How to Respond To A Headhunter’s Call


You know your career is on track when you start receiving calls from headhunters. You are wanted (and that’s a good thing), but do you know how to respond to a headhunter’s call? Especially if your initial reaction is that you do not want the job they’re offering. 

Whether or not you take the position, you create future opportunities for your career when you answer the headhunter in a way that sets you and the headhunter up for success.

So how do you do that? I’m glad you asked

Wondering how to respond to a headhunter's call? Let @debrabenton teach you how to make each call work for you. Share on X

How to Respond To A Headhunter’s Call

Determine Who You Are Willing to Work WIth

Before you do anything else, you want to know if the headhunter has been hired on a retainer or a contingency basis. A headhunter working on a contingency basis is only paid if their candidate is hired. They are competing against all the other recruitment channels the hiring company uses. A headhunter on retainer has been paid upfront and works closely with the client to find the perfect candidate. The job will only be filled by them.

You want to work with retainer only. They take their time and follow a protocol that benefits you and the company.

Set Up a Time to Answer the Headhunter

Next, tell them you will call them back. You want to be sure that you are in a comfortable, private place to have an in-depth conversation. Block some time out from your schedule so that you won’t be interrupted. This lets the headhunter know that you value your time and theirs. 

Hear the Offer and Offer Help

Let them tell you enough about the job so you can be sure it’s not for you. If it is for you, then full speed ahead with sending your resume. However, if it’s not for you, don’t be too quick to hang up. Listen to the offer until you know enough to be able to refer a name or a source for a name. Headhunters like that a lot and they will remember you.

What does that look like? Try saying this, “I receive these calls frequently, as you can imagine …I will always listen to your opportunity to see where I can be of help….I’m very happy here, working on ____ and ___…. As you explained the job specification, I’d suggest you talk to Jill Jones as she could be a candidate or know someone who would be. I’ve already done that job. My next move inside or outside of an organization will be (next level up) so that is where I’m headed …for now, I’m being rewarded for my contributions and very happy where I am….”

Clearly stating where you are, where you’re headed, and where you can help tells the headhunter you are a candidate worth remembering for future jobs.

Go the Extra Mile

You’ve listened, been pleasant, and been helpful, but don’t let the call be the end. Remain in touch every six months of so with an update of new things you are doing and the offer to help by giving them other names in your network. (And keep building your network so that you have people to suggest.) 

It’s a small thing, but you will keep your name and qualifications fresh in the headhunter’s memory when new positions open.

Your Response to a Headhunter’s Call Impacts Your Career 

Knowing how to respond to a headhunter’s call is a crucial part of growing your career. You certainly won’t accept every offer made to you, but responding well to every offer your receive gives you a greater chance of getting an offer you want. Make yourself a valuable resource and you will be remembered for all the right reasons. 

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