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  3 Pet Peeves of Headhunters You Need to Know

Jul 21st

3 Pet Peeves of Headhunters You Need to Know

Interview, Nail Your Narrative, Productivity

As companies hire headhunters to recruit for positions at 2-3 years of industry experience, you'll start fielding headhunter calls/digital outreach very early in your professional life. It's crucial to manage your professional brand from the outset and anticipate how to best perform on recruiter calls to maximize your networking and career opportunities.

Here are 3 Pet Peeves of Headhunters You Need to Know to start positive, fruitful, and productive relationships with recruiters who may greatly add to your career success.

TIP: First, read my article on how to judge the trustworthiness of every headhunter who calls. Many headhunters are unethical, careless about their careers, and are fishing for leads. Interview your headhunter to make sure they are legitimate.

1. Not knowing how to describe yourself effectively and concisely. To avoid this pitfall, prepare a pithy introduction statement about yourself even if you're not actively job-seeking. Headhunters are professional networkers, also preliminary interviewers (we don't do the whole interview but we definitely do the initial screening for our clients). I guarantee within the first 2 minutes of small talk, they'll ask you to "describe yourself" or "what's your background?". Don't underestimate the power of this intro. I've had candidates take 5 minutes+ to describe their lonnggg history of accomplishments, most of which are clearly on the resume/LinkedIn profile that is right in front of my screen.

We are all "happy in our current role" or "comfortable", but there's always something that will entice us to make a career move. Know what that is for you. Is it a higher title at a particular firm or a salary bump to a certain level? Paint the picture from the beginning of the call so that your headhunter knows how they can assist you. Don't procrastinate on your life planning. This is why the first step of the DANDAN Method is to Dictate Your Destiny. Be in control from Day 1 (or call 1 in this case!). 

As self-promotion is essentially sales, the best rule to abide by is: less talking, more questioning. If you don't know what the other party is interested in, how will you know what your pitch should be?  Instead of sharing all of your cards, make sure you're in control of the conversation by preparing in advance. 

Tip: Here's an example of an effective self-introduction to a headhunter.

"I've been in the consulting industry for the last 3 years working closely with financial clients on auditing, accounting, and asset management. Last year, I supported a major client through an audit by working closely with their internal teams on timeline management and strategy. Although I'm happily employed, I would be open to making connections with people such as yourself who know of exciting developments within my field and companies hiring for future growth. What is your experience in recruiting for consultants?"

Keep it short and sweet. Then add an open question in the end to start interviewing your headhunter! Read this for more help on your intro.

Now that you've established how your headhunter can assist your career, avoid #2. Being dodgy/shady/too suspicious/pushy. Once you have determined your headhunter to be legitimate and realize they truly have multiple roles either now or in the future for you to consider, share more information. As your headhunter, I need a significant amount of information to do my job. I can't represent you if I don't know your true story because my client will question my capabilities if I don't know my "product". We have to collaborate here, and any information you can share will be helpful for both of us.

TIP: Be as honest as you can at this stage. If you receive insufficient or questionable information, don't feel pressured/forced to do anything. You can always continue getting to know your headhunter. Not everything has to be done all at once. To help my candidates understand me better and how I work, I was always extremely eager to meet in person (most of my candidates were on the east coast so luckily I was within reach). Otherwise, a Skype or Google hangout session works too. 

As a headhunter, my last pet peeve I really hated encountering was #3. Negative perceptions about recruiters turned into negative and rude attitudes from candidates. I get it. The first 5 headhunters you worked with stunk! Similar to real estate, the quality of agents is night and day. Please don't let your negative past relationships/experiences hurt your future ones, in your career and in your life! Everyone should be judged by their own behavior/capabilities, not pre-conceived judgments. 


Negative attitudes have an insidious way of ruining otherwise perfectly good interactions and relationships. Therefore, avoid being rude, dismissive, or arrogant; you never know who is going to change your life.

The headhunter who calls you on a role you're not interested in today may be recruiting for your dream role tomorrow! Do you think they'll be keen to represent you if you were rude to them before? Long story short, treat your headhunter well, and you'd be surprised how much that courtesy counts.

Food for thought: Nowadays, we're all complaining about unconscious bias, and rightfully so! What about unconscious biases towards salespeople? Like any other industry, in recruitment, there are only a few top performers who truly dominate their markets, and the rest are average - poor performers who sully their professions (80/20 rule). That's why effective interviewing of your headhunter is always the best strategy. 

Subscribe to the DAILY DANDAN Podcast for more free tips on job search!

For more professional and personal branding advice, read: 

3 Mental Hacks to Approach Job Search

3 Networking Hacks

3 Ways to Achieve Life-Work Alignment

3 Ways to Improve Your Online Etiquette

3 Steps to Describe Yourself Effectively in 30 Seconds (Or Less!)

3 Common Abuses of LinkedIn

3 Ways to Cope With People Who Let You Down

Email for personal and corporate coaching programs available.

Follow @DandanGlobal for more advice, tips, and secrets about how to work with recruiters, HR staff and hiring managers!