September 21, 2011

How To Handle Headhunters on the Phone

Headhunters on the PhoneYou’re working at your desk when the phone rings. You pick it up. It’s a headhunter on the other end with a potential job opportunity you might be interested in. This isn’t exactly the best time…your boss could be right around the corner. What do you say?

If you’re at work when a headhunter calls

Kindly make it clear that you can’t talk now and that you’d like to take the opportunity to discuss things later – maybe in the evening when you get home (don’t worry, recruiters work the strangest hours). A seasoned headhunter will understand your sticky situation, as they make phone calls all day and are quite familiar with the “caught me at a bad time” response. As a professional courtesy, you should never talk or email about other job opportunities while at work. Save all your job seeking discussions for when you’re out of the office and on your own time.

What should you say?

Postponing the conversation will not affect your good standing in the eyes of the recruiter. Just briefly explain your situation and ask for their name, number and email address. Likewise, you can trade your non-work (personal) contact details and suggest a better time to connect.

If you don’t hear back soon, the recruiter may have forgotten about you (they make a lot of calls). Feel free to call back with the information they provided and see what the opportunity is all about.

If you’re at home when a headhunter calls

Or if you’re following up a previous conversation, be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Good recruiters love asking questions – it’s how they find the right candidates for the job. A headhunter will usually be after only a handful of quality leads to present to his client, so your first phone call may make or break future correspondence. It’s nothing personal – they’re just looking to find the right fit for the right job.

What should you say?

Be open and honest. Accurately answer all of the headhunter’s questions and be sure to ask a few of your own. Don’t bother trying to figure out the name of the client company just yet – the recruiter won’t tell you who they are representing. They need to sure you won’t try to go around them. There has to be a significant level of trust. If they invite you out for a cup of coffee, say yes.
Determine whether or not you’re actually interested in pursuing a new position. Make up your mind and stick to it – recruiters don’t like to be strung along. If you’re up for the challenge – go all in – tell the headhunter you’re on board and sell yourself as a great candidate for the role.
No matter what you choose, always be respectful of a headhunter’s time and patience. Never be dishonest about your intentions. If you’re not interested in working together, simply say so and thank them for their effort. You may not be looking for a new job at the moment, but it’s good idea to connect with recruiters anyway – a wide professional network is a valuable thing to have when you find yourself looking for a new job in the future.

Read more in Headhunters

Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.