Headhunting sounds pretty cut-throat, and in a sense it is – professionals in this area compete to find the best (typically senior) executives in their sector and then attract them to come and work for them instead. Most headhunters work for specialist agencies that are hired by large organisations when they have a specific high-level job to fill, or simply if they want to get a key player on board. But some of the very largest, and richest, organisations will have full-time headhunters. Headhunters are often most prevalent in the banking and finance, accountancy and legal sectors.
Headhunters require an in-depth knowledge of their chosen sector, and will need to have (or quickly establish) good contacts within that field. You'll be expected to travel at a moment's notice. Wooing your chosen ‘scalp’ in nice restaurants and informing them of the employment opportunities the company can offer is also part of the job. The best perk of the job, besides the occasional international travel, is the pay – headhunters are big earners. However, it is a hugely competitive field.
Typically you'll need to be educated at a degree level, but a proven successful background in sales and/or recruitment can be just as important. You'll need to be personable and charming, with a lot of commercial awareness, and have a love of networking. This area is all about your business knowledge and personality – the main numeracy skills needed will be to add up your pay packet at the end of the month.
Headhunting jobs can crop up on specialist sites, as well as in the more traditional HR press. Be aware headhunting roles come in many guises, so look out for roles advertised as, for example, ‘executive search consultant’ and similarly vague terms.