Headhunting remains a relatively new field in the Vietnamese market. Demand in earlier years had been slow due to fewer potential recruits. However, the scale of headhunting in Vietnam is quickly expanding, producing well-rounded and experienced individuals in the field.
The current rate of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth is about seven percent, creating a higher-than-ever demand for talent in Vietnam, according to Dang Xuan Bach. He is the head of Capability & Performance Enhancement at First Alliances, a leading headhunting company in Vietnam.
Headhunters recruit the appropriate people to address absent positions in companies. And so we meet with Mr. Dang Xuan Bach to learn about his experiences as a headhunter, demystify the process, and to understand the challenges of headhunting in Vietnam as the field continues to grow.
You’ve been in this job for five and a half years. In your opinion, what are some important skills for a headhunter?
Communication. You must be comfortable working with people.
Communication skills comprise of two specific components: being able to listen and expressing yourself clearly.
Listening skills means understanding what the other party is trying to communicate, and more importantly, understanding the underlying logic. The skill of expressing yourself means knowing how to be concise and logical.
I’m not always good at expressing myself. But if I can grasp the logic, I will still have the ability to persuade the other party. That’s why logic in communication is an important part of training at First Alliances.
Do headhunters need to learn about psychology and body language?
These factors relate more to accumulated experience and logic than learning from textbooks. While an Emotional Index (EQ) is also needed, it only expresses comfort and openness when interacting with other people. A Vietnamese headhunter requires a particular degree of logical intuition.
If your EQ is high but you don’t follow logical processes and questions, you still won’t understand the desires of the other party. In that sense, headhunting involves more experience than simply an EQ.
For a headhunter, besides face-to-face communication, is email communication important?
Email alone is insufficient. The most important part of communication is to persuade the person you’re talking to. It’s necessary to immediately perceive and process the effects through direct communication. Email doesn’t play much of a role in communication. It only helps with subsequent exchanges of information and interaction.
Is having experience in management an advantage in the headhunting industry?
If you want to work as a recruiting consultant, of course you have to be able to manage. But to me, it’s more about being able to manage yourself.
A headhunter needs to know how to set appropriate personal goals to achieve the company’s monthly goals. Examples of goals are meeting a quota of customers or candidates […] or scheduling appointments for multiple interviews.
Additionally, management skills also come with the ability to plan and arrange: planning to fulfill those personal goals. You must create a plan and follow it.
Finally, management also comes in the form of managing your emotions. Every day I have to interact with many people with different emotional needs. A headhunter needs to know how to regulate and compartmentalize emotions after each interview to avoid letting it affect other parts of their work.
What is a lesson you learned after more than five years in headhunting?
I learned to follow the process. This work revolves around human contact and people are the most susceptible to vulnerability and change. For example, I gave a job offer today and the candidate agreed in the morning. But, in the afternoon, he called again with a different response. The next morning, he called to agree again.
The purpose and outcome of recruitment counseling is to control these kind of changes. If it becomes complicated, the interview will be fruitless and a waste of time for both parties. To avoid this, we follow the process.
The first step is to ask the necessary questions to determine what factors may affect them, such as direct managers or the environment and remuneration regimes. We also rely on these questions to make a conclusion about whether or not this person is suitable for the job.
The second step is to avoid prejudice. When interviewing candidates, evaluations must be completely based on objectivity. A clear and specific process allows us to focus on the advantages of the candidate and the reason why they should be recruited when we speak with customers.
Can you share an interview question that you are most interested in?
“What were two things you didn’t like the most in the old company.”
This question helps reveal whether the candidate had a positive or negative attitude towards the old job and whether the candidate is a valued employee to the organization. A candidate with a negative attitude when referring to an old company will likely have a hard time becoming a core employee of the organization, no matter how skilled they are.
An alternative question is, “If you are the CEO of your company and had the highest decision-making power, what aspects of the company structure would you change?”
This question reveals whether the candidate has a forward attitude and a desire to solve the problem or has a tendency to complain.
What is your management style?
Mostly, I evaluate the work process to ensure that there is no prejudice in the workplace. Since the knowledge and information about the business model is available, all that’s left to understand is practical application, which makes guidance more about delegating rights and responsibilities.
For example, if a candidate thinks a profile is suitable for the customer, and I disagree, I will still let him send the file to the customer. I don’t impose but instead let him take responsibility for his decision. After that, we sit down together, review the mistakes and reflect on the experience for next time.
What advice do you have in becoming a headhunter?
The first step is always full of difficulties and challenges. But if you pass, you will receive not only financial reward, but also valuable experience. You will have the opportunity to interview and advise senior candidates, become friends with them, and understand broader information about the market. These experiences will bring many turning points in your own journey as a headhunter.
Adapted by Agnes Tran