Be nice to marketing head hunters

My phone has been red hot this week with calls from headhunters. Sadly, they weren’t offering me the job of a lifetime but were seeking my help and advice on other people.

Headhunters are an integral part of marketing life. I remember getting my first call from a headhunter. I had completed a graduate training scheme at a big FMCG company and had just earned my stripes as an assistant brand manager. The recruiter tried to sell me the dream of being assistant brand manager (with “fast track promotion” to brand manager) on Munch Bunch yoghurts, with a few more quid thrown in and the promise of a company car within 12 months.

I was unbelievably happy in my existing role – where I was working on a far more exciting brand – yet my head was momentarily turned by the fact somebody else wanted me. As it happened, I decided to stay put and not join the Munch Bunch.

If I knew then what I know now about the recruitment process, I would perhaps have been less flattered by that initial call

If I knew then what I know now about the recruitment process, I would perhaps have been less flattered by that initial call. Back then, I believed that I had been genuinely spotted as hot industry talent. Now I know I had merely ticked a lot of boxes on a very generic search list. Still, it was nice to get the call.

These days I get contacted more than ever by headhunters. Sometimes I get frustrated that they are picking my brains about potential candidates or positions; aren’t they just getting me to do their job for them? But you can either get annoyed or you can be helpful and play the game, with the premise that others in the industry are taking the same view and helping their peers connect with appropriate career opportunities.

In my experience, the smart marketer is helpful and seeks to build good relationships with a network of headhunters, even if the particular role they may be handling at the time is not the one for you. The best jobs are rarely advertised and the best headhunters keep a remarkably low public profile. Rather like some of the very best brands in our industry, they tend not to advertise but instead rely on word of mouth and recommendations by those in the know.

So the next time you get a call from a headhunter about a job that you really aren’t interested in, do try to be helpful. As the saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs…


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