When headhunters from the top recruitment agencies call

Modern day headhunters from recruitment agencies in India and abroad prefer poaching full bodies and not just heads. Whether you are an MBA student looking for a job or a professional hoping to get better, high-paying jobs, if you’ve made yourself visible in the recruitment market, you are likely to be on their list.

A headhunter from a top recruitment agency may strike when you least expect it. Here’s what you can do to be ready for the initial call.

When headhunters from recruitment agencies in India and abroad call

Independent headhunters and recruitment agencies have access to some of the best MBA jobs that would never be put up openly on job portals. So whether you are looking for a change of job or you’re an MBA graduate looking for your break into a new area, it may be a wise decision to take the help of executive search firms who are specialists in your area.

“Companies advertise their jobs on their websites. Can’t I apply directly online?”

If you directly apply to a job online, you need to know that there may be hundreds of candidates who may have already done so. In such a situation, how much chance do you have that someone shortlists your resume? And if you’re seriously hunting for a job, you can’t just wait and watch.

Recruiters may pick up your contact information from professional networking sites like Linked In and approach you for a particular position. So it would be worthwhile keeping your job profile updated so that recruiters have you on their radar for the right job.

How do headhunters in recruitment agencies work?

Headhunters in recruitment agencies don’t work for you; they get paid by the company. But they also need to ensure that the job position is in your interest so that you accept the offer.

However, if your job requirement has changed, you can’t expect the recruiter to find another job for you.

But just because you aren’t going to report to them after getting a job, doesn’t mean you can take them for granted. The basic rules of etiquette apply to everyone.

Be polite and considerate to them. Maintain a good relationship so that the recruiter contacts you for any possible openings in the future.

Types of recruitment agencies and headhunters

There are different arrangements that the recruitment agency has with the company concerned.

There are the retained headhunters who have an exclusive arrangement with the company concerned. They get paid a fixed fee in advance. They work in the company’s interest and are usually responsible for filling in important senior positions. These recruiters may have a long-term relationship with the company and are more dependent. They have stringent guidelines to narrow down the candidates and may shortlist only a few candidates selectively for the desired position.

The more common ones are the contingency recruiters. A company may hire more than one contingency recruiter for filling in the junior or mid-level positions. They’d aggressively try to push in many candidates to maximize their candidate’s chances of getting in as they are in competition with the others trying to do the same. The filtering criteria are minimal. They get paid only for successful placements.

The first call from the headhunter

So you’ve finally received the much-awaited call from the headhunter, you had anticipated it and were well-prepared with well-thought-of answers and your list of your various achievements, skill-sets, project accomplishment that sets you apart from the rest.

The initial call may serve as a screening process for you to move on to the next step in the recruitment process. So, it is imperative to have a formal discussion rather than getting too friendly and delving into unwanted or unrelated details. Your communication skills may also be under scanner during this call.

On your part, you can try to dig out as much information as possible from the recruiter regarding the company, the job position and job responsibilities and the salary range they may be offering. If you’re asked to send across an updated CV, it would be a good idea to customize it as per the current job requirement.

Try to put in as many matching keywords related to your experience or qualification you can possibly think of to present yourself as a good fit for the job. Make sure to give out the right information especially if it concerns your salary or you may be disqualified from being considered for the job.

Try to find out which recruiting firm they’re calling from and related details for you to assess if this call is genuine or it’s someone trying to test your intention to continue on the current job. Also ask them how they found out about you.

You also need to enquire what would follow in the recruitment process. How many rounds of interview would you be expected to attend? What would the next steps be? Would you be required to do a follow-up? Don’t forget to make a note of their e-mail so that you can send across your updated resume and a thank you note as well.

What you need to consider about the recruitment opportunity

Before you devote loads of time attending various interview rounds, here are a few questions that you could try to find answers to.

  • When was the job posting done?
  • Has it been a very long time?
  • What is the reason for the delay in getting the right candidate?
  • Is the company looking for anything specific?
  • Do you possess those skill-sets?
  • Would you be able to make it till the last round?

There are other questions you need to ask yourself before deciding to go ahead with the job interview.

You may be getting a higher pay and a better job title, however you need to know your employer’s expectations from you as well.

  • Does the new job require you to put in 12 hours a day as against 8 hours in the earlier job?
  • Does it require you to travel a lot, sometimes on a short notice?
  • Do you have a work-life balance which is of high priority to you?
  • Does this job offer a good learning opportunity in new areas?
  • Does it offer job rotation so that you get a chance to work in newer areas?

You need to evaluate the pros and cons the job has to offer before you decide to go ahead.

Getting the first call from a headhunter for an important job can be exciting. It means that some recruitment agency out there thinks you have important skills and experiences that another company will appreciate. But keep your enthusiasm under check and plan towards a successful conversion. More on related topics in the future.

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Swati //
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.


  1. VS says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am the first Business Analyst who is posting this question in this forum so I believe I can expect a quicker reply from you :) I am working as a Solution Designer/Specialist in one of the prestigious organization. After going through all the queries & your comments posted in this forum it seems that if one need to advance his career in the same industry then EMBA will definitely provide an edge. However if one is looking for a career change then full time MBA is better. Is my understanding correct?

  2. Sk Konyak says:

    Unless I may have overlooked, the photograph of the elderly man with the skull is actually from the Konyak tribe(Chui village under Mon district of Nagaland) He is dressed in Konyak headhunter’s attire. Moreover one fails to understand why the photo has been used for such write-ups which has nothing to do with any recruiting agency or business.

    • Brijesh says:

      You are missing the forest for the trees, dude. You clearly didn’t get the main point of the article and the humor in the picture.

  3. pradip says:

    m i done comp engg but i m not intersted IT job so what i m doing???? can headhunter giv me non IT job job? pls

  4. Sameer Kamat says:

    @VS: Apart from the B-school brochures, I haven’t come across anyone so far who has said that the career sky-rocketed after an Executive MBA in India or abroad. So it’s incorrect to assume that an Executive MBA (EMBA) will ‘definitely provide an edge‘ (to use your words) even if you don’t have plans of a career change.

    @Sk Konyak: Thanks for the insight. Brijesh is right about the part that we used the image in a light vein as a play on the words ‘head’ and ‘hunt’. But as the pic and the reference to the tribe is irrelevant for the post (and there’s a potential for sensitive folks to mis-interterpret it), we’ve taken it out. Hope you find the rest of the post useful.

    @Pradip: Headhunters generally work on mandates received from companies and reach out to candidates who come close to meeting that criteria. Freshers are generally not on the radar of the teams we are referring to here.

  5. Ramesh PK says:

    Dear Kamat,
    I am really a confused. With a good academic credentials and a nice campus placement, I applied for gate. As a preparation for gate, I took CAT. Surprisingly, GATE didn’t go well and CAT went of reasonably well and got admitted to IIM.
    During my collegiate days, I was not keen on pursuing MBA, but having got a call, I did join. I just want your sincere guidance on following to decide which specialization I should opt for:
    1) Finance for a person who want to be associated with Engineering field and most likely job profile. Now, when quite a number of CA’s are pursuing MBA, will I loose out to them? Will employers prefer CA with MBA to Engineer with MBA?
    2) Marketing: Most likely job profile and the average salary compared to MBA in Finance?
    3) Strategy: Most likely job profile and placement opportunities?
    4) Operations: Most likely job profile and whether Industrial relations will be one of your responsibility? Though on paper no discrimination is not there for a female, what is the actual scenario?
    5) Tips on internship for a person not very keen on retail banking.
    I look forward to hear from you sameer

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