Your organisation wishes to recruit a new Director / Senior Manager. One of the early discussion areas will be shall we advertise the post or should we headhunt? This is a key discussion and a decision which will shape your recruitment activities and the result.

Whether you conduct the recruitment exercise in-house or brief an external Recruitment Consultancy / Agency, we set out the key issues which will help you reach the appropriate decision.


If the recruitment is confidential do not advertise the post!

Confidentiality can surround a recruitment exercise for several reasons including:

·         You may not wish to broadcast your forward recruitment plans to competitors, employees or suppliers

·         You may still have an incumbent in place currently carrying out the job

·         It is a new and business critical appointment which, at this stage, would raise unwanted and unwelcome questions

If any of the above are relevant you should either delay the recruitment or use an Executive Search approach, often termed “headhunting”.


As a general rule, if the supply of suitably qualified candidates is large then advertising is the quickest and most cost effective way forward. Conversely if the target candidate population is limited then you should consider Executive Search / headhunting as the most likely way to succeed.

For example, if you are looking to recruit a Field Sales Engineer you would normally use an advertisement driven approach, because there are literally thousands of potential candidates, and many of them will regularly view recruitment advertising.


Generally, the more senior the post, the more likely Executive Search / headhunting will be used. As you move to the top of the hierarchical pyramid, by definition the less number of potential candidates exist.

Salary package can be a broad indicator of seniority and typically (but not always) posts carrying a salary indicator of less than £100k per annum will be advertised, above that level of remuneration will often involve Executive Search.


If the combination of skills, industry experience and knowledge required in the ideal candidate profile is so specific, then usually Executive Search will be deployed. For example, we were asked to recruit a candidate for the post of Technical Director who:

·         Was a graduate in Ceramics

·         Had gained at least 4 years’ experience of Continuous Improvement and Lean Manufacturing

·         Had current or recent experience in glass container (not flat sheet) manufacturing

To advertise this post would be a total waste of money with little chance of a successful result. Executive Search revealed there were only 22 potentially suitable candidates based in the UK, Germany and Canada. The successful candidate was identified in Canada and relocated to the UK to take up the Technical Director post.