It is common for headhunters to reach out without any prior relationship, particularly as you become more senior in your field. This may come via email, LinkedIn, Xing or Facebook, but whatever the channel, there are certain things you should think about. When you are contacted by a headhunter (especially if it's for the first time), it is an ego boost but it is also important to take stock before moving forward. Here are some things you should consider right away, based on my experience.
1. The role itself
Check whether the role requirements and salary (if given) actually match your background and seniority. This lets you see if the headhunter knows what they are doing. Some (even if only a few) headhunters may not be discreet with your information. And even worse, some headhunters may hurt your personal brand and misrepresent your background and interests. Most headhunters work with a more long-term focus, though - just do a quick background check on them. Be diligent.
Look at the headhunter's profile for some insight. If you have any common connections, speak to them to find out more about the person who contacted you. This is especially important if you need to be discreet with regard to exploring new opportunities.
3. Communicate Directly
If the role interests you, ask for an email address. Send your resumé, a short summary of what you are looking for and any considerations that are important to you (especially if they are not obvious).
4. Long-term relationships
If the role is not for you, but the headhunter seems trustworthy and well-intentioned, phrase your response in a way that keeps the relationship open. Don't send a flat-out refusal with strong words such as ""reject"". Instead, write a short note that thanks them for their interest, explains why you are not interested and mentions future possibilities. Again, ask for an email address, so that you can communicate directly next time.
To further cement the relationship, you can also offer to use your network to help the headhunter with filling the role. Responding to headhunters in this way will allow you to foster good relationships as well as discovering potentially exciting new opportunities.
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