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7 Tips For Getting On a Headhunter’s Radar

Here at Experteer we created the model of getting headhunters online in a marketplace where they track down senior level candidates and contact them in a discrete fashion. But from a candidate’s perspective, the question still remains: in a marketplace of millions of candidates, how can you make yourself stand out as a prime candidate to contact? Here are 7 practical tips for getting on a headhunter’s radar.

7 tips for getting on a headhunter’s radar

How many times this last year have you been approached about making an executive career move? By which I mean a recruiter has contacted you individually, believing you to be a great fit for a role they are looking to fill?

This has traditionally been called headhunting – and it’s an element of recruiting that’s grown exponentially in the last years. Put simply, if you’re not getting these unsolicited approaches about career openings, there’s a whole segment of the job market that is currently closed off to you. Below some tips to help you address this, but first let’s quickly understand what’s changed…

How Headhunting has become more widespread

Go back in time just 10 years and headhunting was reserved solely for C-Level openings. A prestigious headhunting firm would be called upon to research the very best candidates in the market for a particular opening – and then to approach those executives directly to see if they’d be open to a career move. Names like Heidrick & Struggles and Korn Ferry were synonymous with headhunting.

New social technologies like LinkedIn and people aggregators (for instance, Experteer’s online platform) have completely changed this. Now recruiters within big corporations can research the candidate market themselves – and reach out to potential candidates directly. Whilst not as comprehensive or professional a search as a true headhunting firm might undertake, these searches now make up an increasing proportion of all hires within the executive market. Many are for roles that will never be openly advertised, so you’ll never know about these opportunities unless the recruiter finds and contacts you directly.

This broader definition of headhunting has expanded massively over the last few years and that’s why it’s key for executives to take some simple steps that’ll help improve their visibility.

7 Tips for Getting on a Headhunter’s Radar

  1. Be specific and detailed on your candidate profile.

A headhunting assignment will start with the recruiter identifying potential candidates in the market who hold the exact skills and experience profile that the business has requested. You can think of this as the recruiter’s “wish list”. This could include your qualifications, industries you’ve operated in, exposure to different technologies, clients you’ve worked with, the size of your network… It should be self-evident that to get a call, you firstly have to match the recruiter’s “wish list” and you secondly have to make it easy for the recruiter to spot the fit between you and the role by making this information public.

A key element of this is ensuring your candidate profile shows up in relevant searches – and to do this it must present a detailed, accurate picture of who you are and what you do. A headhunter who is reading through your profile should be able to readily identify: your core strengths, responsibilities and role (since the same position can differ greatly by company) as well as industry sub-groups or specializations that you have experience in. A good practice is to list this information in a “Specialties” section at the bottom of your summary while writing them into the “Skills” section as well. The more these key words appear in your profile, the higher you will rank in relevant searches. Pay special attention to your profile headline because it can be the most valuable part of your profile in this respect.

  1. Include company profiles for each employer.

Headhunters may look for candidates who work or have worked in certain companies or in companies that have a similar company structure and environment to their business (or their client’s business). If the position involves working with various company branches or subsidiaries, then the headhunter might target their search for individuals with experience working at a national, multi-state, or parent company.

Include a brief, 2-3 sentence description of each employer in your work history that provides an at-a-glance overview of the company. What does the company do? Who does their customer base comprise of? Is the business local or does it expand to other locations and states? Does it have a special designation, such as a Fortune 500?

Don’t take your experience for granted. This information could get you a call quicker than your competition and you want to make it as readily available to recruiters as possible.

  1. Join the conversation.

Think about the last time you heard a stranger say something interesting. Did you want to know more about them or listen to what else they had to say? The same curiosity motivates headhunters to investigate professionals as prospective candidates. Accept and seek out offers to speak at industry events. Be quoted in news publications. Make a point to contribute to online group discussions. Publish your own LinkedIn blog (Twitter tip: If you send a tweet to @LinkedInPulse with the title and link to your post, your chances of going viral will increase. LinkedIn monitors that account closely to look for interesting articles to share with its user base.). Follow industry hashtags and participate in chats on Twitter.

Taking these steps to establish yourself as an expert in your field will show headhunters that you not only have the experience, but you have the expertise they are looking for as well. Personal branding is no longer a buzz word; rather, it is a modern-day principle of career strategy.

  1. Always take a headhunter’s call.

Even if you aren’t interested in a career move right now, being open to discussing the opportunity they have available will allow you to provide them with a better understanding of your expertise as well as ambitions. It will also increase the likelihood that they will call you about new openings in the future. That initial 15-20 minute phone conversation could result in great career opportunities and fast-tracked career progression down the line.

  1. Pay it forward.

Become an advocate for your “rock star” junior associates. You know who these individuals are in your organization. You may have even looked at them and thought to yourself, “That person is going to really soar in their career.”

Remarkable employees will find a way to excel wherever they are. Assisting in their growth early on in their careers is a great way to engage them in their current role at your company while positioning yourself as a mentor which can pay off for you in the future. You never know when they will be in a position to return the favor. Many headhunters formerly worked in the fields that they now recruit in. The inside knowledge they possess from experiencing a profession and industry first hand is invaluable – and the more you have chosen to “pay it forward” in your career, the more likely you are to be known to them or to be referred to them.

  1. Always be networking.

Headhunters are experts at asking for referrals. In fact, clients often hire them specifically for their existing professional network and networking abilities. If, say, a hospital system is looking for a Director of Nursing, they are going to be more interested in the recruiter with strong hospital and healthcare connections than one whose rolodex is concentrated in other industries.

When speaking with people in their networks, headhunters will frequently ask who they know with the professional profile they are looking for. The more effective you have been at staying in contact with your university and business school alumni, former colleagues and clients, the more often your name is likely to be recommended.

  1. Don’t let a new headhunter miss you.

A seasoned headhunter is skilled at listening for nuances that reveal what the client truly wants beyond a list of skills. They develop rating systems to evaluate the candidate’s strength in the areas that are most critical to the client and role. They have developed an instinctive ability to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills as well.

If they have successfully worked with the client in the past, then their opinion carries more clout. The client is more likely to overlook a candidate shortcoming if the headhunter endorses them for an interview. Experience is only part of a headhunter’s equation for a great candidate. Their goal is to find the best talent for the job so that their client only needs to interview a handful of contenders.

However, not all executive recruiters are this experienced. Some are relatively new to recruiting. They haven’t yet earned that trust and so they may only pursue candidates whose online and professional presence reflects the client’s “wish list.”  If your public persona doesn’t offer them a complete view of your key skills and specific experience, you may never get a call. Which brings us full circle – back to the importance of your LinkedIn and social media presence.

Concluding Remarks 

Many executives still think of headhunting in terms of the traditional old headhunting firms – and therefore assume this is only relevant to those trying to secure the very top positions in major global businesses. If you’re not taking steps to be noticed by the modern day headhunter, you’re missing out on opportunities in your industry. Follow the tips above and you’ll have taken a great step towards addressing this. Good luck.