Dealing with Headhunters

Dealing with 


by Edward Smith
On the face of it, being headhunted is an event over which you have no control. An approach comes straight out of nowhere - usually when you're least expecting it. Is there anything you can do to enhance your chances of being headhunted?

Maximising Your Chances of Being Approached

Professional headhunters, or executive search consultants, as they are more properly known, thrive on their connections in the business world, and so for them to approach you, means they must know someone who has recommended you to them.
This will usually be someone who has encountered you in the course of your work, such as: business colleagues, past and present (bosses, peers and subordinates); external contacts (clients, customers and suppliers); and people who know you through your work on outside bodies such as professional institutions and trade associations.
This means that if you want to increase your chances of being recommended, you will have to look on everyone that you deal with as a potential employment scout. This means that:
  • You have to be completely reliable - you get back to people when you say you will and you complete your work to targets.
  • You learn to keep your flaws to yourself.
  • You don't moan about work matters and you don't use your colleagues as a sounding board for your grievances.
  • You never run down your colleagues and your bosses behind their backs, but instead keep your opinions on people to yourself.
  • Your appearance is always immaculate.
  • You don't have 'off days'.
  • You apply the polish that you usually save for interviews to every day.
Potential candidates are also sourced from media reports on companies or from other sources that are in the public domain, for instance, someone who writes an article for one of their professional journals or magazines, or someone whose name features prominently in trade press coverage about their company.
Even if you're not looking to make a job move at the moment, always make sure that you receive headhunters courteously and hear out what they've got to say � you never know when you night need to contact them in the future. Your response should be something like, whilst you're perfectly happy with what you're doing at the moment, you would always be interested to hear about any opportunities that would move your career forward.

Approaching the Headhunters

The essential things to learn about approaching headhunters is:
  • They do almost all of their business on the telephone, so contact them this way, rather than writing to them or sending them emails.
  • Connections are very important to headhunters. You must either know the consultant, or know someone who does if you want to focus their attention on what you are saying.
  • Conciseness is the way to a headhunter's heart. By getting to the point quickly, you will avoid losing their interest.
If you've already been headhunted before, approaching a consultant is easy. Simply contact the consultant you dealt with previously and say you're ready to make a move, and talk them through what you're looking for.
If you've never been approached before, find someone among your network who has, and telephone the consultant using your contact's name as a reference. Quickly establish the connection: "I got your name from Joe Bloggs, you placed him in a position with Hello Communications five months ago". Once the connection has been made, swiftly move on to where you're coming from and what you're seeking to achieve - your target. Try to do this in three sentences at the most. Add another sentence to introduce any interesting areas of your skills or experience, then ask the consultant if they can help you. At this point, stop talking and listen to the answer.
However, the headhunter may not deal with the kind of jobs you're after, and if this is the case, ask if they know a headhunter who does, and then repeat the process with them.

How To Keep the Headhunters Interested

Even if the first approach by a headhunter doesn't work out, if you develop a good relationship with them, they will keep approaching you until the right one turns up. To do this, make sure you follow these guidelines:
  • Be considerate. Always hear out what they've got to say, and never figuratively shut the door in their face.
  • Be honest. If a job's not suitable for you, say so. Don't string headhunters along. Wasting their time won't endear them to you.
  • Be positive. Tell the recruiter the kind of job you are looking for and what kind of offer would tempt you.
  • Be available. Don't make their life difficult by being impossible to reach.
  • Be reliable. Go back to headhunters when you say you will. Don't leave them to have to chase you.
  • Be engaging. Encourage headhunters to keep 'phoning you.
  • Be proactive. Keep up the contact by calling them from time to time.

When It All Works Out

Companies who use headhunters to find the ideal candidate will normally be fairly accommodating on the kind of pay and benefits package they would have to put forward to attract the right calibre of applicant. Consequently, there is usually plenty of room for negotiation, and so don't, whatever you do, sell yourself short by naming a figure at the start that's too low. Headhunters are used to dealing with salaries in truly astronomical figures, and are unlikely to think that you're being too greedy or over the top.