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Put a headhunter on your trail

James Houston

Monday, September 24, 2007

Headhunting. The word still evokes a certain sense of mystery. It could be because of the nature of the business, the discretion required on the part of those who use headhunters, both employees and employers, so as not to alert others to their intentions. Perhaps this is why the mechanics of headhunting remain inscrutable to many people who might directly benefit from the service the industry provides. For some, being headhunted is a good way to raise their stock in the eyes of their superiors. Other people see it as a good way to move up, increase their salary or get out of a less than desirable work situation. But whatever the reason, often the first question asked is, “How do I get headhunted?” There answer is really a two-parter: the direct approach and the indirect approach, which taken together can create a most effective strategy to getting yourself headhunted.

Terry Donnelly is Executive Vice President of Mandrake Management Consultants. Ask him how to get headhunted and he’ll tell you this: get to know a headhunter. For Donnelly, being proactive is the key. As he points out, “This is really a relationship business, and just like you’d want to have a good relationship with your accountant in case of a financial situation, the same goes for headhunters. When you know someone, then you can more easily trust their decisions and recommendations. So invest the time.”

The best way to find out who to contact is to ask your colleagues who are the key headhunters in your business, according to Donnelly. As he puts it, “Most long term practitioners in this field won’t miss the chance to have coffee with you.”  Once you’ve established contact, then the rest is really opportunity. “If you’ve got a good bio and a good background, and the firm you are dealing with specializes in what you do, you’ll get a call,” Donnelly says. And building a relationship is a two-way street, a chance to find out if the headhunter you are working with is right for you. “Just as you wouldn’t want a tax lawyer doing your corporate work, you don’t want a headhunter who really specializes in IT working with you if you are VP Marketing, obviously,” Donnelly says.

The other thing Donnelly stresses is keeping your contact information up to date. “You’d be amazed at how many people don’t do that. When you are VP of a company, you tend to expect people to come to you for this sort of thing. But what happens when you are no longer VP? People need to know how they can get to you. There are so many free services on line that allow you to put your information out there, and you absolutely have to do that,” he says.

For many reasons, not the least of which is sending your current employer the wrong message, many people are reluctant to contact a headhunter directly. If that is the case, there is still a lot you can do to increase your chances of getting that call. Essentially what you want to do is increase your profile and visibility however you can in the hopes that the right person will pick up on that and contact you for a relevant job.

Talk it Up
Let it be known that you are looking to change jobs. Put the word out to everyone in your network, from industry contacts and suppliers to friends and family.

Get Your Name Out There
If you get a chance to stick your name on something, do it, especially PR collateral. You can also try writing articles for industry specific publications and websites. The more times people see your name, the more likely it is to stick.

Be Seen
Really it is all about building your personal profile with your professional peers, and meeting them in the flesh is the best way to that. Join a professional organization, go to as many conferences, seminars and industry events as you can and network, network, network. Often headhunters are at theses events too, on the lookout for new talent. You can also network online through sites such as LinkedIn, Friendster or Facebook, which allow you to get your name out there with minimal effort.

On Line
Today many headhunters use the internet to search for appropriate candidates.  Use one of the many free sites such as to post your resumé and contact information and keep this information current at all times. Add your resumé to the ResuméDatabase on Many employers search the national database to quickly find their ideal candidate by keywords, location and key skills.

Make it Happen
So whether you are proactive and take the direct approach or just want to raise your visibility and hope to attract your attention, the real key to being headhunted is to remember that you are your reputation. If you do excellent work and maintain good relationships, word of mouth will travel and your CV will speak for itself, and who knows, you may just get that call for your dream job!