What to do if the headhunters give you a call

What to do if the headhunters give you a call

Having a good idea of the dos and don'ts when a headhunter approachesyou is essential if you are to make the right impression

When your phone rings, and there’s a headhunter on the line – what do you do?

Stay cool is the first rule. Behave as if you are approached by headhunters on a regular basis – as indeed you may be. Even if this is your first experience, it pays to react like a seasoned trouper.

Make sure that the call is at a time and place which is convenient for you. You need to give the conversation your whole attention, so if you’re in an open office or about to go into a meeting it is probably a good idea to arrange for the headhunter to ring again, in the evening at home if that is what suits you best.

Before you get carried away with excitement, you should listen carefully to what is being said. The headhunter may be picking your brains about another person or asking for your help in identifying suitable candidates.

You may not be in the picture at all, though this could be an opportunity to move yourself centre front.

Ask for details about the job; what it involves, the qualifications and experience which are required, why the appointment is being made. The consultant may not be able to disclose the name of his client, but you can ask about the organisation’s size, sector and standing in the marketplace.

If you think that your details fit – say so. The headhunter may not have realised that you were in the market.

Even if you and the job don’t match, make a friend of the headhunter by suggesting possible candidates

You may be completely content in your present position, with no foreseeable plans to move on. Nevertheless, you should keep your CV current. You might get a call tomorrow with an offer that you can’t refuse, but if your CV dates back to the days when word processors were nothing more than a twinkle in the boffins’ eye, and you haven’t had to produce it since – you would be best advised to polish it up. It is well to remember that there are fashions in CV styles, so it would do you no harm at all to get some professional advice on the matter or look at examples of how to set yours out.

If you are the focus of the headhunter’s search, remember that you are selling yourself, says Paul Armstrong of outplacement specialists Sanders and Sydney.

Don’t sit back and wait to be wooed. It is unlikely that you are the only candidate who is being considered for the position, so you have to demonstrate that you are the best person for the job.

At this initial approach stage, be courteous, cool and cautious advises headhunter Christopher Beale. Don’t leap at the proposal or turn it down out-of-hand.

Beale recalls making an initial approach to one prospective candidate who told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t interested in the position: ‘I eventually persuaded him to consider the job. He was the top candidate and is now in the post having doubled his salary.’

The headhunter will probably ask you about the salary package you would expect, to ensure that it corresponds with his client’s brief. However, no reputable headhunter expects you to reveal more than the basic information about your current position in the first instance, nor to abuse the confidentiality of your job.

The selection process will involve at least four interviews, the first one being a ‘getting to know you’ session with the headhunter. If you’re not selected, ask for a debriefing. It will be useful information for next time.

‘Candidates’ hopes are raised if they’re rung out of the blue, but they’re usually philosophical if they don’t get the job’ says Christopher Beale.

‘People would rather be approached in the first place than not at all.’

Widget Finn is a freelance journalist.

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