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07-18-2023 Newsletter: How to Make a Good First Impression with Headhunters





Written by a Top OfficeHours Coach


Making a positive first impression with headhunters is key to success in the on-cycle or off-cycle buyside recruiting process. Headhunters are individuals who connect you with potential job opportunities in the investment type or at the firm you are interested in. The incentive for them to do so is that they are paid by the firms they are hired for and usually get a commission for successfully placing a candidate at those firms.


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Headhunters are a great resource for finding buyside opportunities since they have connections at all the major firms, but it is crucial to nail your interactions with them so that they like you as a candidate and want to prioritize placing you with a firm. Here are a few tips on how to make a good first impression with headhunters.


Be professional


Since headhunters quite literally hold the keys to a job at your future employer, treat your interactions with them as you would with potential employers. When you have calls with them, treat these as first-round interviews. Be punctual, prepare answers to common questions (tell me about yourself, what is your ideal role, what firms are you interested in, etc.), and maintain a professional demeanor. If they message you on LinkedIn, be responsive, even if it’s to tell them you’re not interested in the opportunity or not looking for a new role at this time. Most introductions with headhunters will be phone calls, but if they have opportunities to meet in person, this is a great way to stand out among other candidates they are reviewing who may not have had the opportunity to personally interact with them.


Do your research


Before reaching out to or responding to a headhunter, do your research on not only the search firm they work for but also the person themselves. For the search firm, do some Googling on who their clients are and what other people’s past experiences have been working with this firm’s headhunters. For the headhunter themselves, look at their background, expertise, and companies they specifically work with. If you can’t find this information online, these are great questions to ask in the introductory call if they don’t offer this information in their introduction. Doing your research also helps you demonstrate your genuine interest and helps you tailor the conversation toward the needs of the specific firm and headhunter.



Practice your introduction


Similar to how you should prepare the answer to “tell me about yourself” in banking, consulting, and private equity interviews, a call with a headhunter usually involves the same type of question right off the bat. Prepare an introduction of yourself that details professional experience and highlights any notable achievements. Then, you want to make sure you clearly state why you are looking to make a move and what type of role you’re looking to move into. Also, articulate what skills you bring to the table and could bring to your future employer. This introduction is key to catching the attention of the headhunter and can determine whether they prioritize your placement over other candidates they may be working with.



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Highlight your achievements


Headhunters are looking for stellar candidates who are high achievers and will quickly place them at their partner firms. When you speak to headhunters, you’ll want to keep this in mind and essentially prove to them why you deserve to be at the top of their list. Focus on your notable achievements and successes in your academic and professional career so far, and try to incorporate these into the conversation where possible. Highlight any specific projects or outcomes that really demonstrate your abilities, and provide quantifiable results if applicable. Remember ,though, that as much as headhunters love high achievers, they also want someone who is personable and will interview well with their partner firms. Crack a joke or two and keep the conversation lighthearted and fun.


Tailor your message


Not all headhunters are looking for the same type of candidates, especially since they work across firms, investment strategies, locations, and many other variables. Therefore, while it’s important to do your research on the firm and the headhunter, it is equally important to tailor your message to whoever you are speaking to. It’s ok for you to speak with headhunters with different industry specialties, but just put a slightly different spin on your story if you choose to do so. Show the headhunters that you’ve taken the time to understand their focus area and how your background aligns with their expertise. Tailoring your message also helps them see your attention to detail and makes their job easier, since they can identify opportunities that align with your specific interests rather than cast a wide net.




After interactions with a headhunter via phone or after an interview they set up for you, it’s good practice to send a follow-up email to thank them or update them on your process. Reiterate your interest in working with them and mention any specific points or learnings you took away from the conversation. If you’re updating them on an interview or interaction with the firm, being timely and detailed with your update is key, as headhunters can help you navigate the next stages of the interview process and provide you insight into the recruiting process as a whole. Also, be sure to respond to any requests or timelines they have by being responsive and proactive; in doing so, headhunters will consider you a more reliable candidate and therefore want to prioritize success in your recruiting process.


Stay true to your interests

While it can be tempting to interview for all the opportunities headhunters give you, it is important to prioritize your time towards one you think you will actually take. Not only does this save you time and effort, but headhunters appreciate it when a candidate isn’t wasting their time and knows what they want. Stay true to the roles you actually want to pursue, and headhunters will send these your way. Lastly, be upfront if you’re not enjoying the interview process or change your mind about a certain firm; headhunters appreciate knowing what you’re thinking sooner rather than later to allocate their resources accordingly…



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