Q: I have been headhunted for a position. It came completely out of the blue. I wasn’t that keen on it when they first approached me and was even a bit resentful that they managed to destabilise me in my current position. That said, it’s a very good job and it’s beginning to grow on me. I’m inclined to approach the interview with a slightly less enthusiastic demeanour than usual to see what they have to offer. What do you think of that approach? (JB, email).
A: I don’t think much of that approach, to be honest. If that’s going to be your approach, I would recommend staying at home, writes Sean Browne, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
Being headhunted can really throw people off kilter. First of all, I would question what the phrase headhunted actually means: have they come to you and said we want to give you the job, end of story, or are you one of perhaps ten people who have been sounded out about this position?
As you can appreciate, there is a world of difference between the two.
First, decide whether or not you are likely to take this job if offered to you. If the answer is a definite no, make your excuses and don’t waste anybody’s time, most of all your own. Why let it destabilise you?
If, however, the job continues to grow on you, approach it with the same level of preparation as you would a position for which you had applied. Go for it like you want it badly: give it everything you have.
I recently spoke to a senior manager who found herself on a panel interviewing primarily ‘head-hunted’ candidates. She was surprised by how diffident many of them presented themselves, as if they felt they had already got the job.
“I think most of them actually wanted the job, but because they had been invited along, they seemed to think it was in the bag. So they played hard to get and it felt like they were weighing us up more than anything else. I get that you have to suss out the place you might work in, but convince us first that we should employ you,” she said.
If you want the job prepare for it. Relate your past experience to the role in question. Treat the interview panel as a cohort who know very little about you and persuade them of your suitability for the position. If possible, have some clever ideas at the ready for what you would do in the job.
The phrase headhunted is bandied about. It is a little like the 15 year-old footballer called to a trial: even though the club have called you, it does not mean they will sign you. If you want the job, go to the interview and give them reasons to select you.
I have seen plenty of candidates who, upon being ‘sounded out’ found that the job started to appeal to them more and more. The clever ones are those who recognise this shift in themselves and can then show the enthusiasm for a job for which they hadn’t applied in the first place: a deep level of knowledge about the job and ideas that you can bring to the position will help to bridge that gap.
Sean Browne is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.
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