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How To Identify A Good Headhunter

Posted by: Marc


Being contacted by a headhunter with an attractive offer is exciting if not a little flattering. The promise of a new opportunity for career growth is enough to turn even the most loyal of heads. But how can you identify a good headhunter from a bad one?

The headhunter’s agenda is to satisfy employers, yours is to find the perfect job. Those agendas frequently align – you just have to know how to recognize it when it happens.

Identifying a mutually beneficial scenario is all about asking the right questions, to wit:

  • ‘How many positions have you filled for this employer?’ is straight to the point, and should return a quick response. If they have no history with the employer, they’re just fishing for CVs in order to find new contacts of their own. If they have a track record, they’ll be happy to talk about it.
  • What is your background?’ Again, don’t be afraid to ask such a direct question. The headhunter has contacted you out of the blue to suggest you consider changing jobs. They’re asking you to proffer personal data like your CV, and spend valuable time researching a position that may not even be in their power to give you. If someone tells you you qualify for a position you never sought, you have a right to ask why they qualify for the imposition.
  • ‘Will you share my CV with other clients?’ Giving a headhunter permission to put you forward for a role does not entitle them to bandy your CV about with every other employer in the industry. That’s not in your interest. Instruct them to get written permission each and every time they want to share your CV with a client.

What Not to Do

Don’t simply send through your resume without understanding specifically the company and the role that the recruiter is hiring for. You should also find out what the process will be should you submit your resume, making it clear that you expect your application to be treated with the respect and care that it deserves.

Rejecting and Accepting

A reputable recruiter with a strong track record is worth having a good relationship with. Even if you aren’t interested in the position, or feel it’s beneath you, or if you just have an indignant attitude towards headhunters, your best interests are served by a calm, polite rejection and a door left open for future conversations (which may one day come with a more attractive offer). Something like:

“Thanks for contacting me about this role. I’m not looking for anything right now, but do let me know if any future opportunities present themselves.”

If you are interested, it pays to be a little coy at first. Whether they phone or contact you via LinkedIn, tell the recruiter you’d like to schedule a call over the next few days. If they’ve revealed any information about the position, this will give you the space to do some research, and consider whether you want to leave your current job.

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Marc is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads our IT recruitment practice. Originally from the UK, Marc has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for ten years and working in the recruitment sector for just as long. Marc has worked as an in-house recruiter and within multinational recruitment consultancies and independent SME recruitment businesses.

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Categorised as: Job Seeker Advice