7 ways to evaluate a headhunter in 30 seconds

  • Reading time:8 mins read

Headhunter callingYou know the feeling when a headhunter calls you. If you ever got the call that is?

You think to yourself: Finally, someone found me, someone discovered my talent, the big salary and company car coming my way. And my neighbours will surely notice my new status.

Sure, it’s absolutely fine that you feel a sense of pride being sought after; on the other hand, you don’t want to run around the office with your arms up and let your manager and colleagues know who just called you.

Jealousy is always a bad thing. It may even lead to suspicion by your bosses and colleagues that you are contemplating an exit in the near future.

Perhaps more importantly, even though the headhunter called does not mean you already got the job. Better keep your hair on as they say in English (keep calm and do not over-react).

How recruiters offer fake jobs to candidates

Bogus callSo, guys slow down and hold the horses. You may be spammed; you may be just a number that some lazy junior recruiter found on LinkedIn.

Perhaps someone who has to get your resume to make the KPI for registered resumes in their database.

Believe me; many recruiters calling you may not even have a real job or client on hand. The call is merely to pretend, so they can get your resume and perhaps names of your friends and colleagues.

My best advice is not to start answering their questions about your background right away.

They should first earn the right and your trust to really ask any questions at all. Read Advice number 2 and 5 below how to handle this particular situation.

You must vet and quality the recruiters who call you. Don’t choose someone who is rude and aggressive.

Advice number 1: Ask recruiter to call back

You are in control and if you don’t have complete privacy then don’t even attempt to answer with hints or suggestive comments.

Not stating your position in a clear manner will be a disadvantage to your rating with the executive search firm. And the walls might have ears.

Simply state that this is not a good time, but you welcome a talk later in the day.

If the call comes in on your office telephone, then give your mobile telephone number to offer more flexibility.

Advice number 2: Great headhunters say their name

Great recruiters will introduce themselves; they will state their company name and own name. Amateur recruiters will just say: “I’m calling from ABC Recruitment Company; are you looking for a job”.

Ask for the recruiter’s website. Also, ask the recruiter to email you with their details like the person’s full name and title, the company name, address, telephone number (landline and mobile).

Then tell the recruiter to call you back tomorrow so you have time to research who called you.

If the recruiter’s email comes from a free email account, such as Gmail or Hotmail, it’s bogus and you better ignore it. And don’t take that call the next day!

Advice number 3: Did they check out your LinkedIn profile?

Perhaps you have a profile on LinkedIn; ask the recruiter if they have seen it.

If not, ask the caller to check it out and call you back. If they have seen you on LinkedIn, ask what in your profile attracted them to contact you.

Advice number 4: Is the job real or bogus?

Ask the recruiter if they have a specific job they are working on, and if so, ask for a presentation of the client’s company and job.

Ask for location, for compensation budget. A professional recruiter will have no problem providing you with this information.

If no detailed information can be shared on the spot, it’s a bogus call and you should end the call.

Protect your resume and reputation as it was your social security number. Too many humbugs will broadcast your personal details unsolicited to make some quick money. 

Advice number 5: Don’t share your compensation details

Junior recruiters are often the first people to get in touch with you. They have a form from their manager to fill in for further vetting.

One of these boxes would be to get your compensation details to check if you are too cheap or too expensive for whatever job they have on hand.

Believe me; no professional headhunter will start a conversation about your career that way.

So next time, hang up or if you are polite, then tell the recruiter to explain more about the client and the job.

And invite them to ask technical and personality questions to explore the opportunity.

And you are welcome to ask what kind of budget their client gave them. Yes, clients do.

Advice number 6: Is it a retained search or contingency job?

To avoid disappointment and get your expectations right, always ask the recruiter if their assignment is a retained search or a contingency job.

Retained means that a client has paid the executive search firm money upfront and is working closely with the headhunter on an exclusive basis.

Contingency means that the recruiter can only invoice their client if one of their candidates is employed by the client.

It’s like real estate agents who only get commission if they close a deal so sell sell sell is the name of the game.

Advice number 7: Do they want to meet you? Zoom, Office or Starbucks?

If the recruiter wants to meet you first, that’s a good sign, but there is a but.

If it’s not a video interview because of Covid-19, ask where such meeting will take place since many smaller firms tend to suggest meetings at coffee shops and hotel lobbies.

Believe me, this is not serious, and you don’t want to sit in a public place talking about yourself, your career, achievements, compensation, private affairs and what have you.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.