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What to Do When the Head Hunter Calls

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter offers advice about what to do when a head hunter calls you.


Today, I want to talk with you about working with recruiters and what you need to know and say and NOT SAY when you are working with a recruiter. Let's work with the assumption that this is NOT 1 of those calls were you send a resume in and that instead, you are getting a call out of the blue. The call might sound something like this, " My name is Jeff Altman. I'm a professional recruiter. I heard some nice things about your work and want to get acquainted with you in the context of the search time doing. Is this a good time to talk or would be better if we spoke another occasion?"

That's a pretty standard phone call for people to get. Often, people start off by making the mistake of trying to put the recruiter on the defensive. "Who gave you my name," are the 1st words that come out of their mouth.

Why? What difference does it make who gave them your name or how they found you? They found out about you. They might've had a research group that found out about you online and found out about you… There any number of ways that people could learned about you. It really doesn't matter how they found you, even if it came from your boss! Your boss doesn't want you around, right? Pay attention to the phone call and give up this notion of finding out who it was who gave them your name.

Most of the time when I would call someone, 1 of the few things might have happened.
1. We did research and found this person.
2. Someone was kind enough to point me in your direction.

Those are the 2 basics all the time. What difference does it really make to you where it came from? If it came from a friend, you still have to qualify. The friend doesn't know everything about you; you still have to qualify. Start listening and answering questions. Listen to what the recruiter tells you about the job.

They'll usually turn around and ask, "Is this a good time, or would it be better if we spoke another occasion?"

"It would be better if I call you back in 10 or 15 minutes. Does that work for you," if it's not a good time. If it is a good time, great! "Tell me about the role that is involved." Let them talk with you about the job. You'll learn 2 things from this. The 1st is that you will learn something about the job. The 2nd is that you learn something about the recruiter.

Listen to how the recruiter tells the story. Do they seem competent or they tell you a whole bunch of generalities that don't mean anything? Are they talking with you about (super excited voice) this great opportunity where you have an opportunity to be Emperor of The Universe! You know I'm being facetious here, but so often, recruiters, in their youth in their enthusiasm and in their inexperience, start talking about "the great opportunity."
STOP THEM! They told you something about themselves. They're going to try and sell you some sizzle; stick with the content for now. What is the job? What do they need someone to have done? What will be the expectations of you? What is the compensation like?

If the money isn't right or the job isn't right, you can politely say, "This role isn't really for me. I am earning more (or the job is really interesting). Let me tell you little bit about myself." Then, you can tell them about the work you actually do and give them a sense of the compensation level. Do it in a professional way. Don't try to put this recruiter on the defensive.

Why? All they did was try to get you a better job.. They made one phone call. Maybe it lasted 2 minutes in length. What's the big deal? Be courteous. After all, you never know when someone in recruiting will put you on a list to never call you back again. I used to do that. I don't need to have my time wasted by people who are discourteous. They also involve the institutional customers who I fired regularly.

1. Find out about the job.
2. Answer their questions. This doesn't just mean answer their questions. It means answer their questions in the context of what they are trying to find. Sell those elements of your background that relate to the job that is involved.
3. Once you've done that, talk with them about what their background is. Yes them, whether they have submitted any people for this role. How old is this search? It is brand-new and just opened up or is it one that has been open for a while? It's hard to win. If you're 1 of the 1st people walking in the door, right?

Let me also say that if it's 3 months into the search, they may be close to exhausting the pool of people to consider. They may have people on 2nd or 3rd interviews. Why get involved then? If they don't have anyone coming back on 2nd or 3rd interviews, why get involved? The other don't know what they're looking for. They don't know how to interview or evaluate people.

Find out about the status of the search and ask about the recruiters background as well. I will let you in on a secret. Most recruiters don't have 40 years of experience like I did. They live in tell you that they have 10 years of experience. That's why listing at the beginning of the conversation tells you a lot about them.

Are they experienced will do they seem amateurish? Do they sound like they know what they're talking about or are they saying a whole bunch of "stuff" to you that comes out of the recruiters playbook of "fabulous opportunity," "great job,", "you really need to talk to them," "you've got nothing to lose." The amateurs use all those clichés. If that is the case, thank them for making the call, asked him to send you some information and move on.

You can decide to listen to some youthful recruiter speakers may not have their people behind them that will actually be quite competent. Inexperienced recruiters is not someone that you really want to talk to. You might ask, "Are you coordinating the search for are you doing legwork for someone else?" Really simple questions tells you a lot about the competence of the recruiter.

The most important thing I could tell you the is to listen. Listen to what they have to tell you, and listen between the lines to learn about their competence. Sell to them because even if it's not this job. It could be another one.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. He is the host of “Job Search Radio” and “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” both available through iTunes and Stitcher.

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5 thoughts on “What to Do When the Head Hunter Calls

  1. can you make a video or give advice for the headhunters/recruiters? what he/she should said for people who have a great amount of experience without the cliches? 

  2. I got really irritated by a recruiter contacting me for two reasons. A) I told him I was hesitant about job search, as to not actively seeking, but that I might need his assistance if I express that wish B) He forced to push me as a good candidate for the field I had no experience in, or to be more specific, they wanted a+b, I knew only “a”, I told him that but he kept insisting. I was hesitant to accept further involvement. I am guessing his client wouldn’t be too happy with the end result.

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