Nine Ways To Get Yourself Headhunted in HR

by Alan Collins –

The best HR recruiters, headhunters and executive search firms pride themselves on being able to find you.

The problem is they never seem to call when you MOST want to be found.

So what do you do if you want to get headhunted?

Well, you can reach out and start contacting them yourself. But, that’s typically what most desperate, out-of-work HR candidates do…which isn’t a great strategy if you want to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

As an alternative, here are nine ways to turn the tables and make headhunters come to you.

1. Become more visible.

An HR director colleague of mine has been headhunted three times in the last two years. Her formula is brain dead simple: she made an effort to be visible and social.

She’d go to all the local SHRM meetings, HR lunchtime seminars or conferences in her city and the ‘burbs and simply talk to people.

When she really decided to become serious about putting her skills on the market, she targeted the seminars that recruitment consultants had sponsored.

Her favorite strategy was to make sure her name, title and organization were on all of the attendance lists of events…since many headhunters scan these for contacts.

2. Make your voice heard.

Next time you go to an HR industry event, try to secure a speaking slot either giving a presentation or by participating as a panelist, whatever it takes to get listed in the event’s directory.

You can also offer yourself as a substitute speaker — speakers often pull out at the last minute. Public speaking is a brilliant way of being included on the hit list.

Recruiters often sneak in to these functions and make contact with prolific people in HR. So be sure to stay for a drink, chat and network afterwards.

3. Get your name in print.

With current technology, it’s never been easier to get quoted or written about.

HR industry blogs, websites and magazines like HR Magazine, Workforce, and HR Executive often look for HR experts to comment for articles on topics like talent management, health care cost containment, HR strategy and the like. Check out their websites to learn about their article requirements.

You can also write an articles in your company blog or by on own blog. This kind of blogging and micro-blogging (via Twitter) can increase your exposure to a wider audience and can help you build up a network within your HR specialty. The key here is to write about topics that will get read by the right people (in this case recruiters). Ensure that you include your name, title and company at the end of your piece to make it easy for the headhunter to look you up.

4. Pimp out your LinkedIn profile.

I’ve written about this before, but let me reiterate: LinkedIn is where most hungry recruiters hang out all day long and the good ones always keep an eye on the front page feed.

So make sure you’re all set up on LinkedIn. Polish up your profile. Get active in HR groups and discussions so you get noticed. Twist some arms and make sure you get plenty of recommendations from some heavy hitters in HR and you will get straight on the recruiter radar.

Another tip: Join your college alumni network on LinkedIn. Headhunters may look for alumni recommendations for candidate leads or to get information on someone they already have their eye on, so it helps if you are in contact with former classmates. Joining online alumni groups on LinkedIn can put you in touch with other alumni.

5. Get active on Twitter.

Yes, I’ve written about Twitter before too. But headhunters love Twitter as a tool for quickly posting new HR jobs in the marketplace. Finding HR jobs on Twitter takes very little effort. Follow the recruiters you know have the positions you want, by using the Twitter search box for your HR specialty + recruiter + your location.

Get on their radar screen by retweeting of their tweets and providing them with potential referrals. Before you know it, they will check out your online bio and will want to find out more about you as well. This requires you to have an employee friendly Twitter profile, clearly stating what you do and a link to your Linkedin profile.

6. Stay employed.

I know this sounds callous if you are out of a job. But let’s face it: you are a far more attractive target for a headhunter if you’re holding down a day job.

It’s partly a mind game in that if you’re not working, there’s a reason for it, even though everyone knows great people who are out of work.

It’s also partly an inkling that if you’re out of a job, you’re desperate and will take anything. You are therefore less attractive than someone who wouldn’t. Think of it as a bit like dating!

7. Don’t wait until you’re looking for a new job to connect with headhunters.

If someone calls you from an executive search firm to ask your perspective on someone you’ve worked with in the past, be helpful, return the phone call…and use it as an opportunity to connect with the headhunter.

Those things are appreciated and remembered. Being able to put forward potential candidates for a job demonstrates your own expansive network – and you’re helping them do their job. Sooner or later, they will be considering you for an opportunity because your name is always the first one that springs to mind.

Treat any cold call you get from a headhunter as if you’ve just been hit with a lawsuit and respond to it that same day. If you’re busy doing your day job, it’s easy to blow off their call. Don’t.

8. Get referred.

Having friends in high places who can vouch for your professional ability can help establish your credibility with a headhunter.

Even if you are not exactly what the recruiter is looking for, they will be interested in you have come recommended by somebody they respect.

It’s easier than you think to get referred as recruiters pester their candidates asking for referrals all the time. If you make it known to your contacts that you are interested in exploring the marketplace, they will be very happy to tell the recruiter as it gives them future kudos.

To make yourself seem more sought after, pretend that the referral was made without your knowledge and you “weren’t actively looking for job, but will listen to what they have to offer”.

9. Recruit inside your company.

Get yourself involved in the internal recruitment at your company. By working with your talent acquisition team, they will introduce you to the external recruitment partners they use.

BIG caution: This is very sensitive for the search partner, but if you send out the right signals, the sooner or later he or she will probe you about your career. Sometimes they can actually help you directly. But most times it will have to be more discreet (involving a 3rd party) due to their contractual obligations with your current company not to poach existing talent.

The point is that once the external recruiter knows and has built a relationship with you, they will be able to help you in one way or another.

Recruiting internally is also very useful to for understanding exactly how headhunters operate and how the HR hiring process works in general at other organizations.


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