minimum effort into the assignment and move on. In my mind, that’s filling a job by luck, rather than selective recruiting.

Selectivity takes a little extra patience, not a little courage and a clear insight into how you perceive your value – to both the client and the candidate. In my case, it’s served me well for over twenty years.  And in serving me well, my clients and candidates receive all of the benefits.