For many job seekers, the idea of getting headhunted can seem like an easier route to climb the career ladder. So how do you handle the situation when it arises?

Although there’s some truth that headhunting can make your job search easier, it’s not always as plain sailing as it sounds.

Having a headhunter approach you because they see a match in your skills and experience to what their client is looking for can, of course, speed up the initial stages of the process and make you aware of job opportunities that you may not have previously considered.  However, you still need to ascertain if the job on offer is actually a fit for you and the next level of your career while going through the recruitment motions.

If you want to know how to handle being headhunted so that you take your career to the next level, we have put together some tips to help you along the typical process.

Receiving a phone call or email

A headhunter will contact you either by email or phone, but usually the latter for a speedier process.  If contact happens while you are at your current workplace, remain calm and professional.  If you can’t talk to them right then and there, ask if you can call them back at a mutually agreed time.

Try not to act too keen

When you speak to the headhunter about the role on offer, you don’t need to sell yourself just yet, but do show interest.  A common mistake people make is assuming being headhunted means they have secured the role, but just because you’ve been approached doesn’t mean you are guaranteed the job; you will still have to prove you’re the right person for the position.

Ask questions

To make sure you understand exactly what the role entails, you need to ask questions about the company, the post and what the client is looking for in an employee.  The headhunter will be able to send you a job description, person spec or at least a detailed brief and from this information you can list any questions you have at this stage.

Do not be flattered into the role

While it’s very flattering to be approached by a headhunter, it’s important to take some time to consider all aspects of their offer.  Remember, headhunters are doing a job also to secure someone into their clients vacancy, so they may try to use psychological tactics to flatter you into accepting an offer that might not end up being as good as it initially sounded; so don’t let that cloud your judgment.

Assessing the offer

Some aspects to consider regarding your offer include:

  • Comparisons against your current job
  • Salary package
  • Benefits
  • Development opportunities
  • Commute time
  • Days and times of work
  • Working conditions
  • Company brand, reputation and culture
  • The types of people you would be working alongside
  • Is this job a step in the right direction for your career?

By weighing up the pros and cons you can carefully contemplate your options.  Once you have made a decision, you need to contact the headhunter.  If you decide to take them up on the offer, you’ll progress further along the recruitment process, usually to the interview stage.  If you decide the position isn’t right for you, politely decline and thank them for considering you – it’s worthwhile to keep a good relationship with the headhunter so they know to contact you in the future for suitable vacancies. 

Take your time

You may have had no intention of changing your job until you were given the option of another role.  If your current job satisfies you and you still feel engaged and motivated within the organization, then don’t feel obliged to pursue another role.  You will know if and when it is time for a career change, so making a rash decision might not be in your best interests.

“You may discover by investigating what others have to offer that your ideal job is the one you have now!” – Dr. Catherine Armstrong, Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University

Stay in touch

Headhunters use databases and memory to keep track of candidates.  They will always contact someone they already have a rapport with first (over someone new) if a suitable position becomes available, so it’s good to keep communication open and honest.

Author bio:

With over 11 years experience, Joe Flanagan is the Senior Career Advisor at VelvetJobs Outplacement Services

When he’s not trying to help reduce the unemployment rate, you can find him running 5km events and curating his ever expanding electronic music playlist.



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