When a Headhunter Calls

You are minding your own business and not really thinking about the future when the phone rings. A search consultant wants to talk to you about your potential candidacy for a new leadership role.

In all honesty, this call is not completely out of the blue.

You received the e-mail that I sent with the full job description. You regret that you have not yet read the entire message, but you admit that you have not deleted it. From the first read, you were impressed with the posted salary range; and the position is in line with your career goals. And now I am following up, as promised, and am on the phone asking about your interest. What do you do?

If you are remotely interested, agree to chat or schedule a time to do so in the near future. (I understand that you may not want to talk with me while you’re at work. In fact, it’s probably wise not to.) If you have specific questions about the search, the search firm, and/or the search process, ask them upfront. You can ask for some time to consider the opportunity, and I will be transparent about the time frame involved.

If you are not interested in pursuing the role, please let me know. But don’t miss this opportunity to build a relationship that could be useful when you do decide to make a career move. Tell me why this job is not a good fit, and point me to others who might be a better match. It’s common practice in higher-education searches for colleagues to “pay it forward” and share nominations and referrals of other potential candidates.

If this is not the right role for you, help me understand what your next career step might be. Don’t be shy. I am in the networking business, and this way you’ll be on my radar when a suitable opening comes up.

Diane M. Fennig is a senior consultant with the Human Capital Group, an executive-search and leadership-consulting firm based in Brentwood, Tenn.

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Leonid Mamchenkov.]

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