What to Do When a Headhunter Calls

For many executives in high profile roles, taking a call from a headhunter is all part of a normal day at work. However for some individuals the experience may be new or completely unexpected particularly when it comes out of the blue.

The timing of an approach may not be perfect to begin discussing new employment opportunities and the call is often taken in their current place of work with colleagues around. It is therefore useful for individuals to arm themselves with the correct knowledge on how to deal with this situation just in case a headhunter does indeed one day reach out to them:

Why has the headhunter called me?

Headhunters call prospective candidates for a number of reasons with the priority being to identify whether the individual would be hypothetically interested in the position. This does not mean you need to immediately accept or reject what is proposed but instead it helps to remain open minded and learn more about the opportunity before deciding whether to continue. Ask for some background details about the role, type of person the client is looking for and information about the organisation. This will help you to ascertain whether it’s a potentially good match for your skills and also for your career development. If the role is not right its best to clear with the headhunter about your reasons why and to maintain some kind of communication with them so that they are motivated to call you regarding any other relevant posts they may be working on in the future.

Often the specifics of the company are confidential and this is a good sign that the recruiters are trustworthy and hopefully retained. Its very important to confirm that you are working with an ethical company (both the headhunters and the client) and if they have been retained then you at least have the confidence that all parties are serious and have invested in this process. Once the headhunter has established your interest in the opportunity they will want to learn more about your working experiences, role responsibilities, clients, targets and so on. This more in depth conversation probably needs to be pre agreed following the initial approach. If its not convenient to speak then provide alternative times and dates when you are free and try and remain relaxed and familiar with the caller so as not to arouse suspicion in the office.

The first communication is not always a call:

Many headhunters prefer to make a more subtle approach in the first instance and may send an email or make contact through social media. This allows prospective candidates to do some research on the headhunting company and verify that the caller is legitimate and also that they work for a reputable organisation. It also gives the opportunity to arrange a more detailed call at a mutually convenient  time. Any good headhunter will be happy to speak with you out of hours and at the weekend so don’t be afraid to ask.

Interacting with the headhunter:

When a headhunter calls they are not offering a job or even conducting a formal interview but instead they are informing and educating prospective candidates about an opportunity. Therefore if it is decided that you are interested and the headhunter does eventually want to put you forward for the position then all aspects of your conduct will be under scrutiny from the start. Remember the recruiters commercial  integrity and judgement is being tested by the calibre and attitude of candidates they put forward. This means all aspects of your communication and manner is being analysed from the beginning of the process. Therefore as with a job interview this means it is advisable to maintain a level of formality as well as being as polite and courteous as possible. In doing this the prospective  individual is able to separate themselves from other potential candidates, all of whom are more than likely from a similar background with similar levels of experience, and it is small touches such as these that will ultimately give an individual the edge over their competition. As the headhunter may be your key to the success of your career progression its best to keep them on side and maintain a long and happy symbiotic business relationship.

RELATED: How to Act When the Headhunter Rings

Author: Ed Robertson is a seasoned Marketing Manager writing about a range of topics covering executive search, employment and education. MSC Headhunters is a retained executive search firm serving corporations around the world.

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