Dealing with Headhunters

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Dealing with Headhunters

Postby J.J. » Wed Dec 08, 2004 4:01 pm

Now that I've racked up a few years of experience, I'm starting to get headhunter phone calls. What is the etiquette of dealing with headhunters when you're not ready to leave, but don't want to burn any bridges?
I'm generally happy in my position, but some days I'm curious about my marketability.
There's one headhunter I've heard good things about, and I'm thinking of approaching her with a general description of jobs that might interest me in the future. Should I bother with it if I'm not sure if I'm ready to leave my position? I'd hate to "use" a headhunter just to get a career assessment, or to see what jobs are out there if I ultimately want to stay put. Especially if it's someone that I might want to use in the future.
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Dealing with Headhunters

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Dec 08, 2004 4:57 pm

Hi Jill - always nice to respond to one of your professional inquiries.

Yes, there is certainly etiquette involved, and I wrote an article about this in Contract Pharma -- try this link: "How to Sneak Around, Double Your Pay, and Have a Blast Being Headhunted". (The title is tongue-in-cheek, playing on the common MISperception that by making a job change you can earn a huge increase in pay).

In general, spend a few minutes to help these callers out. Do what you can to suggest contacts for them, even if they are "obvious" names to you and heads of departments, etc. Be pleasant. Tell them right up front you are not interested in a move, but also give them a few clues about your background and experience. I'd say a 4-5 minute call does the trick -- don't let them waste your time. If it goes over that, it's OK to politely get to a "pending meeting."

The better ones will be involved with client searches, and they won't necessarily be able to "place you" upon your call. So, to that gal you know of, and to any others (hint), you may just drop a note in the email saying how nice it is to hear from her on occasion and that you have such and such background. DO NOT send a resume until you are definitely in the "Go mode." You are right, and you have great professional instincts Jill, when you say that you don't want to waste their time for a career assessment.

Sounds to me like your career is on the right track. It takes about 2-3 years of industry experience before the phone starts ringing from headhunters, but at that point they are worth being polite to -- although it will only be one or two with whom you'll develop relationships.

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