The Headhunter Called – Then What?

You are on the job-recruiter’s radar.

Since you are a high-potential and talented employee he/she has probably called to gauge your interest in another job at another company. The deal may even be sweetened with offers of more money, a better location, or a more advanced position. Did you pursue the offer or not return the call?

I have been through this scenario with hundreds of my clients over the years. I apply the traffic light test in helping my clients make the decision about staying or moving. So for you, is the light green (investigate or pursue the offer), amber (consider it more carefully), or red (reject it outright)?


(Reject the offer)

While many find it flattering that another organization wants to recruit them they are adamant that, for one reason or another, this is not the right time for a move. An executive I know in the high-tech industry received a potential offer from a competing company. They offered him twice his current salary with a significantly higher position in their organization.

He decided to reject the headhunter’s offer for an interview because he

·     Valued his boss’ investment in his career

·     Was making a significant contribution to his organization

·     Cherished the network of peers that he had built up over the years

·     Did not want to disrupt his family that was happily rooted in the community

·     Examined the culture of the other organization and decided that the grass was not greener in the other field

If you are in this category you are very fortunate.


(The dilemma – You don’t know)

I come from the generation where loyalty to one’s organization is of paramount importance. However, the old social contract that your organization has your back and expects loyalty in return has changed. It is now more common that employees are likely to have several different jobs, be laid off in a recession or organizational restructure, or start their own business before they retire.

The problem with being in the amber mode is that it can keep you off balance emotionally. I know that some consultants tell people “If you have a plan B it shows your lack of focus and commitment to Plan A.” I disagree somewhat with this position. However, I counsel people to keep their primary focus on the job at hand and add, “Treat the next possible job as you would a lifeboat on a ship. You don’t plan to take your cruise in the lifeboat but will need it in an emergency.”

So don’t be afraid of asking the question “Should I go or stay?” But don’t distract yourself unnecessarily with other job offers.


(Decide to leave)

Your job environment needs to become quite toxic for you to decide to move. There has to be a confluence of factors like workplace discrimination (e.g. sexism), an abusing shout and scream or command and control culture, a ceiling placed on your potential advancement, or the mission of the organization changing to where your talents are no longer prized as they once were. All this triggers a possible move.

There are broader issues that may precipitate a move. You may want to

·     Have a healthier and simpler lifestyle

·     Expand your capabilities

·     Work in another culture

·     Deal with family crisis like an aging/sick relative

·     Earn more money

·     Have an opportunity to expanded or change your career

Before you jump ship, check to see if some of these needs can be met by your present employer in another function, location, or with expanded job opportunities, experience, and training. If the light remains red, move on.

What color is the traffic light at the intersection in your life?

How have you managed this decision?


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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