You’re good at your job, so the chances are – your name is out there, and you could be called by a head hunter – be prepared, even if the answer is no.

The Head Hunter


  • LinkedIn profile – what do you want people to be able to see?
  • Recommendation – someone you know could have mentioned you.
  • Current Company Website – you may be required to add all contact details to your company profile.
  • Networking – if you’re a networker and attend professional events, you may have actually met them.
  • Expertise – are you an expert in your field? Then your reputation precedes you!

Taking the call

You’re at your desk, and then two things happen:

1: You answer a call – it’s a head hunter.

2: Your boss walks over signalling that you take the call – and waits patiently

How to respond:

A head hunter ought to ask straight away whether this is a convenient time to talk.  It isn’t – your boss is waiting, so you have to get off the phone. You could simply say “Not right now, but I’ll call you ASAP”.  This response would help in the possibly unlikely event that your boss asks who it was – you can then easy say “family – there’s no problem”.

But – I am totally happy where I am

This is hopefully true – and good for you – however… don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.  Try and spare the head hunter 10-15 minutes at some point for these reasons:

  1. You never know what you’ll learn about your industry – this is a good opportunity to get a deeper understanding, if only to independently plan your next move without the assistance of the head hunter.

  2. You may need this person or the company they work for in the future – regardless of your happiness and stability today.

  3. Don’t allow your reputation to be damaged – be grateful and respectful, and take it as a hug compliment – you’re potentially on the top 10% of the whole industry to be approached!

Advice on how to deal with the call

Initial call

If a head hunter is unable to retrieve your mobile number they will call you at work.  If you are unable to take the call in a private room, take their mobile number or give them yours, and ask them to call you back at a specific time outside of working hours.  Most head hunters are accustomed to making calls on an evening.

Discussing the opportunity

When you do you talk to the head hunter, don’t assume that they know everything about you.  The likelihood is that they only know your current position which they will have matched to the role that they are recruiting for.  A head hunt call is a two-way process; it’s both parties’ opportunity to establish whether the role in question is at the right career and salary level for you.  Be prepared to provide them with a brief outline of your role, the level that you are operating at and the salary level that you would require.  Don’t indicate unrealistic salary expectations; 10% of what you currently earn is realistic, and demanding salaries above this may price you out of the process.  You are not the only person they are talking to.  Ask them how they got your name, who the employer is, what the job title is, who the post-holder reports to and what the associated salary and benefits are.  Another good question to ask is what relationship the head hunter has with the client.  A credible head hunter should be retained; working exclusively on the role and be part of a preferred supplier agreement with the client.

A head hunter should be able to swiftly establish whether you are a fit for the role.  If you are not, expect them to bring the call to a close. If you are, then they should be prepared to share more information with you.  If you establish at this stage that you don’t wish to pursue the role further, let them know and thank them for contacting you.  If you do, ask them to send some company information and a job description.  Take some time to review the information considering salary, distance, working hours, family time, career prospects and work life balance. Make the decision to apply or not.

Be professional

It is extremely flattering to be head hunted.  However, being head hunted is not a job offer.  Ultimately, the head hunter is inviting you to apply for the position; there is no guarantee of a job offer. You will be competing for the job against other credible candidates that have been approached.  A head hunter will create a long list of candidates, perform telephone interviews followed by face to face interviews and present a shortlist of 3 / 4 candidates to their client.

Always be professional, don’t waste a head hunter’s time, treat them with respect and be open and honest.  Most head hunters will have been retained by the employer in question and will have a strong working relationship with the hiring manager.  How you conduct yourself during the interview process may affect whether you are shortlisted.  For example, if the client has indicated that they want an individual with high levels of professionalism and integrity and the candidate in question is consistently late for scheduled calls and difficult to deal with, it’s unlikely that the candidate is a good fit and they may not be progressed.

If you have already been approached about the opportunity or had an interview in the last 12 months with the employer in question, let the head hunter know immediately.  Also, in the unlikely event you are approached by another recruiter, make sure you inform them that you are already being represented; application duplications reflect badly on candidates, you should be in control of your CV and who represents you.

What you should expect from a head hunter

A head hunter should always be professional. They should be flexible and willing to talk to you outside of working hours.  If they identify that you are a fit for the role, they should be able to provide you with a full overview of the position including a job description and company profile.  They should have met with the hiring manager and have an extensive understanding of the role and organisational culture. Lastly, they should have a good understanding of the industry with a credible LinkedIn and website profile.