“Good morning. This is Joe Search of Headhunters, Inc. We’re doing a search for a major New England bank which is looking for a president and chief operating officer. I wondered if you would be interested in hearing some details about it?” So begins the headhunter’s typical telephone approach.
HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE IT?
Responses run the gamut. From:
“Sounds interesting. Tell me more about it.”
“Hmm. Let me close my door …”
“I’m in the middle of a meeting/rushing off to one/late for an appointment. Can I call you back?/Can you call me back in an hour?/Can you call me at home?” (This is infrequently requested.)
“I’m not interested, but I know someone who is.”
“How did you get my name?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know your firm.”
“Haven’t heard from one of you guys in the last few weeks. Am I losing my touch or has the market gone soft?”
“I’m not interested, but my wife/son/daughter/nephew or niece might be.” (This only happened once.)
“I don’t need an Auntie Mame to put me together with a company.”
“Not interested,” and immediately hangs up. (Thankfully this happens very rarely.)
If the headhunter’s call hasn’t caught you off guard or at a busy moment and you feel sufficiently composed and interested, explore the situation. But if you’re busy or a colleague is too close to enable a private dialogue, then simply say so and arrange for another time to converse. It doesn’t matter who calls whom back, although it is good manners to suggest returning the call. You do not appear hungry by doing so.
Needless to say, don’t be unnecessarily rude to a fellow businessman, you or a friend may need him in the future. Even presidents get impeached. When a really special job develops in your field, the consultant won’t call you again. In fact, you may have hung up on it!
And of course, be a source if you’re not interested. It’s good for everyone concerned.
Sometimes people are overly concerned about how their name was obtained. In many instances, headhunters were given the lead by a mutual acquaintance and can identify this source. Names are also obtained from directories or a headhunter’s being aware of your achievements because he tracks your field. Occasionally, consultants can’t divulge their source because your name was given confidentially. Who would do that and why? It’s generally a friend of the recruiter’s, in your field, who doesn’t know you personally, but respects your work and is helping out the headhunter. It may be someone who knows you, though not personally, and respects you but doesn’t know if you are in the market. Search is obviously a people network business and you shouldn’t be surprised when your name is given out in this manner. It’s flattering. The parties offering your name are also motivated by a desire to endear themselves to the recruiter. Some are just fair-minded businessmen simply doing a favor!
Aside from the assistant director of a department who recommends his boss, in confidence, to clear the way for his succession (rare), another (very rare) experience comes to mind . . .
A well regarded executive who had grown unhappy with his situation sent several resumes to different search firms. No employment leads were generated so he sent out more resumes. One or two replies developed. He then had an unrelated altercation with his manager, an irritable type who was the key reason for his desire to move on. During the next few days, he received calls from several headhunters, some of whom he hadn’t written to! He lunched with one of the latter and although they had a nice rapport, couldn’t find out exactly how he came to telephone him. Nothing more developed, but the two men stayed in touch. Months later, the executive accepted a position via another search firm’s introduction. A year later and over a lunch which he called with the former recruiter, he unearthed that his exmanager had asked the fellow, “Get that thorn out of my side.”
Two other executives who reported to the ogre were reputed to be composing a resume on him; they knew about his previous experience and were planning to multiply submit it to various headhunters. Management miraculously though unsuspectingly came to their aid and transferred the man to the employee relations department as its new chief.
If you receive a call from a firm unknown to you, you may want to check them out with the Association of Executive Search Consultants’ list or the Directory of Executive Recruiters first. Then call them back.