How to handle the first head-hunter call

How to handle the first head-hunter call
Published: 21 October 2019

As an executive search firm, engaging with talented individuals lies at the heart of our everyday activity.  With the advent of LinkedIn, it has never been easier to reach out to an organisation’s senior leadership. This in turn has led to a significant increase in the amount of contact people receive from head-hunters. In my engineering and manufacturing environment, candidates in leadership positions are often time poor and under pressure to deliver daily production outputs, so taking our calls may not be top of your list of priorities.

I am sure you will have received numerous calls from countless recruiters and have had experiences that are both good and bad.  Divulging your career history to someone you may not know requires careful consideration; but head-hunters will always have a role to play in senior search markets and you ignore them at your peril.  To build the networks that can lead to future opportunities takes careful cultivation over long periods, both when you are looking for a move and, critically, when you may not be.

Undertaken in the right manner, these conversations can form a useful part of your career management strategy.  Listed below are some tips on how to get the best out of the first call:

Be open

  • Tell us about yourself, your experience and your achievements – when the time comes, we want to be able to present the best version of you to our clients.  Giving one word or short answers will not be beneficial to either side.  We are essentially your representative; the more information we have about you and your background, the more likely we will be able to match you to appropriate opportunities, either now or in the future.  If we have less information about you and your achievements, this task is more challenging, and it will be difficult to help you manage your career potential through further interaction.
  • Talk about salary – this can be something that individuals do not want to disclose.  However, if you are looking for the next step in your career, having this information will ensure that the opportunity we have approached you for is relevant and at the right level.  Even if you decide not to take the role any further, getting an idea of your current salary and your expectations will help us find future opportunities that would be relevant for you.

Be honest

  • If you are unable to speak when we call, tell us and we will arrange another time.  While it is our responsibility as a search firm to engage in a manner that piques your interest, we also need to ensure both sides are getting the most out of a conversation.  A lengthier call, where we can give a thorough outline of the role and talk about your background, is definitely better than a hurried one. 
  • Give your feedback on the opportunity.  Part of our role is not only to engage with candidates but to gather market intelligence to feed back to our clients.  If there are aspects of the role that raise any issues, the client needs to know this as soon as possible.  They may even alter their approach so that the role becomes a position of interest.

Be inquisitive

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions.  This call is not only our chance to tell you about the opportunity – it is also your chance to get as much information about the role as you can.  We ensure that we give you as detailed a description of the role as possible, but there may be questions that have not been answered. We know making a new career move is life changing, so it is our responsibility to answer all your questions in order to inform your decision making.  
  • If we have already sent you some information about the company and role before our first conversation, it would be worth doing some of your own research prior to the call.  This can give you an insight into the company and the role, and may spark some ideas for questions you can ask us on the call.

It is important to emphasise that if you are not interested in a particular role, or are not necessarily looking for a new opportunity, you should still have a conversation with us. As the UK’s leading search firm, we can form a critical part of your career management strategy. We provide an excellent chance to network and get a feel for the current market.  Even if you are not looking, having a general conversation about your career goals will be greatly beneficial in the future when you do decide it’s time for a move elsewhere. 

Confidential discussions give us a better understanding of what would appeal to you and a grasp of the types of organisations for which you would be a good fit.  Discussing the current job market can help you in assessing whether now would be a suitable time to consider a career move. Conversations can be springboards to developing a relationship that can lead to future job offerings, further your career and expand your network of contacts. 

Being open, honest and inquisitive will ensure that these conversations are fruitful and generate the right result.

For more information, please contact Catherine Osman, a Senior Researcher in the Manufacturing and Engineering Practice at Berwick Partners.   

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