Step 4 – Phone a Friend

It’s now time to ask for help: talk to your Friends and Family.

Are any of them headhunters?  Do any of them know any headhunters? Do any of them know someone who might know any headhunters? Ask around.  You’ll be surprised how many introductions you can unearth if you really put your mind to it.  Call them; e-mail them; text them; Facebook them.  Whatever.  Ask for help.  Don’t be shy.  People like helping other people – it makes them feel good about themselves.  There’s plenty of evidence that helping others makes us happy – so if you feel like you’re imposing by asking for help: think instead that, by asking for help, you’re helping them to feel happy and good about themselves!  Just make sure you pay it back to someone else needing help in future and you can redress the karmic balance.

Explain to anyone you know that you think you might enjoy headhunting. It’s something you also think you would be good at, having done your skills audit.  You’ve done some research on the sector, and know a bit about it.  But you need to talk to some people who work in the sector to find out what it is really like.

So do they know anyone you could talk to for information only?   It’s important to stress that you do not at this stage want an interview.  You just want to understand the sector better.  So could they recommend any headhunters they know whom you could meet for just 20 minutes to find out more?

Arrange 20 minute Information Meetings.

Hopefully you will get at least a couple of names of people you can contact.  You should then call them to explain that you’re interested in finding out as much as you can about headhunting, and that your friend (relation/contact, etc.) recommended you call them.  Would they have 20 minutes free to meet some time in the next week to answer some questions you have about the sector?  Hopefully they will agree.  If they do, it’s important to stick to the time limit.  Keep a timer and, after 20 minutes, thank them for their time and leave.  It’s important you keep to your side of the bargain – which is 20 minutes.  If they’re polite, they’ll probably make noises about extending the meeting.  Resist the temptation to do so.  If they genuinely seem keen to continue the conversation, then tell them that you had another meeting booked in half an hour, and offer to re-arrange for another day, or offer to buy them lunch or a drink.  But stick to the original plan of 20 minutes unless they literally beg you to stay.  They will be much more willing to recommend you to others if they know that 20 minutes really means 20 minutes.  Also, people don’t like saying ‘time’s up’ and if you do over-run, they may feel misled and annoyed.

So it’s important to be concise in your questions, otherwise you may over-run and not ask the questions you need the answers to.  Dick Bolles suggests asking the following:

  • How did you first get into [headhunting]?
  • What do you like best about it?
  • What do you like least about it?
  • What advice would you give me if I wanted to be a [headhunter]?

I would also suggest asking:

  • Who do you see as your biggest competitors?
  • How is the industry doing in general?
  • What do you see as the key threats to the industry?
  • Where do you see the key future opportunities?
  • What skills do you think are needed to be a successful headhunter?

Or, of course, any other specific question that comes up to which you want the answer.  But in 20 minutes you’re probably only going to get to ask five or six questions in total.  So you’ll have to mix and match questions, fielding a different set of questions at different meetings.

At the end of your meeting, thank them for their time.  Tell them you really appreciate their insights. Here’s the important bit:  steel yourself and ask if they know anyone else whom they could recommend you to meet for a similar 20 meeting to hear their views.

When you get home, send them a thank you note by e-mail and/or a quick thank you note by snail mail.  Keep a note of their name.  If you do finally get a job as a headhunter, e-mail or write them a note letting them know and thanking them for their help in that process.

Record the Information you gather.

It’s probably a good time now, before you go to Step Five, to look at Record Keeping.  Unless you have a decent system in place before you start, you’re going to get into the most almighty muddle. One of the most important skills for an Executive Search Researcher is project management and information management skills: to keep a systematic record of all conversations held, any recommendations unearthed, and knowing whom you have talked to and whom you still need to chase – all within a reasonable timeframe. Click here for details.

In any case, you should record any interesting new information you have gleaned.  You should gradually start to build up information and knowledge on three levels:

  • Information regarding the sector or job you are interested in;
  • Information about specific companies and their products and services;
  • Information about specific people.

Now go to Step 5 – Start with the Uglies

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