How Executive Search can address the current skills shortage

According to the Open University’s annual Business Barometer report, 72 per cent of UK organisations now face significant skill shortages, as the battle for talent ramps up.

  • Almost three-quarters (72%) of organisations say the impact of skills shortages is causing increased workload on other staff, while 78% are seeing reduced output, profitability, or growth
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of SMEs are currently facing skills shortages, rising to 86% in large organisations
  • 28% of businesses say they have had to turn down work or are not able to bid for work due to their staff shortage

Organisations can ill-afford to have a continuous number of unfilled vacancies, but can also ill-afford to panic and fill them with unsuitable candidates, as this will cost even more in the long-term.

At a senior level in particular, it is even more critical that the best performers are appointed, as they can (and should) make a significant difference to your bottom line. This is highlighted further during tougher economic climates whereby you need top talent to help steer your organisation through the challenging times.

However, as most employers will work hard to retain their top performers, these individuals are less likely to be actively seeking a new role. This makes it an even bigger recruitment challenge to find these individuals.

Nevertheless, hope is not lost – headhunting (also known as Executive Search), should deliver the recruitment solution and value you need to attract the right talent for your organisation.

Executive Search / Headhunting

Organisations can fill most entry-level and mid-tier roles by using job advertising boards or regular recruitment agencies. If your organisation is also struggling to fill these roles, take a look at this blog article for how you might attract better quality talent by improving your job advertising.

However, individuals for niche and senior roles are hard to find. Firstly there are less of them, and secondly, they tend not to have the time or inclination (as they are usually kept happy by their existing employer), to proactively look for a new job.

That’s where headhunting can be the perfect solution. It proactively identifies those passive candidates who are suitable for the role, but who aren’t going to be found on job boards or responding to adverts.

Be wary, though: some standard recruitment agencies claim to do headhunting, but don’t. True headhunting involves undertaking a rigorous research exercise to scour the entire market for suitable candidates and approaching them directly.

A proven process

Headhunting is a proven methodical process that involves significant relationship building. It is a far cry from simply contacting people on LinkedIn or maintaining a database of people who have been in senior leadership positions in the past and sending them emails when new job opportunities come along.

Headhunting proactively seeks candidates with the right skills and experience for your specific opportunity and organisation. Some headhunters are specialists in their sector meaning they are inch wide and mile deep. So they have a narrow focus but lots of industry expertise.

However at Executive Headhunters, we are cross-market specialists, meaning we are mile wide and mile deep. We have strong expertise and detailed industry knowledge across a broad range of sectors which provides significant benefits to our clients, particularly in a candidate scarce and economically challenging environment.

This is because we have the advantage of being able to target candidates of competitor businesses of our clients, unlike specialists who will always be restricted by their client base. A specialist, or at least an ethical one, won’t be able to target people who are working for one of their other clients, which can significantly restrict your candidate pool.

As cross-sector specialists, we are able to identify candidates with complementary and transferrable skills from other industries, providing our clients with a much wider and more diverse selection of candidates. This gives you a critical advantage in the current market with significant skills shortages.

A really good headhunter will provide you with in-depth reporting at every stage, so you can see precisely every activity they’ve undertaken and how it delivers to your brief. You should receive detailed statistics on the number of candidates approached, the outcomes achieved for each one, and a split of candidates into relevant diversity criteria.

Focus on cultural fit

Every headhunting organisation should also be doing all of the hard recruitment work on your behalf. Once relevant candidates have been identified and approached, the headhunter should also be undertaking all of the appropriate assessments and initial interviewing to screen out the less suitable candidates.

This should include in-depth behavioural and cultural profiling to ensure the candidate is going to be a good cultural fit for your organisation. Many standard recruitment agencies (and poor headhunters), won’t pay much attention to this aspect and they just focus on matching a candidate’s skills and experiences with the role, but we know how critical cultural fit is to the initial and long-term success of a candidate.

You should then receive a list of candidates to interview who are the cream of the crop in terms of suitability for your opportunity. The headhunter should remain engaged throughout, offering to sit in on interviews with you in order to provide an objective opinion on candidate performance if required. In addition, the headhunter should play an integral role in the management of any offer and remuneration package negotiation.  

The best headhunters will also continue to stay involved throughout the interim period between offer acceptance and starting date, ensuring the candidate stays engaged with your organisation, reducing the risk of any counter-offers being accepted.

You should also make sure that some form of rebate or free of charge replacement is available within a certain period of time should the candidate not work out.

At Executive Headhunters, we are so confident in our ability to deliver the right person for our clients, we offer a 9 month free of charge replacement guarantee as standard. We extend this further to 18 months with our Executive Onboarding service.


The headhunting process is specifically designed to address the 75-80% of passive candidates in the market at any given time – that is, talent who aren’t actively looking for new positions but would happily consider them if approached in the right way. A great headhunter has the resources and ability to proactively find those candidates and knows how to present opportunities that appeal to them.

Many headhunters, including Executive Headhunters, will also keep a talent pipeline of top performers. These are people who are excelling in their current roles and may be interested in moving to a new role at some point in the future for the right opportunity – which could be yours. If the timing and opportunity is right, the headhunter can approach these individuals as well.

Getting top talent to move from their current employer to you can be challenging, particularly as most organisations will make an effort to look after those individuals who generate the most value.

However, it’s not a lost cause. Great talent remains available and using the techniques and methodical process of headhunting can identify them, providing you with the opportunity to attract them to your organisation.EH Premium Resource  FREE EBOOK Why Use Us? What Does It Cost? DOWNLOAD NOW!

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