Headhunter: “Errr, Ummm, let me check!”

Headhunting. A fine art some might say. At the “real” Executive end of the market the Researchers / Partners, or whoever gets to make “that call”, will be well versed at wooing the prospect or at least having being fully briefed on the role and client they are working for. Needless to say they would have done their deep dive into the prospects background.

I am always open to a headhunt call and pretty sure I am not alone here, after all who doesn’t like hearing those words “I have been given your name” although in this case it was more like “I found your LinkedIn profile”.

I should start at the beginning though as this was an experience worthy of sharing and maybe I should have titled it “5 tips on how NOT to Headhunt”! Surely that would get more visits to the blog but I felt a quote from said head-hunter summed it up pretty well.

So, my work phone rings and it is one of our awesome Contact Centre Representatives (CSR) on the line. The conversation then goes something like this:

CSR: Hi Mark, I have a friend of yours on the line, would you mind if I put them through.

Me: Sure.

CSR: Thanks so much, have a great day.

At this stage I must add that most of my mates have my mobile and / or direct work number so I was curious as to why “a friend” had called me via the contact centre.

Me: Good morning, Mark Sumner speaking

Head-hunter: Hi Mark, this is <let’s call them Jane> have you got a few minutes to talk.

Me: Sure I, I have about 10 minutes until my next meeting, will that suffice?

Note, no company name was provided.

Jane: I found your LinkedIn profile and thought you would be a good fit for the client I am recruiting for. I cannot divulge their name at this stage but they are looking for someone like you.

A fairly standard “recruitment sell”, Jane then went on to explain a little bit, and let me emphasise “little”, more about the role and the company without mentioning any names. Jane carried on some more about it being a great fit and opportunity and after around 5 minutes it was my turn to ask a few questions.

This is where the “5 tips on how NOT to head-hunt” come to the fore:

1. Research your potential targets

Get information from the people referring them or research them via Professional networks / Social Media and / Google them!. Take some time to understand what specific “market segment” this particular candidate is part of their niche skills and what they could bring to the role.

Jane had no real idea about my current role, make up of the team I currently work with or what I really did to match it with the role she was working on with the recruitment consultant. Maybe it was my strange title that threw her or maybe I need to pimp my LinkedIn profile a little?

2. Establish Initial Rapport

Open the call by saying who you are, where you’re from and what you do. When a candidate is not expecting a call from you it is important to spend at least the first couple of minutes with background or introductory information so they feel like this is a professional opportunity and one that they aren’t wasting their time with.

I had to ask Jane which company she was calling from – it was not the hiring company.

3. Know What Makes the Job Exceptional

You need to start with an attention grabber. What’s in it for them? Why is this opportunity different from other similar positions? What makes it more exciting than what they’re currently involved with?

Jane had no idea how many people where on the team, the reporting line, challenges to be faced or plans for the business in the next 12 months. In fact she said: “Errr, Ummm, let me check.” It turns out she was not the recruiter but merely the, and I quote: “executive search person head-hunting for the recruitment consultant managing this role”.

4. Stay Connected even with seemingly unsuitable Candidates

If you’ve realised mid-way through a call that the candidate that you are talking with is not qualified, continue the conversation as they may know someone else who may be interested and qualified. Turn that wasted phone call into a potential networking opportunity to seek out possible referrals.

There was a rather abrupt end to the conversation when Jane realised I was not interested in or suitable for the role.

5. Follow up

Gain “opt-in” from the candidate. Be proactive and request permission to e-mail or follow-up with a phone call even if the candidate is not interested, after all, they might be suitable for another role that comes across your desk.

Once again there was a rather abrupt end to the conversation.

I share this experience with the hope that you may never receive a similar phone call, or if you are the one making the call, that you do your homework and ensure the person on the other end has an awesome experience, even if they say “No”.


Just the way we are

Now I’m not the biggest reality TV fan, unless it has something to do with the medical profession, which harkens back to my days wanting to be a surgeon / ER doctor, but I came across this story today and it inspired me to write my first post of 2013.

I have always been a large bloke (something about metabolism, big bones or too many pies) and growing up in suburban South Africa as a large kid I was teased, just like any other “fat kid”. The names I was called varied wildly as I grew from a kid into a teenager, young adult and finally adult, but all had the same piercing effect which smashed my self-confidence. It got to the point as a young adult where I started making jokes about my weight before anyone else had the chance to get a jibe in.

Now I don’t write this to seek any “Shame, Mark, it must have been tough” comments or win any sympathy votes but to make people aware that bullying in any way shape or form is unacceptable . Be it a stutter, a weight problem, a large nose or a disabled / disadvantaged person, taking the piss out of them is neither funny nor does it make you clever or popular with your mates.

Lazaro’s story struck a strong chord within – to see him get on stage in front of millions of people and talk about what he has been through growing up, yet possessing the confidence to stand in front of some of the music industry “heavyweights” must have taken some serious “cajones”. I used to wonder how people plucked up the courage to do that, to stand up to those who had tormented them by showing that whatever had been said had not destroyed their self-belief / confidence and by showing them what an amazing talent they are.

I had my own epiphany when I was living in the UK in the late 90’s and since that day decided that people should accept me for who I am , not what I look like. My conscious decision is that if this is unacceptable to them then quite frankly I have no room for them in my life. People who know me know that I am who I am (don’t try saying that too fast!) be it at work, home, in a meeting or out for dinner, on a boat fishing with mates or in a meeting with suppliers or stakeholders.

Yes I know I am South African and the stereo types are rife but at the end of the day I am comfortable with myself, I have a large personality, I tell it it like it is. I like who I am! To those that bullied and teased – the only person I listen to now, who has anything to say about my weight, is my GP.

The world we live in and life in general.

Some might say that time flies when you’re having fun but the that Utopia doesn’t account for the reality that time also flies when you’re mentally busy at work, particularly when you’re looking for these critters!


Lost? Just Google “purple squirrel”

The untimely and tragic death of an ex-colleague brought me screaming to a halt yesterday and the memory of making a mad dash across 11 time zones to be with my inspirational, loving, selfless and most beautiful Mother, to say goodbye in February this year, came flooding back.

Not that I had forgotten, the memory is forever burned into my cerebral cortex, as anyone who has lost a family member will attest to, but life tends to run away from us in the mad dash that is work and life.

I made it home in time to hold, talk to and say goodbye to the person who had been a rock, someone I could always turn to and talk to about the world we live in and life in general. So this is for you Mom, a personal post in memory of all the things you taught me, the boy you turned into a man and the life devoted to making me see the silver lining when things went pear-shaped. You helped me to see and understand that no matter what is said, what obstacles life throws at us and however busy we are, there is always time to laugh!

This one’s for you Mom ………..


A time to write …..

Well, well, well, after many months of procrastination, fighting the fear of that gut wrenching first step into the blogging world and laying it all out there for the world to see, I have decided to put pen to paper (well, to punch away at the keyboard at any rate) and take that leap.

I have hand written poems and short stories from life experiences gone by but they are slowly gathering dust in a box in the storeroom. Having never been read by more than a handful of people I thought I would join the 21st century, get the ol’ blog up and running and share my wit, charm and humour (I feel a Tui moment coming) with those that might stumble across these little words.

What to expect ……… well, the world we live in and life in general (those aptly sung words by Depeche Mode back in the 80’s) but you’re likely to find a mix of work (recruitment, sourcing, employer branding, social media for recruitment, emerging HR technology) and personal (SpringBoks, Sharks, fishing and family) might feature!  

You could look me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, G+ and through whatever Boolean string that takes your fancy via Google and you would probably find that I am: South African, studied Law, went to London in 1995, met my awesome Kiwi wife, spent 11 years in the beautiful city of Sydney, play Dad to a very wise and cheeky 6-year-old boy and now live and play in the land of the long white cloud. With 17 years (that makes me feel ancient) in external and internal recruitment, HR consulting, sourcing and engaging with the recruitment and Banking communities my head abounds with hair-raising, bite my tongue humour and stories of  Gangnam style proportion.

I love people; watching them (no not stalking them although I might have viewed your LinkedIn profile once or twice), working with them, making their career dreams into reality and engaging with them both at work and out on the water  in search of those pelagic fish that roam the deep.

So, the first post is written, edited and more than likely will see me + my better half being the only visitors, oh, unless you have clicked on the link I am very likely to post on the aforementioned social media platforms. If you have managed to stumble upon this humble little blog then I thank you for visting and hope you might return in the future to post a few comments,engage and laugh at the musings of a family loving, rugby mad, fishing charter captain wannabe and by day Talent Sourcing Manager who loves the the world we live in and life in general!