What to do WHEN you get HeadHunted….
We’ve all been HeadHunted. It’s flattering, but when that all important call comes from a true Corporate HeadHunter…are you ready? This could be a genuinely life changing experience, many of these calls I have made have ended up making the recipient a (multi)millionaire.
….So how do you make sure you are not caught off-guard, pre-screened out of a search before you are genuinely considered or even worse…..had that call stopped by a gate-keeper not even giving you the chance to prove yourself?
Don’t fall at the first hurdle. One of my biggest surprises (and frustrations) is executives simply not returning calls or even worse, allowing “tenacious” gate-keepers; assistants/receptionists/etc to refuse to put the call through to the executive themselves, or even passing the message. If you have any interest in developing your career, make sure you tell the right people that you do accept calls from search consultants and get calls forwarded through accordingly.
Find out who’s calling.
Establish who the caller is, and importantly, the nature of the call up front. Is the caller a genuine Corporate HeadHunter or just a database recruiter? Are they simply “fishing” the market on a speculative basis or are they calling regarding a specific opportunity? In the age of the internet, verifying the validity, status and reputation of the firm is easy. Ask your ‘HeadHunter’ for their website URL, don’t be afraid to load up their website whilst on the phone. A very quick look at their site and current opportunities will tell you if they are genuine and relevant for you.
Be an opportunity engineer.
Make the most of the call and of the opportunity. A true HeadHunt call will be for one of two reasons (or often both). As a “Source” or as a “Prospect”.
Whether you are a “source” (someone of value to the search firm in directing them to suitable candidates, company leads or general market/industry/company insight) or as a “prospect” (someone the search firm has identified as a potential fit for the position), the call is a unique opportunity to build a relationship with a HeadHunter and with the Exec Search Market in general (The most commercial of us all talk to each other and share ideas…!). Maximise your own benefit from the call by being as helpful to the consultant as you can. Even if that specific call amounts to nothing, by being helpful and proffering valued information will set you in good stead for a relationship in the future.
Devil in the Detail.
Assuming your call is about a specific opportunity, the HeadHunter should usually give you good and in-depth details of the opportunity, reporting relationships and scope & prospects of the job and usually the name of the company (or the specific reasons for confidentiality – in which case enquire about an NDA). If this information is not offered, ask.
If the opportunity is not of interest, say so. A genuine HeadHunter will be more appreciative of early candour. A good HeadHunter will try a second time though….Around 75% of shortlisted candidates said no on that first call! If you are genuinely not interested in the role, or in any role explain why and point the recruiter to other relevant sources or candidates. Doing this will gain respect and benefit the relationship to ensure the next time a suitable assignment arises, you will remain on the recruiter’s radar and assure you of an early call!
Keep in touch.
At the end of the call, you should exchange contact information and ask if you can send a copy of your CV to the recruiter. If you are a genuine ‘prospect’ the consultant will want it. If you are not a headline contender, the interest displayed in proffering your CV and key data within it can easily increase your prospect of being long-listed. CV Tips: HERE
No means No.
The HeadHunter has a huge vested interest in submitting the best shortlist possible to his/her client. If they disclose that you are not a prime fit, they will detail why. These reasons will be genuine and with exception of the rare occasions when specific exposure may be overlooked, it is advised to accept such reasons and focus on building the relationship with the HeadHunter. Arguing implausible reasons as to why Retail Banking is a highly valid fit for a High-Street Retail Operational Lead role may give the impression of desperation and is more likely to cause long term damage to the relationship; it may subsequently hinder your chance of being approached for a more valid opportunity.
After the call, research the hiring company (if provided) and email the HeadHunter with your reflective thoughts and comments about the opportunity, highlighting specific skills fit and areas of particular attraction to you. Confirm your interest.
Allow him/her to ‘Wet Their Beak’.
Finally, whether the call elicits your inclusion in a specific mandate or not, highlighting the benefit to the HeadHunter of developing your relationship will be a personally advantageous move. Whether it is acting as a source, providing market information or facilitating their inclusion into a ‘Beauty Parade’ or nominations committee selection process, you are likely to gain beneficial/reciprocal favour in doing so!
For further information contact me
Great tips Gary. Like most I get a lot of approaches, even more after the women on boards hype. These are useful pointers. I actually prefer an email approach or emailed ‘warning’ of a call so I can do a little research and decide if I want to speak.
It also gets around the problem with the gatekeepers you suggest.
So if you are a source, you are not good enough for the role, but the HeadHunter wants you to tell him who is good enough? Hardly seems fair? Do you share your excessively fat fee with them?
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