Article 3: Getting noticed by executive headhunters

There comes a time for many executives when the most likely source of alternative career options is via a headhunter. If your next role is in the hands of a search firm, how do you get ahead of the pack? Here are 10 ways…

1. Enhance your visibility

One of the most effective ways of being identified as a talent is to participate actively within your sector. Speaking at events or conferences, writing articles or being quoted in relevant articles all increase your visibility.

2. Be recognised for your success

The more recognisably successful you are, the more likely it is you’ll be approached by a search firm. People who stand out are easier to find. Viewing yourself as successful is not quite enough; what matters is what other people think i.e. your colleagues, former colleagues, competitors. Are there enough people out there who will recommend you and suggest your name if they are asked their opinion?

3. Be widely known as an expert

Although the cultural fit between an individual and a future employer will be a crucial element of the recruitment decision, most executive search consultants will be seeking individuals with specific skills and experience. If you’re acknowledged as being an expert or specialist, you clearly have a greater chance of being identified.

4. Network consistently

Many people talk about networking, fewer actually do much about it. Networking effectively across your industry is a powerful way to increase your chances of being noticed. Make an effort to stay in touch with talented and well-connected colleagues and reach out to new contacts who can be helpful in establishing your status and assisting your search.

5. Invest in your network for the long term

The most successful networkers invest in their professional relationships consistently and over a long duration. Such behaviour is far more genuine and more likely to reward you than the short-term and unconvincing ‘suddenly enthusiastic at networking’ attempt that some professionals end up trying when they need a job.

6. Social networking

LinkedIn, other social networking sites and search engines have changed some elements of the executive search process. Whilst the traditional approach remains valid, modern recruiters will also use an array of online tools as part of their research process. As a result, you should build yourself a compelling social media presence profile. Be sure to ensure too that any of your articles, industry comments and/or PR is visible online.

7. Executive search vs executive recruitment

Executive recruitment consultants, the people who helped you earlier in your career, tend to work on a relatively high volume of roles and rely on a database of candidates, advertising and networking to ‘fill jobs’ as they arise. This type of recruiter is easier to contact and engage with, as they may be trying to build a large and varied talent pool and they will be happy for you to be part of their database until they have something suitable to present to you as a career option.

8. Don’t call us, we’ll call you

Genuine executive search campaigns are intended to find the best possible talent for a specific role and then persuade the most appropriate individuals to consider the role. Whether or not someone is actively seeking to change jobs is normally irrelevant. The norm is for the consultant to call you and this partly explains why you might not find it quite as easy as you’d like to get in touch with them.

The best executive search professionals are specialists. If you are highly relevant to their expertise, they are therefore likely to be happy to talk to you and or meet you. If you are not of direct relevance to them and/or they are not handling a suitable mandate, you may find that they politely explain that they will struggle to find a slot to meet you.

9. Use a search firm for your own recruitment

One of the easiest ways of developing a relationship with an executive search firm is to use them to recruit for you.

The strongest professional relationships are often those that are truly beneficial to both parties. If you have discovered a search firm relevant for your own career development, contact them when you are hiring. For sure they will take your call then! If you are known to that firm they may well contact you again on a future search.

Conflicts of interest and ‘off limits’ protocols are taken very seriously by professional search firms and this does limit some of the effectiveness of this approach. Nevertheless, if you are keen to invest in long-term relationships, this approach can often be successful.

10. Are you a client or a candidate?

For most people, the answer to this question is both, but not always at the same time.

Executive search consultants frequently end up placing people that they have met as clients and also work for clients they first meet as candidates. It is worth remembering that a talented recruiter may well be able to help your career as well as helping you find talent for your organisation.

If, in the past, you had decided not to take a call from a recruiter in case they were looking for business, be aware that they might not take your call when you are looking for a job. The same is true in reverse, of course, so the best advice for all of us is to take the time to communicate with each other.

And to conclude…

The best way forward is therefore to take a long-term approach to build strong, mutually-beneficial relationships with colleagues and key recruiters, to remain highly visible and to ensure that your key skills and achievements are in the public domain. If you are seeking a fresh challenge offshore, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

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