One of the topics that always raises the most interest both among clients and potential candidates is how many people are contacted or interviewed during a Headhunting project.

It is not so easy to generalize, as there are very rarely two projects that are similar to one another.

However, even when there is the need to search for a similar second role for the same company, the search is always new, and it basically starts from scratch. There are also direct searches where there are only a handful of potential candidates in the market, and then there are projects where there are plenty, again, at least on the paper.

However, in this article, I will try to open up and list a few critical numbers behind the usual Headhunting project:

60 to 100 potential candidates on the first list

At the beginning of the project, we strive to build a list of potential candidates, in a list that should be approximately 100 names. This is when the scenario is the kind of project where the number of potential candidates is not just a few, but you can find quite easily a large number of valid candidates, that are currently working somewhere else. When I look at the latest headhunting assignments in which I have been responsible, +- 100 is pretty much the goal and number I want to start with.

We try to contact everyone on the list

This is clearly the most time-consuming phase of the direct search project and, at the same time, one of the most important ones. We now need to go through candidates one by one and identify the most potential candidates.

This phase must be done correctly, in order to raise interest and get the best ones attracted. The first contact is usually made by phone or via LinkedIn InMail. Often not everyone on the list can be reached for one reason or another, and it is up to the nature of the project, how much time is worth or necessary, to reach each potential person. If the list of potential candidates is very limited, we tend to try every possible way to reach every individual.

Phone conversations

Once a potential candidate has shown interest, we usually agree when we can discuss the opportunity more in detail. Depending on the project, there can easily be 20 to 30 phone conversations. And yes, conversations, not interviews. In the headhunting process, we are not interviewing the candidates at first but selling them an opportunity.

And why this large number of conversations. Just simply because of this reason:

  • 1/3 will say no thanks
  • 1/3 gets interested but are rejected by us
  • 1/3 gets interested and are approved by us

Face-to-face meetings

So having 20-30 phone conversations, roughly 1/3 will move on to the next phase, which basically means around 10 very potential and motivated candidates.

As the subheading already says, this phase is about meeting the potential candidates face-to-face. Again I would like to use the word meeting instead of an interview. Headhunter is still in a sales position, and the purpose of the meeting is to find out if this position could be right for the candidate and, of course, if the candidate really possesses the right skills, experience, motivation, etc. that are needed to be successful in the new role.

Customer interviews

We always promise the client that they are going to meet eventually 4 to 5 valid candidates, each of whom will match the profile and could be selected for a job. We usually tend to provide some diversity at this stage, different ages, professional experience, skills, strengths, etc. to make it interesting and hard in a positive way.

After the final interviews, our customers usually want to continue with at least two candidates. In this final round, we go through in every detail everything solving all the possible doubts and making sure that both parties are ready to sign the contract.

In conclusion, these phases are not set in stone and every project is always a bit different. But when I look back at those projects that I have been working on myself and hundreds that I have participated in on the side, these are roughly the numbers and the steps required every time.

As you can see, there are hundreds of hours of phone calls, emails, conversations, and face-to-face or Zoom meetings necessary to pass from nearly 100 potential to 4 – 5 final candidates that are interested, motivated, relevant, and would be willing to start in the new company and position soon.

Teemu Ruuska


InHunt World

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