Getting yourself headhunted

Written by
Changeboard Team

23 Aug 2010

23 Aug 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Executive search world is changing

The world of executive search has definitely been changing. Whereas recruiters at this level have historically relied on a small network of contacts and recommendations to fill assignments at a senior level, the methodology is now being used to fill more positions at mid-management level.

The growth of social media use for business, and a new technology led era of connectivity and networking, has made it possible for more aspiring HR professionals to be contacted than previously was possible. You cant sit back and wait for a call, e-mail or messageyou have be more pro-active.

Here are five things that you can start doing now to improve your chances of getting approached.

Get good at what you do

If you want to be headhunted then you will need to be good at what you do. A lot of people will do some of the things that I mention later and hope that the approaches will follow. They may do, but it is unlikely that they will be followed up unless you are good at what you do, have people who will vouch for you being good at what you do, and have the presence and gravitas to add value to your next role.

My first piece of advice is to really get on top of your current role, make a difference and get people talking about how effective you are. Theres little point in hoping to be approached for a great new role if you arent making the most of the one you already have.

Build your network

You need people to talk about you and to know who you are. In the past this would have taken half a career to achieve! Keeping in touch with people you worked with before, meeting new contacts, sharing ideas and information, letting people know what you were working on, when youd been promoted, when that project youve spent a year on has finally paid gold for your company, all of this meant phone calls, evenings in pubs (were talking pre-coffee shops here!) and numerous networking events.

Of course this is much easier to achieve now by using the platforms of Social Media! Any HR professional with aspirations needs to have a profile on Linked In. A clear profile with information on your specialisms, achievements, major projects and some personal information that tells others a little about you. And a picture! Seriously, its been proven many times that profiles with pictures get searched and contacted more often.

You also need connections and recommendations. Make sure that you are linked to as many ex-colleagues as you canthey are often your best advocates! Also link to people that you meet along the way such as suppliers, advisors, consultants, coaches, mentors and even that person you couldnt get away from at last weeks HR conference! You need to be in as many networks as you can to be visible to recruiters, headhunters and talent specialists.

Raise your profile

Youre a top performer; youre connected to a lot of people who will vouch for youwhat next? You need to be known to a much wider audience.

Here you can mix the old methods with the new fangled social media ones. Theres no better way of improving your visibility than by networking in person. You should try to find a mix of networking events, seminars and conferences that are relevant to you sector and specialisms, as well as your geographical location, and attend. Ask questions, be prepared to share your thoughts during open discussions, and hang around for a drink afterwards.

Always be willing to contribute and dont be afraid to offer yourself as a speaker or facilitatorthere is now a very different approach to learning at these events and dont assume that you need to be recognized as an expert or thought leader to share your experiences and insights. One of the quickest ways to become known is to be heard! And read. So make sure that you connect with any journalists that are there and be ready to be quoted.

Social Media will offer you a host of new ways to get noticed but I think that there are 2 key ones that every HR professional should be using.

Social media rewards

Firstly LinkedIn groups. You will have noticed a number of groups being set up on LinkedIn that relate to many different sectors, specializations, interests, industries and locations and you need to join in. Add your name to every group that may be relevant, follow all the discussions and add your voice to them. Answer questions and contribute to debates, share you thoughts and insights and people will not only notice you but will also begin to seek out your help or advice.

Secondly you should follow as many HR blogs as you can. Read them, digest them and comment on them. The more people that you interact with, the more that will know about you, and the more that know about you, your skills and knowledge, will lead to more people being able to recommend you.

Without trying to sound like a social media evangelist, I cant stress highly enough how the various platforms and interactions enable the modern HR professional to be seen and heard. But one word of warning, you need to engage. Social media rewards the active participant but the passive participant can easily be passed by.

First impressions count

Sad but true, if you are going to be approached then you need to be prepared to make a strong first impression in all your interactions.

Interviews, networking, speaking and writing are all actions that will help you get noticed by a headhunter, but dont always come naturally to us. Be prepared to invest in some coaching or mentoring to help you in terms of presentation and appearance, interview technique and CV writing. There are many capable coaches out there who will be able to help you; dont be afraid to ask for recommendations from people you trust and admire.

Speak to recruiters

Ultimately it will be a recruiter who will probably make the first approach. It pays to keep in touch with a select few to ensure that you are top of mind when the ideal brief comes through.

A recruiter will often be judged by a client on the strength of their network, and what access they have to key talent, so it will be in their interest to keep in touch with you. It would help if you are someone who works with them and not just uses them to find out about the next opportunity.

Initially I would select 3 or 4 individuals who have come recommended to you. Try to speak to individual headhunters rather than ring a company on spec. A good consultant or researcher will always make time for someone who has been referred by a trusted contact, so get in touch and ask for advice. When you meet, make sure that you prepare as if you were going for an interview, even if you are just meeting speculatively to chat about your skills and the market.

Do your research on the headhunter

They will probably have a fairly detailed LinkedIn profile that will give you a feel for the type of work they do, and quite possibly recommendations from clients. Show an interest in what they do and be someone who is able to offer potential contacts and information. Being able to recommend good people shows that you too have a strong network, and a recruiter will always keep top of mind someone who is able to help them put the best people in front of their clients.

It will probably only be a matter of time until you are one of them.