It sounds like a dream come true – you don’t search for a job, it comes to you. But how easy is it to get headhunted and is there anything you can do to improve your chances? We asked the experts for their advice on how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.
Be easy to find
It sounds obvious but if you want a headhunter to find you, make sure you’re easy to find. While headhunters go to great lengths to find the best person for the job they are busy people – and you’re more likely to make it to their shortlist if you are visible to them.
‘Headhunters use keyword searches on recruitment databases and on LinkedIn to find suitable candidates,’ explains Corinne Mills, Managing Director of Personal Career Management.
‘For example, they may search for terms associated with the role – and then drill down to experience and location. If you want your name to surface in their candidate search results, your CV or profile needs to contain the relevant keywords they are searching for.’
One way to check that you’re using the right terms – and get an idea of who you’re competing against – is to search for relevant keywords and see who comes up on LinkedIn.
‘You don’t necessarily want to put exactly what others have (and clichés like “team player” are to be avoided) – instead, look for what, if anything makes them stand out more than you,’ advises Clare Whitmell, who blogs on careers at www.JobMarketSuccess.com.
Headhunters are briefed to find established people who are the best in their field – as well as the rising stars of tomorrow. While you need to be great at what you do, it’s no good being the best if no one knows about your achievements.
‘One way to raise your profile is to put yourself forward for industry awards or start a blog, positioning yourself as an expert in your sector,’ suggests Clare.
Just be aware that you’ll need to back up any claims.
‘Aim to impress but remember that you do need to substantiate any boasts as they will check their veracity with your employer and other people who know you,’ warns Corinne.
Candidates who stand out build their reputation within their profession and sector, not just their organisation.
That means networking outside your company, joining professional forums, attending conferences, writing articles, blogs, and tweets and giving presentations at industry events.
‘Headhunters looking for suitable candidates will often contact key people in the field to see if they can recommend anyone they should talk to,’ says Corinne.
‘Clearly the better networked you are, and the more highly other people think of you, the greater the chances that your name will be passed to headhunters.’
Corinne also suggests getting involved with anything that is leading edge in your industry, whether it is new technologies, legislation or ways of working. ‘This will give you extra kudos and mark you out as someone to watch.’
Clean up your ‘footprint’
Phil Sharp, Managing Director of Executive Head hunters told me the story of how a human resource director of a large business called him to discuss a new headhunting project they needed urgent help with, after deciding at the last minute to withdraw an offer from a candidate for an MD role.
Were his references unsuitable? Did he mess up his final stage interview? No – they had checked his Twitter account as part of their final stage checks.
‘It turned out that they had located and checked the candidate’s personal Twitter account and trawled back through his tweets. These included several foul mouthed tweets between him and his friends relating to football,’ explains Phil.
‘Probably easily dismissed as “banter” were it to happen in the pub but as the HR Director told me, “The MD is our major brand ambassador and we can’t have anything negative associated with our MD and by association our brand in the public domain. Putting ‘views my own’ on your profile shouldn’t replace common sense.”
A sober warning – and one worth remembering.
Show your face
While online sites, if used carefully, are invaluable for networking, don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face meetings.
‘Make time to attend conferences, exhibitions and industry events,’ advises Corinne.
‘Headhunters will often attend so that they can keep abreast of what is happening in the sector, talk to employers and be on the look at for individuals who may be of interest to them – so be ready with your business cards.’
Equally, get to know who the main headhunters are in your field.
‘Invest time in building a relationship with them – if you’re not ready to move yourself, that might mean offering them work to find a candidate in your team or putting forward names for roles to help them fill current openings,’ suggests Clare.
Even if you’re not actively looking, regularly meeting for coffee will keep you on the radar – and when that perfect opening should arise, your name may well be at the top of the list.
Image: © kritiya – Fotolia.com