Is this headhunter trying to sell you a job?

You are relatively happy in your job, you enjoy the daily and weekly challenges, have a good rapport with your colleagues and get on well with your boss. Your first reaction when you are approached with an external opportunity is “actually I’m not interested, I’m happy where I am.”

However, the recruiter seems a nice person and the opportunity sounds quite interesting, so you go along with the conversation in order to find out more.

The recruiter is now starting to smell the money and goes all out to make sure you stay interested, disclose all your personal details (including marital status, commuting time, basic salary, actual bonus received, inside leg measurement and bra size), they want you to send your CV and … Boom! You’re in the middle of a recruiting process that you weren’t looking to join. Need any double glazing whilst we’re at it?

You need to stay in control, so, whilst it is flattering to be approached, you need to find out why you would be of interest to their client (or are they just populating their database with CVs?).

Whilst it is perfectly OK to disclose some of your details for the recruiter to ascertain whether you and the opportunity are in the same ball park, it is also wise to remember that at this stage you’re only in the same ball park.

So what would make a perfect match?

As a candidate, you should ask questions to help you decide whether it is worth spending time, effort and energy on this opportunity, or whether to politely pass. By the way, if you decide not to progress this one and the recruiter does not ask the reasons why (and what opportunity you would want to be approached about in the future), then delete their number – really not worth talking to. They work solely for their client, whereas a decent head hunter wants to understand the candidate, so that they can match both parties by cultural fit and aspirations (assuming they know their client…).

So what are those qualifying questions to ask the recruiter? How about:

  • Why is there a need for this recruitment assignment?
  • What internal opportunities for succession planning does the company have?
  • What are the client’s expectations of a new incumbent in the first 6 months and the first 12 months?
  • How many people at senior level have been internally promoted?
  • What is the average tenure at senior management level?
  • Assuming I will be successful in this position, what would the career path within this business look like?
  • How would you describe the culture of the business? Why would you describe it like that – please give me some examples.
  • Why do you think I might be a fit for the role and the company?

Once, and only once, you have a picture in your mind of what the opportunity is and how you might make a fit with the business, should you agree to move forward with it.

The message here is that the average recruiter wants as many people interested in their assignment as possible, so that they can eliminate candidates further down the line, therefore they will try to ‘sell you the job’.  If you qualify the opportunity, you can save yourself a lot of time as well as the heartache of being turned down when you believed this would be a good opportunity for you (without having asked the right questions).

Although the head hunter is paid by the client and works for the client, a placement is only successful if the opportunity and fit are right for both parties, therefore the head hunter should be working as hard for the candidate as they do for the client.

That is certainly my philosophy. Let me know if I can help you!

Maarten Jonckers