Headhunted. What should I do?

Headhunted. What should I do?

 12 May 2022

The job market has never been busier. There is a talent shortage and firms are incredibly busy which has resulted in a very competitive, candidate-driven market. Companies are falling over themselves to find the right people. Many are adopting proactive strategies which has led to the increase of the direct approach at all levels.

It is definitely flattering to be contacted directly, but should you consider it, and if you do, how do you manage the process?

 

Should I engage?

Unless the headhunt call is clearly not appropriate (which can happen if the call is from an inexperienced recruiter trying to add to their candidate bank rather than a more targeted and considered contact) it is worth engaging for at least an initial conversation. This is because:

  • It may not be something you were considering but may turn out to be a peach of a role.
  • You may want to work with this firm in the future or the person approaching you may move to a firm you would be very interested in etc.
  • It is always worth expanding your network.
  • It may lead to referrals of work or collaboration on projects.

 

Initial response

A direct approach can easily catch you off-guard, especially if you are extremely busy.

  • Always respond graciously – even when simply closing down the conversation.  The tax market is a very small world and you never know who knows who.
  • If it isn’t a good time to speak, and/or if you would like to gather your thoughts before any discussion, arrange to return the call.

 

Managing the conversation

One of the disadvantages of a direct approach is that you don’t have the benefit of a recruiter who is experienced at managing the process for you.

When you are in a position to have that initial discussion, it is very important to stress that you are happy where you are but open to hear more. This manages expectations from the outset. You don’t want to give the impression that you are actively looking and therefore more likely to move for a suitable offer, only to disappoint down the line.

Find out enough basic information to ascertain whether you are interested in taking to the next stage. This should include:

  • The name of the firm.
  • The team they are interested in talking to you about.
  • The structure of that team and where you would fit in.
  • Details of the role.
  • Why are they looking to recruit e.g. growth, succession planning or looking to fill a gap due to a resignation.
  • What their future plans are.

 

Next steps

If you are sufficiently interested to want to continue discussions, do remember that what follows IS an interview process, whether you have been directly approached or not. You’ll need to treat any further discussions as interviews and prepare accordingly. To do that it is essential that you ask:

  • Who will you be meeting (with profiles ideally, although these are likely to be readily available on the company’s website and/or LinkedIn).
  • The format of the meeting i.e. a ‘get to know you’ discussion, a technical discussion, the completion of tests etc.

 

Pitfalls

As you will be handling negotiations directly, it is important to have an idea of what is important to you, especially in relation to:

  • The scope of a role and who you’d be working with.
  • The level of that role and the scope for promotion. This is especially tricky if you are between grades. Will the new firm bring you in on a promotion? How does their grading structure compare to your existing firm’s.
  • Culture of the firm – what are their values and do they align with yours.
  • Flexible/hybrid working policies.
  • Salary/benefits. It is always a good idea to have an understanding of what a firm is likely to offer at what grade. You won’t want to go in with too low a figure but equally you won’t want to price yourself out of an offer by being unrealistic. It is easy to assume that, as you have been approached, a firm will pay above market rate but this is rarely the case.

 

Compare and contrast

One of the difficulties of a direct approach is that the company is only talking to you about that one option. If you think you might be interested to explore further, it is useful to talk to an experienced recruiter who can advise you on the merits of the firm in question and also potentially provide you with one or two relevant comparisons to ensure that you can make an informed decision on next career steps.

A good recruiter will have your best interests at heart and will advise whether you are best placed to stay at your current firm, or which of the other firms will be better suited to your skillset and ambitions.

 

Finally

If you decide not to proceed, let them know sooner rather than later. Ghosting is never a good idea so don’t let embarrassment get the better of you. Thank them for the interesting discussions but explain that on this occasion you have decided not to take further. This then leaves the way open for discussions in the future.

If you would like any help or advice with your current situation, please do get in touch.

 

Cathy Buckley is a specialist tax recruiter with over 20 years' experience, and knows the market extremely well. Before moving into recruitment, she was a tax specialist, working for a major PLC, a Top 20 accounting firm and HMRC.

She provides recruitment advice at all levels from assistant to partner including team moves. As long as there's tax in there, she can help!

Cathy is always happy to have a confidential and informal discussion about your career , Contact her on 020 3303 0020 or via email to cathy@buckley-consulting.co.uk or www.buckley-consulting.co.uk

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