New technologies such as Skype interviews, big data, profiling and curriculum assessment software have transformed recruitment methods and made life easier for recruiting specialists. But when it comes to executive recruitment, this factor is not what makes the difference. So what about Headhunter 4.0? They are those who can offer business consultancy services. We discuss this in detail with Piero Silvaggio, Managing Partner at Horton International Italy.
Mr Silvaggio, how important are new technologies in the headhunting business?
Before answering this question we need to step back and ask ourselves what this work really involves. What do people who search and select for executive jobs actually do these days? If we look closely at the headhunter’s activities we discover that the search itself is only a commodity, it’s a part of the service that will increasingly lose value over time. Our work starts before the search and involves much more than that. It begins with talking to the client, and this is the stage where professional recruiters must deliver their added value.
What kind of added value?
Headhunting companies specializing in high-profile roles are not just providers of standard search services but offer business consultancies based on a variety of tools, including benchmark and context surveys, international mapping and analysis of in-house teams. This enables them to advise clients based on their individual market and organizational needs. In other words, they help clients identify the right resource for their requirements and to meet their set goals. In all of this, even today, using a social network or a database is not what makes the difference. What distinguishes high-level headhunters is their knowledge of the market and their ability to understand the context. For firms operating in this business, moving up a gear means being able to create a network of services within the recruiting process.
But can new technologies be helpful in this respect?
Yes and no. They are helpful in some of the standard stages, like the search and selection of profiles on a wider scale. Today, certain aspects of your work can be facilitated through the professional management of specific social networks or services; by casting your net wide you have a wider choice. But as you narrow it down and have to identify the right person for a given opening, technology gives way to the human factor, to experience and vision.
Some software programmes can find the profiles a company is searching for based on specific skills included in people’s CVs.
A candidate’s suitability for a role needs to be assessed from a much broader perspective, especially if we are looking for a manager. We have to take into account the market and the context, the company’s development prospects and its organizational structure. Placing a new member into a team without taking into account the environment, the people and the existing roles can have catastrophic effects on performance. So, when it comes to these aspects, technology is no substitute for consultancy.
How has the profession changed from the past?
The situation has changed and is now much more complex. Nowadays, when a company offers a manager a contract, it’s making a considerable investment, so the headhunter has to be able to identify the candidate with the capacity to deliver results.
Technology can make life easier in this respect...
But it cannot be a substitute for it. These days, everyone uses the Pro version of LinkedIn and has access to software and databases for their recruitment needs. Before turning to an external provider, companies have already tried to fill their vacancies using their internal resources. If they come to us it’s because they need something more than that.