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Headhunting and Stoicism: What can a headhunter do to make their job easier?

It is no secret that the headhunting industry has an exceptionally high turnover rate, roughly around 40%. This stands in stark contrast to the UK average turnover rate of 15-17%, and is 10% higher than similar occupations like Sales and Marketing positions.

There are ample discussions about how an employer can solve staff retention problems. For instance, employers can give an accurate insight into the world of headhunting, compensate and reward regularly, and keep up to date with new trends within the headhunting process itself. These are all things Mantell Associates strives towards. However, whilst the employer’s role in decreasing turnover is pertinent, it is also important to discuss individual steps that can be taken to ease the headhunting process and ultimately lower employee turnover.

A huge issue that headhunters regularly encounter is mental exhaustion from putting an inordinate amount of energy into an opportunity or candidate, for it to then not be filled due to a factor out of their control. Perhaps, to address the turnover rate at the individual level, we ought to talk about ways to build emotional resilience. This article intends to do this by introducing and explaining stoicism, an increasingly popular ancient Greek philosophy, and relaying how effective it could be in the context of headhunting. 

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism originates in Athens in 300 B.C.E, from the mind of Zeno of Citium, and touches upon various topic including ethics, religion and metaphysics. Principally, as echoed by early Stoics like Epictetus and later Stoics like Pierre Hadot, Stoicism has a lot to say about control. Scholars speak about what we can and cannot control, and how we should go about achieving an emotionally neutral standpoint with that which we cannot control.

This may seem like a vague oversimplification of our natural tendencies to react emotionally to a negative event, but there is plenty of evidence that proves the effectiveness of Stoicism. For empirical evidence, we could point to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) because CBT is ‘’the most effective form of treatment for those coping with depression and anxiety” and is deeply rooted in Stoic philosophy. For anecdotal evidence, we can look to James Stockdale who was tortured 12 times throughout his seven years in a Prisoner of War camp in Hanoi. James claimed that his education and his lessons about Stoicism were a large contributing factor to his ability to cope with such hardship. 

How does Stoicism apply to headhunting?

As a headhunter, you need to be able to separate what you can control from what you can’t. For example, headhunters can control pitching the opportunity, obtaining all the necessary information, and preparing their candidates well. However, headhunters can’t control a candidate's familial circumstances or other personal reasons, which may mean they don’t accept a job offer or wish to step out of the respective industry. Ultimately, this comes down to the fact that headhunters can’t control every situation.

To headhunt effectively is to accept you can only guide and influence a candidate’s decision to a certain point, and practice emotional neutrality towards decisions out of your means of control. By removing emotion when it comes to situations you cannot possibly control, you can stay true to the important fundamentals of headhunting and perform to the best of your ability with a clear head. Implementing a stoic mindset while headhunting and managing processes allows you to focus on the long-term goal. 

In conclusion, headhunters face an immense amount of stress around things they cannot completely control which plays a part in the industry's high employee turnover. For the individual to be motivated to stay in a headhunting environment, it is important to build emotional and professional resilience. Perhaps reading further and understanding Stoicism will help headhunters to come to terms with what they cannot control.

Mantell Associates is a specialist Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Head-Hunting organisation. To find out how we can assist with your business requirements, contact Zander Dumas on +44 2038 547700 or zander.dumas@mantellassociates.com.