How to attract the attention of a Headhunter

There are many ways of getting a new job; if you are actively looking for a job you are replying to job adverts, trying to contact recruiters in companies that you want to join, and you are also working with a few agencies. If you already have a job and you are not looking for a new career opportunity, you will probably receive a few emails and calls throughout the year from agency/company recruiters and headhunters regarding a position they need to be filled.

But how can you get a job that a company is not advertising on its career page?

The best way is to be visible to headhunters. And by visibility I don’t mean that you are on LinkedIn – you don’t need to be on there in order to be visible, not all Top A players are there. For example, Jonathan Ive is not on LinkedIn, neither are many others like him; they don’t need to be there because their reputation and achievements speak for themselves; these qualities make them visible on the market.

The recruitment industry is changing every year, but if a company is looking for a Top A player to match some amazing opportunity that they have, they will use internal recruitment team or a headhunter, not a typical agency recruiter (it’s not a rule). Some vacancies are only filled in this way, they are not posted on any job board, LinkedIn or career page, the companies try to keep them secret for many reasons, and when they are trying to secure Top A players, that’s when they cooperate with headhunters/executive firms. And for candidates that is sometimes the only way to secure this kind of job.

Note: There are many recruiters (either agencies or freelancers) who consider themselves as headhunters or agencies offering a “headhunter service”. But they are only contacting candidates though LinkedIn. Many articles on the Internet explaining the difference between a recruiter vs headhunter, so check for yourself and establish your own opinion about this difference. In this article I am talking about headhunters and executive firms, not about typical agency recruiters. And I am not saying that in “typical agencies” there are no good recruiters performing headhunting to a good level.

What is the best way to avoid missing out on the best career opportunities?

Put yourself online

Many headhunters start their search by creating a long list of candidates after checking LinkedIn and other sources like Google. So if you want to be searchable, keep your profile open and updated. Keep it clean and interesting, and double-check to ensure that your Facebook profile is not closed and that your Twitter account is not full of information about parties and other non-work related information. Modern ATS’s (application tracking systems) have an option to pair your registration with your other social accounts; you don’t want to be in a situation where your “mean tweets” are the first thing that a recruiter is going to see.

You may be a Top A player, but it is still important that your skills and qualities are recognized beyond your department, your company or your organization. Joining LinkedIn is a great step, but if your network has 100 connections and 80% of them are your colleagues, nobody is going to notice the great things you are doing. Choose to participate in LinkedIn groups or give presentations on forums and in conferences.

Be the best in your field

Don’t just be an average worker, excel in your field. Because if you want to be noticed by executive firms and headhunters, it is important that you are considered to be amongst the top professionals within your industry in your job role.  Don’t forget: you are not going the extra mile every single day for your boss or your colleagues, you are doing it for yourself. If you excel in your field, you are making an indelible impact and you are going to be recognized: you are the driving force of your own career. And it’s always great to challenge yourself, for example if you are a recruiter and you set a personal record of nineteen hires per month, try to better it in the future, you may not necessarily beat your own record and move the bar higher, but you will learn something new during the process, and you will enhance your reputation by improving the way that you work. Or you will succeed one day and you will have twenty-one hires per month. Success begins at the extra mile!

“Do what today others won’t, so tomorrow, you can do what others can’t.”
– Brian Rogers Loop

Get your name into print

One of the interesting tactics that will bring you visibility in conferences is to make sure that your name, position and your company name is visible on event attendance lists. Almost every headhunter scans these lists for contacts and tips on new candidates. You can check for yourself that every major event has a website with a list of speakers.

Attending conferences or becoming a speaker is a great way to increase your network, but also a great way to stay involved in trends in your field.

Be your own best brand

Think of yourself as a brand and figure out what makes you a great hire. Try to think of what makes you unique and the value you can bring to any organization. Start promoting this value, it will help headhunters to find you and let them know why you are going to be a valuable asset for their client. You own your career and you are the only person responsible for it so make yourself known.

Be active online

When you join LinkedIn don’t forget to join and participate in professional groups as much as you can so that others can see that you understand the field – or be active some other way, such as writing articles or comment posting, or by sharing something interesting. The same advice goes for Twitter and other social sites. Don’t forget, you are building your brand so think twice about posting something online that could hurt your brand!

“Doing nothing gets you nothing.”
– Sean Reichle

Build your network and get recommended

The best way to get you on the headhunters’ radar is to be recommended by someone they respect. The greater the number of people who know your name, the greater the chance that a headhunter will get to hear about you.

But networking is not about getting to know as many people as possible, it’s about getting to know the right people.

Get endorsements from senior people, influencers and authorities in your industry who can provide referrals about your professional ability and establish your credibility. If you are going to be recommended by people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk etc., I am pretty sure you will receive new job offers within a few days.

Take action

Headhunters and executive search firms have databases of potential candidates and if you want the recruiters to know you exist you need to be on their records – but don’t send your resume directly. Find a few headhunters from your field, connect with them on LinkedIn and ask them for a consultation about the market. Don’t tell them “Hey, I’m here, find me a new job.” ask them for a meeting, invite them for a coffee and find out what is new on the market. Introduce yourself, but don’t email your resume to lots of headhunters. They prefer to work with you exclusively. It’s always better to have a small number of good ones in your network rather than hundreds of average ones.

Be candid

Trust between a headhunter and yourself is important. Any kind of dishonesty will kill your relationship with a headhunter immediately, and this could lead to a situation where you will lose not only the current opportunity that they have for you but also any future opportunities. So if you are not able to attend the meeting with the company that a headhunter has scheduled for you, or you are not interested in the opportunity any more, be open and tell the headhunter before the meeting; always be candid!

“Be candid with everyone.”
– Jack Welch

Be open to meetings

If you are working in a field such as engineering, you are probably getting lots of calls and e-mails every week with an offer to meet. If you always say yes, you will only ever be meeting recruiters and never be doing anything else. So if you get a call from headhunter, check his profile on LinkedIn ore check references, what he is doing and whether he is the right person who knows your field. If you get an invitation for a coffee from an experienced headhunter in your field, say yes. You will get a free coffee, but you will also get useful information about salaries and other news in your industry.

Good headhunters are not going to push or convince you to take the new job, they will offer you an opportunity to build a relationship with them, because they know that even if they can’t place you with their client today, they may be able to do that in the future. Plus, you may be able to recommend them somebody who could be a fit for the role that they are trying to fill.

And don’t forget to maintain a good relationship with the experienced headhunter once you do get in contact with one. Just as important as getting on their radar is staying on it. If you build a good relationship with them, they will call you from time to time to ask you for referrals and tips, these are highly appreciated and always remembered. If you’re perceived as helpful, people will try to help you. You might not be looking for a new career opportunity right now, but it’s always good to keep in touch with a headhunter because you never know when you may be looking for an opportunity. The essence of getting onto the ‘radar’ is to become visible.

Be so good that they can’t ignore you!