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High-ranking executives receive calls from headhunters frequently. For them, it’s just part and parcel of a regular day at work and they know exactly how to deal with the call.
But for you, receiving a call from a headhunter might be an entirely new – and unexpected – thing. Often, the call comes when you’re least expecting it, and this catches you short. You don’t what to say, and you don’t make as strong an impression as you’d have preferred.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to give yourself every chance of making a great first impression by preparing for the day when that first call comes in. Let’s take a look at what you should do when headhunters call.
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There are a number of reasons why a headhunter might call a prospective candidate such as yourself. The first thing they want to do is to confirm your situation and position. As soon as this is done, they will ask for more information on your past employment experiences, as well as your clients, role responsibilities, targets and projects. This is quite in-depth, and it might be that the headhunter asks to schedule a longer conversation once first contact has been made. If for whatever reason you are not free to discuss things further, provide alternative times and dates ready when you could speak in more detail.
Most headhunters would rather adopt a subtler approach during initial contact. Instead of phoning you, they might send an email or reach out via a social media channel, such as LinkedIn. This gives you the chance to carry out your own research into the headhunting company to establish how reputable and legitimate they are. It also means that you aren’t taken by surprise by an unexpected phone call. Take advantage of this opportunity as it serves to put you in a position of strength.
A common mistake that individuals who have never received a call from a headhunter often make, is that they automatically assume that the recruiter is calling to make a concrete job offer. But this is far from the truth. Instead of making a solid offer, the caller is instead trying to feel you and numerous other candidates out. It is important to keep in mind that the recruiter will be contacting a handful of other individuals who meet a particular job’s requirements.
The recruiter, usually via a telephone chat, will attempt to get a better idea and understanding or whether you would be interested in the role if – hypothetically speaking – it was offered to you. The headhunter knows that not every candidate they ring will be interested in the job. As such, they will use your response to whittle down their shortlist of potential candidates to the ones who would be happy to accept the job if they were offered it, best fit the job criteria and company culture.
While a headhunter is not offering you a position, it’s still a good idea to act as if that is precisely what is happening. If you act as though this is a proper job interview, you will maintain a better level of formality, which means that you will be both polite and courteous.
In doing this, you will be able to distinguish yourself from the other prospective candidates who will probably be from the same background as you, and possess the same kind of experience. Keep in mind that you need something to set you apart from the competition, and the act of treating this as though it was an actually job interview is a good place to start.
The recruiter will definitely ask you a few questions in order to feel you out both personally and professionally. But to mitigate any risks that you might say the wrong things and send out a bad, confused impression, it’s a good idea to strengthen your own position by asking them what job they have in mind before they begin asking questions of their own.
Ask for an overview of the role, as well as the title and location of the job. You can also ask for the salary range, as well as the department the role is in. If they can’t answer these simple questions, it’s a bad sign. “Headhunter” is not a term that is protected by trademark law. For this reason, you could be talking to an expert – or a person on a home computer who is chasing the big money.
Moreover, there are some headhunters who are trying to gather candidates and resumes to use as merchandise. As such, it’s important that you maximise this opportunity by asking as many questions as you can.
One of the reasons inexperienced individuals struggle with calls from headhunters is that they haven’t got a clue what they want from their career. As such, they’re not sure whether they want to stick or twist. Such hesitancy is off-putting.
Know exactly where you want to go. Write down your goals, and what your direction is. Are you happy with your current career? Or are you looking for a change?
It’s rare for a recruiter to let you know when they’re going to get in touch for the first time. Usually, this first call comes totally out of the blue, and can therefore cause an ill-prepared individual to panic. What then happens is that you mumble your words and say all the wrong things. It’s natural to do this if you haven’t prepared in the right way.
You might also be wandering where the headhunter found your contact details. Many times a work colleague or an acquaintance has forwarded them without letting you know. If not, it’s generally the case that the recruitment company found your details in a directory, or from a social media platform, such as LinkedIn.
Feel free to ask where they got your details from, as it’s a good way of relaxing you and preparing you for the rest of the conversation.
Keep your ego in check and behave in a professional manner. If you are too full of yourself and too arrogant, you will make a bad first impression. Guaranteed. Remember that the person on the other end of the phone is not offering you with a position.
Look at it from the headhunter’s point of view. What does this mean?
Don’t waste time talking about your life story, but keep things to the point. Be aware of their time and situation, as they most likely have a lot of other potential candidates to contact.
Location is key when it comes to feeling comfortable speaking on the phone with a headhunter. If, for example, they phone while you’re in the office, it’s hardly going to make you feel relaxed and ready to talk.
There is an easy way to get out of such a tricky situation. Instead of continuing the conversation, politely ask if it’s possible to swap contact details and speak at a time that is more convenient for you. This is a much better alternative than continuing a conversation despite your discomfort.
As well as relieving discomfort, asking to talk at another time also gives you the chance to return home and prepare specific examples from your CV. You can then rifle through your resume and make notes of things you can say in the conversation that will impress the headhunters.