Is Executive Search or 'Headhunting' a Morally Viable, Politically Correct and Ethical Way to Recruit?

Do you ever find yourself asking whether executive search or headhunting is an ethical and moral way to recruit? We do, fairly regularly.

As Search Consultants, we are ever mindful of ensuring our approach is an ethical way to recruit.

“Is it ethical to headhunt from your competitors?”

I don’t consider the above to be a question of ethics at all. I say it’s unethical to prevent companies from headhunting from competitors simply because companies don’t own their employees. People have a contractual obligation to work until the time comes when they to decide to move on. They are also obligated to work hard and be professional in relation to their employer. However, choice and freedom are fundamental human rights (in most developed countries!)

When introducing ourselves and our service to new people, we always ask whether they ‘are open to hearing about new opportunities’ and if so, we continue the discussion. If not, we politely close the conversation. By having the freedom of choice, they determine their next step.

On the contrary, numerous recruitment agencies’ will pull a candidate’s CV from a database or job-board, or even create one from a LinkedIn profile and send it directly to their client before, or without having even spoken to them. Are your data protection alarm bells ringing yet?! A professional search firm will never dream of doing so.

There are two kinds of people in this world:

  • Those who know what they want and go out and get it

  • Those who settle for what comes along

In the world of recruitment, this is the difference between headhunters and recruiters. Headhunters work only for employers. Headhunters don’t take who comes along. They decide who they want and they go out and find them. If you are the person a headhunter is pursuing, they will treat you and your career with respect while serving their client’s needs. Headhunters invest time and resources to ensure accuracy and professionalism.

I don’t object to headhunters calling themselves recruiters, but I do object to recruiters calling themselves headhunters.

21st Century headhunters commonly use LinkedIn to hunt for heads that may fit the bill. As with any other social media site, LinkedIn does not allow full anonymity. However, anyone with a profile and online presence have chosen to do so. It is then down to them to decide how much information they share in their bio. Proving a successful resource for headhunters, this again is available through the choice and freedom of the candidate. I liken this to the good ol’ telephone directory. Why publish your details if you do not wish to be contacted or targeted?

If your employees are leaving in droves, don’t blame the headhunters; your competitors are offering something you are not. Blaming the headhunters is simply shooting the messenger.

– Paul Rayner- CEO