In the middle of a busy Wednesday afternoon a couple of years ago, I received a cold call from a head hunter. Would I be interested in applying for an opening “in the corporate department of a leading national firm”?

After much cajoling, she divulged (almost as if she was letting out a state secret) the name of the firm; but she had very little to add in terms of the partner(s) looking to recruit, the key practice areas, the firm’s expectations from the candidate, etc. Even the experience requirement was a broad range of 3-6 years. The lack of any qualitative information about the job opening was starkly juxtaposed against pointed questions regarding my current remuneration, notice period, etc.

Being reasonably satisfied in my current role, and not being particularly enthused by what I was hearing, I concluded the call by saying that I’ll mull over the opportunity and call back if interested. She called the following afternoon to inform me that this firm are very interested in my profile. I got an ambiguous answer when I asked how the firm knew about my profile when I hadn’t made up my mind about applying, let alone sharing my cv.

In any case, I thought this may be worth a shot. So I spent a good part of the weekend preparing my cv and covering letter for this opening that I knew very little about; and I was informed that I will be interviewed on Friday morning.

All prepared and ready, I was 10 minutes away from this firm’s office when the head hunter called to say that the partners were busy and we needed to re-schedule the interview. Disappointing as that was for a number of reasons, I had no choice but to play along. Having invested time, I waited for the next appointment. Almost unbelievably, this second appointment got cancelled in a similar manner just as I was about to reach the firm’s office.

In my frustration and disappointment, I made a few personal inquiries through friends and acquaintances and learnt that the firm was not really looking to recruit someone like me at that point in time. All my interactions were with a head hunter and not the firm, which meant that I had wasted time and energy on a role that didn’t exist.

After exchanging notes with friends, I learnt that it is not uncommon for head hunters to initiate speculative contact in order to build their database, show proactivity to clients (even if they are not necessarily interested), and share the profile around in a hope that it may find traction in some organization, even if not the one initially disclosed as “the leading national law firm”.

I realised that this self-serving behaviour of some head hunters can have potential disastrous consequences for candidates and I was lucky to escape relatively unscathed.

Whoops, looks like something went wrong.