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How to Ace the Headhunter Interview

How to Ace the Headhunter Interview
Don't try to script your first face-to-face interview. The headhunter wants to see the real you and find out how you handle unexpected challenges

by Joseph Daniel McCool

So you've fielded the headhunter's initial exploratory call (BusinessWeek.com, 10/25/07), a more in-depth follow-up call, and now you've been asked to schedule a face-to-face interview with the leadership recruiter who could punch your ticket to a new role in executive management.

It's important to remember, however, that you're still quite some way from realizing the true potential of this potentially career-making headhunter interview. That's because you're probably one of multiple candidates scheduled for interviews on this specific search assignment and, when all is said and done, only a handful will be granted an interview with the headhunter's client.
Pace Yourself

Even then, there's no guarantee that the hiring company will extend an offer of employment because, until you sign on the dotted line, there's plenty that could derail the search in which you're now involved. The hiring organization ultimately could decide that a talented insider is the best candidate for the position. It could call off the search because of new "organizational variables." Or the specifications for the position could change and shift the focus of the headhunter's courtship toward other candidates.

But it's equally important to understand that no big announcement of a new executive hire is possible without that individual's having sat down with the headhunter to share a true, complete, and compelling accounting of his or her professional work life, education, and personal background.

The fact that you've been invited to meet with a headhunter says good things about your reputation and the perceived value of your unique qualifications in today's intensely competitive executive talent market. So expect to answer some probing questions about where you've been and what you've done. And plan to ask your own prepared questions about what the hiring company really needs. How does it measure success in the executive suite? What kind of pressures is it feeling in its market? Where does its senior management team want to take it in the future? And how might you help them get there?

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How to Ace the Headhunter Interview

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