How on Earth do you Handle a Headhunt Call?


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10th December 2019

There are few certainties in life, just: death, taxes, and headhunt calls.

The hard and fast rule of these calls is that the more senior you get, the more frequent they become. Unless you pull the cord entirely and burn your phone in the nearest rubbish bin, these calls are going to be a near certainty in life. Being prepared and knowing a few hard and fast rules on how to handle them will help you get exactly what it is that you want out of them, even if it is a just moment’s peace.

The first thing to know is that when it comes to headhunt calls, as recruiters, we get it. We’re headhunted ourselves and as with anything they can be a pain: either wildly off the mark in terms of what it is that you want or what it is that you’re suited for.

Often, it’s both. I’ve known Development Managers to be pitched Estate Agency roles. It happens, how I couldn’t even start to guess. But in those cases, a polite “no” should be enough.

But if and when you do come across a role that could be of interest, the first thing is to move the conversation to a private line as quickly as possible. All those disclaimers regarding phone calls being monitored, they’re a mostly true if somewhat unlikely manner of being caught considering outside offers. If from what you’ve heard you could be interested, help them follow-up. It doesn’t just have to be a mobile number, it could be an email address or you could ask them to connect via LinkedIn.

Whatever information you do give out, know that it will be stored somewhere, likely on a CRM, which means other recruiters working for the same company will have it too. In a lot of ways recruitment’s a subscription service. If you trust the firm to send you relevant roles, great. But if not know that under GDPR you are entirely in control over your own information. If you want a recruiter to remove your records, tell them. If you have to, remind them that it’s the law.

Regardless of which contact details you give, if from what that follow-up you’re still motivated to find out more, at some point you will eventually have to take a call. That call will be about you. All the recruiter will really be doing is listening and asking a few questions here and there. Now is the time to tell them everything: what you do, what you enjoy, what you don’t, but most importantly what you want. It’s not an interview but be as honest about what it is that you want as possible. No one can help you get what you want if they don’t know what that is. If you want to move for better, say so. There’s nothing wrong with it.

Whilst this is all going, it’s worth knowing that this will be when the recruiter will do their own due diligence. They’ll vet you for the role there and then. If, from the sounds of it, you’re likely to be a good fit, they’ll take you through to the next stage. So if you know roughly what it is that the client is looking for, now’s the time to impress upon the recruiter that you’re able to fulfill each and every one of those requirements.

Once you’ve answered their questions, now’s the time to ask some of your own. Some recruiters might be able to tell you the name of the client there and then, others might be unable to do so at that stage. If they can’t it’s worth bearing in mind that from time to time that might legally be the case. It’s not entirely unheard of for some clients to have their recruiters sign NDAs, certainly we’ve done so in the past. None of that is to say that you shouldn’t expect to hear which firm it is eventually, but over the phone it simply might not be possible.

For some recruiters that might simply be it, hand them a CV, and wait to hear back from them. Others might ask you in for a quick chat, just to go over your experience in more depth. But for the most part, the phone calls will be over. Hopefully, you’ve successfully navigated the murky depths of recruitment and are well on your way to an interview. But if not, if you have questions, do let us know. Both Toby and I are available on a near constant basis (such is the recruiter life), so if you’d like advice or simply want to run some options give either of us a call. And if not, well, I imagine we’ll speak in future.