Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Headhunted by Industry Competitor

I currently work in a small, specialized industry and have been approached by my company's main competitor regarding a job vacancy. Apparently my name "had come up" a number of times (good news as I have only been in my current role for 8 months), so the competitor contacted me directly to gauge my interest before advertising the role.

I responded ambiguously, stating that I am always interested in learning more about roles in my industry, and asked for them to forward the position description for my review. They also offered me the opportunity to apply for the role outside the formal process, and provided contact details for the Head of Business Development (position reports to this role) as she would be happy to make time to discuss over coffee the company and details of the role.

Interestingly, and worth noting, the Head of Business Development was previously the Director of my current employer, she herself having been headhunted a couple of years ago by the competitor.

The position itself appears to be exactly the same as my current role, and to be perfectly honest I am not particularly interested in moving sideways to the competitor. However, this situation presents an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about the competitor and what salary package they are offering. This information is difficult to research in such a small marketplace, and I envisage that it may also be useful for me to leverage my current role when salary review time comes.

Opportunities such as this are rare in my industry, and information about salary ranges and packages scarce. How do I go about broaching the topic of salary package when I know that strategically it is better to wait until the employer broaches the subject first, and that is always better to negotiate salary after being offered the role.

I am not prepared to go through an arduous interview process to obtain this information, is there a way to cut to the chase to find out what I am worth?
--Unsure in Australia

by Bridget Oakes, Senior Search Consultant

My Unsure Aussie friend, you present an interesting situation. As a recruiter, I often hear the “I’m always open to hearing about new opportunities” line. Translation: “Unless this is a huge step up for me in terms of salary, responsibility, etc. I’m really not looking to make a move.” Don’t get me wrong it’s perfectly acceptable to not be open to making a lateral move at this point in your career.

My advice is based on two pieces of information: 1) They came to you; and 2) You’ve been offered the opportunity to work “outside the normal channels”.

Because they came to you, it’s obvious that the people in your industry “talk”, so it’s critical that you don’t give them anything negative to say.

Under no circumstances should you feign interest in the position and go through an entire interview process just to find out the salary. You will only succeed in wasting the time and efforts of a number of people who could make or break your next career move.

The opportunity to talk “outside normal channels” (translation: without going through HR) usually means the employer understands that this is a preliminary and exploratory conversation, which is typically less structured and formal than an “interview”.

Contact the Head of Business Development, and sit down over coffee. Explain, clearly and honestly, that you are not looking to make a lateral move, but that you are open to hearing how this vacancy may be superior to your current position. Be willing to discuss openly what it would take for you to seriously consider making a move, including money. In a setting like this, the Head of Business Development should be willing to at least talk about a “range”.

Head of Business Development should come to the meeting ready to sell you on the opportunity and the company. If you’re not interested by the time you’ve finished your second cup of coffee, you can politely explain that you don’t see a mutual benefit to your pursuing the opportunity at this time.

Leaving a positive impression on the Head of Business Development now may keep you on top of his/her mind when the bigger and better position that you really want becomes vacant.

Bridget Oakes is a Senior Search Consultant with Partners in Technology. With nearly 10 years experience in executive search and recruiting, she is well equipped to provide advice and guidance to candidates searching for new careers, and welcomes the opportunity to do so through Job Lounge.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

1 comment:

lifestyle said...

I think you got a great blog!! Thank you for that. I'm definitely going to add u to my favorite :)
I hope you can visit my blog at - MOH Loans and Banking