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Have Headhunters come knocking?

We all dream of the day the phone rings and a voice introduces themselves as search consultants and that they have been researching the market for a position that they have been retained to fill and you appear to be a possible candidate. Would you like to meet for a discussion?

Should this kind of call come through to you, be assured that there is nothing random about this kind of call. Before any conversation takes place, your background will have been researched by the headhunters, your successes measured and your career progression examined to be sure it was upwards and without blemish.  This may sound like it’s an intrusion on your personal privacy but it’s not.  The information that has been gleaned is freely available from all kinds of sources.  If you try it yourself, you may be surprised what you can find out about people.

In addition, there are a number of professional researchers about the place and they are frequently retained by Executive Search consultants to carry out a detailed search for possible candidates with a specific career background and experience for an assignment that they have secured. This search may be Ireland wide, maybe include the UK, or possibly be worldwide depending on the individual sought.  In almost all cases, this kind of assignment is to fill positions at the most senior level and usually with very large companies who can afford the very large fees commanded for such work.

Where appointments are to be filled within major global organisations the search might go to the other side of the world to seek out and approach a particular individual.

When organisations require a person of a particular calibre they will retain their “friendly” headhunter and present a very detailed list of requirements in respect of career history, recognised skills and successes along with other specific requirements in respect of the job on offer. A fee will be agreed usually a percentage of the first year’s salary including anticipated bonuses and or commission and all payable in three tranches. The first payment is on agreeing the assignment, the second on production of a shortlist and the third on completion.

This whole process is carried out through careful research, checking and identifying individuals with the required attributes.  A selection is made, a shortlist is presented and a final three or four are approached and introductions made. The three becomes two and two becomes one.  Job done!

On the other hand a company might know of a particular individual, usually in a competitor company whom they feel they would like to have on their side. It could clearly be unethical, improper and very much frowned upon as completely inappropriate conduct in the business place.

For this reason alone, they would employ an Executive Search firm to make the initial contact anonymously and ascertain if you have interest in discussing the possibility of a career move.  If there is then a meeting will be set up which could then progress on to an appointment.

Searches of this nature are discussed and agreed in a very quite and private fashion with almost no one knowing about it except maybe the MD and the Board members. Press releases and announcements will then be made at the appropriate time.

While this search work goes on it just isn’t possible for researchers to know about and physically check out every individual on the planet that would be an appropriate candidate for a particular vacancy.

It is important to remember that appointments of this nature are usually unadvertised so you will never know when and where a vacancy is in the course of a search. This is all the more reason why you need to insure that you can be found by searchers.  You must ‘optimise’ your CV and any other on-line information.

That is of course providing you are suitably experienced, qualified and with a very successful record of achievement.

In the event that you do get that call and an invitation to meet, you will be most likely asked you produce a CV. Do bear in mind that the employer in this case will be paying a very large amount of money and will expect a full and thorough background check on any candidate. This check will be very detailed and exacting and going back to your college days and confirmation of Diplomas, Degrees and any other qualification you claim to have. Previous employers will be contacted, dates of past employment confirmed.

You may think that this kind of information is confidential, but some day put aside ten minutes researching a business leader somewhere I the country and you will be surprise how easy it is to source information that you thought wouldn’t be normally available.  However, when an MD gets a call from Executive Search consultants they are unlikely to do battle with them. They will prefer to be seen as a progressive and a helpful executive to whom they may return on another day with another assignment.

Double check your CV, your LinkedIn, your references in fact, every minute detail of your background and carer to date. Ensure it’s correct, accurate and you can stand by every word.

Your meeting with the headhunter will be just the first of a few.  They will decide if you are a suitable candidate and refer you and maybe two/three other candidates on as their chosen shortlist for the employer to consider and meet.

So if the knock comes to your door, click into action and reappraise every word you have ever written in the course of your career whether that is content from your CV, a presentation, a quote in the newspapers or anything you have said or done that can be found and could be to your professional detriment.

Headhunters are very professional people and treat their work very seriously and take their instructions from Directors and CEO’s.  They find people for C level positions and if you are clearly looking for a job, then you are probably not good enough. Their candidates get snapped up  They are ‘picky’ in the extreme and their final choices are usually the best because they have been there themselves and are fully familiar with corporate administration at the highest level; they know exactly what is needed. Your availability should be low key and subtle but I stress that this only works provided it is supported by many years of exceptional success in your area of endeavour.

Further information about the author, Colm Cavey can be seen below and also at:

Good Luck

Top Tips are provided by PCC, who provides professionally delivered, supportive and most importantly, successful career change and redeployment assistance to private clients from all sectors of Industry. While based in Ireland our on-line service extends to those overseas throughout the world. Inquiries are welcome and treated in the strictest confidence.    Tel: +353-86-3017207 & +353-1-2819056.



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