What makes a good sales headhunter?

Nowadays, headhunters face numerous challenges in searching for top sales candidates. Applicant pools are shrinking, and the demand for executives is growing. Increasingly high-profile corporate cultures and changing applicant needs don't make things any easier. So what is essential for recruiting in sales? Here's a quick assessment.  

Let's start with the – not entirely new, but nevertheless important – observation that sales is as diverse as the products and services to be sold. Other factors that play a role include the different DNAs of the companies searching, the specific requirements of the advertised position and the individual traits of the eligible candidates. For example, whether they are introverts or extroverts. However, it is far from clear which is better for sales. It all depends on the situation. In sum, this makes many variables and unknowns for a headhunter to deal with when searching for sales candidates. Does this mean it is a matter of luck whether the proposed personality matches the company and the position to be filled? Not necessarily! Relying on a headhunter who specializes in sales is always more effective than relying on luck. That being said, it is important to pay attention to a few things. 

Fast fill or speed kills

Surveys of HR managers show that industry specialization plays an important role in selecting a headhunter. Sounds logical, although recruiters who really specialize in sales are thin on the ground. Not surprisingly, respondents also rate a headhunter’s many years of experience and good reputation as important. Another thing that is highly relevant is the fast delivery of results, which is both comprehensible and important. Although this raises the question of the extent to which speed can also be counterproductive. Finally, it is important to identify candidates’ key personality factors in addition to their qualifications and to reliably match these for their compatibility with the sales position to be filled. This includes soft skills such as conscientiousness, motivation and social competence. Emotional stability as well as high stress resistance also play a role. These are all factors that are extremely important in sales. Evaluating and assessing these qualities in each candidate takes time. That's why it can be a sign of quality if, within reason, a headhunter schedules two or three extra days. 

The recruiting process must adapt time and again

Based on what has already been said, the following therefore applies: A professional headhunter in sales is characterized, among other things, by knowing that heterogeneity of requirements as well as candidates is very high in this area. This is why a good recruiter not only tailors the requirements profile to the position to be filled but also precisely to the candidates' personalities. Whether this profile is then tested in structured interviews or/and in assessment centres is a separate question. What seems clear, however, is that the sales recruiting process will have to keep adapting for the reasons mentioned above. Incidentally, this is also due to current external factors. This refers, among other things, to the candidates' wishes for flexible working hours, work from home or more appreciation for their work. In addition, an increasing number of products with high explanation requirements, not least in the context of digitization, mean that readiness to learn is also becoming increasingly important as a criterion.


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