The completion of an executive search assignment can often take several months, with many steps between initial contact and the ultimate hiring of the successful candidate.

To make the right decision, you need to know as much as possible about the search firm you are talking to, the position and the client organisation. This ultimately requires full and open disclosure regarding:

* The nature and requirements of the position

* The compensation package

* Whether relocation is required

* Pertinent information regarding the client organisation.

Be aware, however, that during your first conversation, when you are still being evaluated as a potential candidate for the position, the search consultant is under no obligation to divulge confidential information about the position or the client.

Only after you have been identified as a legitimate candidate should you expect the consultant to disclose more than the most basic information.

Even then, there are times when certain information about the client must remain confidential until the final stages of the search process.

Timely feedback

Once you become an active candidate, the search firm should communicate with you in a timely and proactive manner.

Based on his understanding of the position and the client’s needs, the search consultant should give you an honest appraisal and inform you immediately should the client decide not to proceed with your candidacy.

Integrity

Successful placements happen when the candidate has the time to make a measured, well thought-out decision. For this reason, the search consultant should never try to hurry your decision or put undue pressure on you to accept an offer.

However, the consultant should keep you informed of any deadlines imposed by the client and the implications of not making a decision by those deadlines.

The best search consultants strive for more than just filling the position for their client; they want to help you make the best decision for yourself and your career. If you have doubts at any point, be open with the consultant and discuss your concerns.

Doing your part

The executive search process is not a one-way street. Although you have the right to expect courteous, professional treatment from the search consultant and the client, there are a number of things you can do to facilitate the process and advance your standing.

Be honest. Under no circumstances should you inflate your resum�, misrepresent your work history or “hold some cards back”. Also, be genuine about your interest (or lack of it) in the position. Complete and accurate disclosure by the candidate is an essential element in the search process.

Here are some tips to ensure a positive experience if you are headhunted:

* Have realistic expectations. Understand that the process takes time and that you will be one of several qualified candidates.

* Negotiate in good faith. Do not lead search consultants to believe you are negotiating only with them if you are considering offers from more than one organisation.

* Be open to career interests and growth opportunities outside your current role and duties.

* Use this opportunity to understand the market and listen to the consultant’s perspective on your potential.

Above all, do not think you have a “done deal” just because you develop a close relationship with the search consultant. Remember that the consultant’s job is to present the most suitable candidates to the client, and it is the client who makes the ultimate decision.

You get headhunted because of your reputation, track record, and probably because someone in your industry/circle thinks highly of you. It is a privileged position to be in.

Enjoy the process. It might set you off on a new adventure.