How Do You React When a Headhunter Calls?

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Having a quality executive search recruiter on your side can be the difference between an ‘okay’ career move and landing your dream job.  While some will welcome the call from this change agent and engage in a professional manner; others may be panicky, uneasy and suspicious, rushing through the call and evading the opportunity.

Here are a few tips you can use to guide your reactions to the headhunting experience:

  • Find out what the offer is about in a professional way – Even if you feel quite sure in the moment that you would not be considering a career move, it pays to hear what’s on offer.  If a recruiter calls you while you are at work and you cannot comfortably take the call under those circumstances then request a suitable call back after hours when you can concentrate.  When you are able to engage with the recruiter, listen carefully to their pitch and get a good understanding of what the position on offer is all about.  The recruiter may not be able to reveal the name of the company, but you can certainly ask what it is, as well as other more in-depth questions about the company’s services, products, its leadership and its standing in its industry.  Find out why the position has become available.  Is it a new position, and if so what does it hope to fulfil?  Has someone left, and if so, why?  Was someone under-performing, and if so with what effect?  Is filling the position urgent? This is also a good opportunity to find out a bit more about the recruiter and the firm they work for.   You would want to network with or be represented by an executive search recruiter who is ethical and professional, and whose employer has a similar reputation.
  • Reflect on your experience of being approached – People have many different reactions to being approached by a headhunter that may range from feeling disloyal to a present employer to feeling flattered that someone may consider you for a new position.  It is important to be aware of your feelings, and to ensure that, whether positive or negative, emotions and ego don’t stand in the way of you making wise choices for your career.  Of course, not every offer is for you.  You may be on a great track for your career in your present job, or hoping for an entirely different offer from the one the recruiter has presented to you.  However, you may know someone in your network that you could recommend to the recruiter.  In addition, you may want to include the recruiter in your professional connections so that they can be of assistance to you in the future when you are ready to make a move.  On the other hand, you may find that the offer is intriguing to you at the time and that you want to follow the process with the recruiter further.
  • Consistently conduct yourself with poise and professionalism – Through all your interactions, an executive search recruiter acting on behalf of a hiring company is constantly evaluating your fit with their client.  A headhunter is not your new best friend or your career counsellor.  It is important that you conduct yourself with utmost professionalism and efficiency.  Respond to calls or emails from the recruiter promptly and effectively outside of working hours.  Be sure to use your personal not your work email address.  Ensure that your email signature includes your personal brand message and links to your up to date social media profiles. It is important to find the balance between showing respect for your present employer and still effectively meeting the demands of exploring a potential new position.


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