How to answer a headhunters call

It's often hard to tell if they're selling aluminum siding or licensing rights to a Chinchilla farm in Nebraska. Sadly, most of my brethren are running the numbers and while they may tell you that their selling value added service, their true commodity is their time.

We've been trained to make every call count.  If you're not a client you're a candidate as we adroitly jump from one side of the employment fence to the other.  However, recruiters have two other commodities worth an investment in your time: Jobs and People.

Even if you're busy, take at least a minute to listen to what they're calling about.  After all, you did pick up the phone.  If they rattle on incessantly, stop them, take their number and decide later if it's worth your time to call back.  The pros will pitch you the good stuff in less than 20 seconds and then ask: "Is now a good time to talk?"

If it isn't, establish a link.  Exchange e-mail addresses, make a telephone appointment for a specific date and time or ask that they call you later at home are on your cell phone.  Of course if it is a good time, sing the headhunters favorite song: "Let Me Close My Door."

Once contact is made, screen them.  Learn the name of their firm, if they work on a retained or contingency basis, the breadth and scope of their practice (we're like doctors and lawyers, always practicing...), how they found you and how long they've been in business.  Great recruiters love it, we rarely get to talk about ourselves and it will give you a chance to determine the quality of the playing field you're on by how articulately the caller resonates brilliant answers to otherwise mundane questions.  It's the same way we screen candidates....

Within the scope of five minutes you can make one of those famous executive decisions and decide what to do with the contact you've just made.  Wad it up and throw it away, log the contact info in your database for a rainy day, or get in the game.

Once you're in the game, decide what position you're going to play. Are you the quarterback who'll make the big hand off in the form of a referral or will you be the forward guard about to hit the three pointer with your own resume.  Of course you might be an employer and prefer the role of catcher receiving the pitch after you've given the appropriate signal. Or maybe they call you coach as you call time-out, the information being shared is too confidential and competitive in nature.

Your role is your choice, but the opportunity to establish a long term relationship often pays huge rewards on a day when you least expect it, so take the opportunity to say "what if" and make a connection.  One thing to remember, all kidding aside about the aluminum siding thing, one thing is for sure.  Headhunters are like elephants.  We never forget.

Of course this is only my opinion, but itís one I value highly.

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