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I get requests/offers from IT headhunters from time to time. Now, a headhunter called me an "expert" in my field. I'm maybe a senior, but not an expert. I'm unsure how to handle this, and I don't want to lose a potentially awesome opportunity.

Question:

Can I request an "expert"-salary and can I act like an "expert" in a potential job interview ? Or is it just a normal thing that headhunters call everybody "expert" to get warm with them ?

The headhunter has an IT background and seems to be highly educated (Bachelor/Master) in Marketing.

closed as primarily opinion-based by IDrinkandIKnowThings, Jan Doggen, Blrfl, Jim G., gnat Jan 14 '14 at 16:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    What does 'act like an "expert"' mean? If you are an expert, then just being yourself is 'acting like an expert'; if you're not an expert, then no amount of acting is going to make you one... – AakashM Jan 14 '14 at 14:32
  • @AakashM I totally agree, but the definition of what a junior, senior or "expert", CTO is and what he/she does is totally different in each company. I've seen amateurs being CTOs (and being paid like that), but there also lots of IT superstars who work/earn way below their possibilities. Selling yourself to CTOs/HR is - unfortunately - very successful. – Sliq Jan 14 '14 at 14:47
  • If you try and "fake" being and expert and you really aren't you are going to "have a bad time" Basically you would be misrepresenting yourself and it will catch up to you sooner or later and you may find yourself laid off or fired. – Bill Leeper Jan 14 '14 at 15:37
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    @BillLeeper Oh, pish. Often the difference between who's perceived as an expert and who's really an expert is marketing/confidence. I can give you examples of people who literally "wrote the book" on certain subjects where if you read the book it's clear there are big gaps in what they know. Are they experts, or are they not? The answer, of course, is yes. Once you reach a certain level, you are an expert, but you will always have gaps in your knowledge. The trick is reaching the level when you know what size gap is acceptable. – Amy Blankenship Jan 14 '14 at 20:56
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    @BillLeeper at some point, everyone who is perceived as an expert starts acting like an expert. There's not a really sharp dividing line where someone says "right, today I'm an expert." The Dunning-Kruger effect says that whether you're acting like an expert or not acting like an expert, you're very likely wrong to act whatever way you're acting ;) – Amy Blankenship Jan 15 '14 at 21:43
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Consider that a head hunter is unlikely to be intimately familiar with your field of work to actually be able to tell whether a person in that field is a junior, senior or expert. All they can do is make a judgement call based on what is on your CV - your experience and what you have listed on it.

Even someone who is in your field of work will need to actually interview you, in depth, before they can make this determination.

In view of this - take everything a head hunter tells you about your skills and level of expertise with a grain of salt.

A head hunter is trying to sell you a job - making you feel good about yourself is part of that.

  • "A head hunter is trying to sell you a job" -- and therein lies the nub of the issue. Don't misunderstand me - it's bad for the headhunter to get things greatly wrong, but they DO rely on making all parties feel engaged, important, and listed-to. It's very basic salesmanship. – gef05 Jan 15 '14 at 3:30
  • Oded I really like your posts, but please don't call a recrutier, headhunter. It's just not the same thing. – Bakudan May 13 '17 at 22:06
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Headhunters have a goal to be met. They either will get a bonus based on the targets met or a commission for each of the jobs vacancies they end up filling. Please remember that no job hunter will call you a novice at any point in time. If they did, they probably would never be able to fill up the vacancies. Having said that, I would consider the following things while applying for the job interview:

  • If I have knowledge which is gained through experience over a shorter period (say less than three years), I would not project myself as an expert to the interviewer.
  • If I have extensive knowledge about a particular technology, I would not mind mentioning the same. If you have a strength, you have to play by it, not underplay it.
  • Calling oneself an expert is more of a personal choice for me. A junior in a company might consider someone with 4 years of experience as an expert. The same expert might consider someone else as an expert.

I personally never call myself an expert at anything. I would rather say that I have extensive working experience in the field and let my answers for the questions show for themselves.

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