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In relationship science, there is a concept referred to as the “magic ratio of 5:1.” It leads romantic partnerships to longevity and satisfaction, and in business, it can be the difference between a sturdy professional reputation and/or a career dragged through the mud. The concept is as follows:

To overcome the effects of a single negative thought, comment, or interaction, one must experience five positives that counter the negative. (The term “magic ratio of 5:1” was coined by relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman).

Unfortunately for headhunters, buyers tend not to repeatedly purchase services poorly tendered. Headhunters have gotten a bad rap for a long time, and to be fair, it has not been for naught. 

The industry does not bear the benefit of micro-credentialing or licensing, and it is easy to find recruiters more concerned with speed-of-hire than quality-of-hire. It often used to be the case that potential candidates paid the executive search firms. Instead of focusing on finding the best match between companies and professionals, recruiters jockeyed resumes like Hollywood agents, putting the hiring companies at risk of investing in a poor pairing. Times change, though, and the recruiting industry with it.


We like to give our founder, Guice Smith, a hard time about how resumes were still chiseled in stone when he started as a recruiter. He tells stories about placing ads for job openings in a physical newspaper, accepting resume submissions via mail, cold-calling potential clients, and walking uphill both ways in the snow on his way to the library to find business listings to use. Good natured ribbing aside, his personal history with staffing is one of the most significant advantages we have as a company.

Guice was rambling around the Tennessee recruiting industry years before online job boards and networking became a thing. He worked before, during, and after the shift to the Information Age, so he knows firsthand what a difference an engaged headhunter makes in all cases:

     “When Monster came on board, it was said, ‘Monster will consume the recruiting industry!’… What we soon found out was that there is more to recruiting than having access to data.”

We are not shy about our love of progress and technology at GS&A. We welcome any new tool or resource with arms wide open; however, because of Guice’s decades of experience, we know connections and real people making informed decisions are necessary to take advantage of all the gifts bestowed upon us by the revolutions of online and virtual recruitment.

Technology offers an expanded candidate pool, improved efficacy and efficiency, and flexible, scrupulous programming to serve any company’s custom parameters. It is a powerful supplemental tool; however, sophisticated recruitment software or applicant tracking systems, etc., cannot replace years of experience or the daily diligence necessary to match the right people consistently.

While technology will continue to change the way we do business, it will always require the hands and mind of an invested expert to do so. After all, algorithms are only successful when the hands on the keyboard enter the right variables.



A quality executive search firm specializes in human resource variables. Their focus is trained solely on talent acquisition – that is, finding the right hire for their clients. In-house recruiting can stretch your own staff too thin, costs time, money, and potentially the loss of qualified candidates. An in-house recruiter may have multiple distractions, while a headhunter’s sole responsibility is finding the right candidate.

Obviously, settling for the first bidder is not the answer. Just like any industry, there are levels of quality in the recruitment process. It is essential to pay attention to several key indicators of any search firm’s work style and history.

There are four principles we spotlight at GS&A:


Recruiting expertise tends to come from two places; the first is experience. Executive search firms who have built their name will carry more water with candidates and be more likely to understand how to attract the right kind of candidate to your company. Plus, with years of experience come years of connections.

A well-managed reputation and professional network will produce talent resources far beyond a recruiter’s Rolodex. For example, though GS&A is a Nashville-based firm, we currently work across ten countries. In all ten of those countries, we are actively growing our network while solidifying our standing in the industries we most frequently serve. No one refers a respected colleague to a no-name.

The second common source of expertise is regular research. Successful headhunters stay on top of news and trends within your industry and their own. Whether a recruiter is sourcing from Google, CNN, or market reports and analytics, fact-checking and journalistic vigilance will grant them a valuable and nuanced understanding of the job market.

Communication and trust with job seekers can only benefit from culturally responsive habits. Current information on employment standards is an absolute gold mine for companies looking to create an appealing and competitive work environment.



The best recruiter for your company is one that knows your industry. Speaking the language helps them evaluate candidates more accurately and quickly. It heightens the chance of potential hires existing within their immediate talent pool.  It allows them to help you build your job description from the beginning and modify it with you throughout the hiring process. For the record, job descriptions should change as you interview qualified professionals.

They are the experts on the position, and they have a plethora of knowledge waiting to be utilized. A headhunter well-versed in your industry will be better equipped to recognize and incorporate valuable information as it is presented. Experience specific to your company’s industry also proffers a greater possibility a search firm will understand the needs of positions that come available only on rare occasions. The likelihood of industry-specific resources and networks also increases.



Any headhunter you want on your case will prioritize their communication with you. Limited or lackadaisically monitored communication options are a red flag, like a Facebook page with messaging left on and then completely unresponsive. If you struggle to get or stay in touch with them before they have your business, there is no reason to think they will reply to jobhunters any more promptly. What are we trying to say here?

Once you have contracted the firm, you should be kept abreast of progress or lack thereof and expect regular feedback on how well the job description and general requirements perform as filters.

Recruiters offer a service. You are their client. They should behave accordingly.



One of the things we harp on all the time is the uniqueness of companies. No two businesses are the same, regardless of their industry. Any recruiter you work with should intentionally get to know your company culture, values, and goals. They should strive to know your team well enough to support you through hiring and onboarding. They should understand your company’s intended trajectory and have a plan for how to continue to support you as you grow and how their strategy will need to evolve in tandem.

Headhunting is not what it used to be. It is more than slapping together a pile of resumes, and occasionally, it becomes a genuine art of the humanities. Society, culture, and current events all play a role. To borrow from a Sociology 101 class, quality recruiting happens when biology and history intersect.

At GS&A, we are passionate about providing our client companies with the information they need to make an informed decision. That is our goal, not providing the perfect candidate.  A good headhunter is a company’s greatest champion and the best tool in their human resources toolbox.


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