By Neil McCafferty
At some time or another most of us have dreamt of the phone call which will transport us from our daily office drudge to a world peppered with career challenges and commensurately substantial financial rewards. Yet, how do you transform yourself into a prospective employee so appealing that employers will be falling over themselves in their haste to secure your signature?
The answer is to catch the eye of that most significant and mysterious of individuals: the Executive Search consultant, more commonly known as the Headhunter.
Nowadays headhunting is no longer restricted to those earning massive salaries. The increasing need for specialist skills at middle and junior management levels, particularly within the broader financial services industry, dictates that competent individuals must be proactively unearthed, rather than relying on a response to the passive advert placed by a personnel agency in a financial weekly.
So, just how should you react the first time a headhunter approaches you?
If you’ve never had a spontaneous telephone call from a headhunter before, it can all seem somewhat flattering. Usually the headhunter will be rather discreet about leaving their name should their call switch to voicemail. One never knows who might be listening in on your calls or monitoring your email. Discretion works in both directions, so ensure you don’t abuse your employer’s email or telephones if you want your job-hunting activity to remain private.
Even if you’re perfectly content with your current role, few individuals can resist their natural curiosity to return the head-hunter’s call. And if you can’t figure just how they got your number, it is doubtful whether they will reveal that to you. It’s considered inappropriate to divulge sources. However, somebody who knows you, or knows of you by reputation, may have recommended you. It might even be the head-hunter’s client sounding out your possible candidacy.
Headhunters often have researchers who assist them. Astute researchers will discover your contact details from your employer’s switchboard operators, interrogate their own databases, comb through conference schedules for delegates and keynote speakers, scour press cuttings, search the Internet, even Google® your name!
Most importantly, try and be as helpful to the researcher as your time and work pressures permit. Being friendly, professional and cooperative costs little, and will ensure that one day YOU will be the first to be approached for that job-in-a-lifetime.
Remember, if you want to be headhunted, make sure people can find you!
The following ten-point guide might increase your chances of getting headhunted.
1. Strive to be the best in your field. This is the classic no-brainer. If you reach the top of your career field you will be flagged on all headhunters’ radars.
2. Increase visibility. Get yourself published, talk to the media, present material at conferences, sweat your network, and just get out and about. Most headhunters keep databases of who is quoted in the press; who is publishing professional articles; and who is presenting papers at conferences. They will also source recommendations from prominent industry personalities. To optimise your chances you simply have to be visible.
3. Chart your career. Well-respected universities and Graduate Business Schools do make a difference, especially for the younger candidate in the early stages of his / her career. Strive to join an employer noted for its training experience and endeavour to develop broad functional and sector expertise.
4. What’s your Emotional Intelligence? Many search firms believe that high emotional intelligence is the biggest differentiator of attractiveness in a candidate. It doesn’t matter how clever you are, if you’re missing a personality then you’ll remain on the shelf.
5. Become Internet savvy. Where appropriate, ensure that your profile and / or CV is available on your company’s website. Headhunters constantly scan through biographies found on the websites of organisations when searching for a prospective candidate. As an alternative develop your own website or blog.
6. Headhunt the Headhunter. Conduct research to determine which headhunters operate in your field and send them your CV. It really is a candidates’ market right now and no, it doesn’t look desperate. They will welcome your initiative.
7. Find yourself a Mentor. Being referred by a leading industry figure or specialist often means your CV will go straight to the top of the in-tray for consideration.
8. Prepare a Professional CV. This should comprise of a one-page executive summary and a two to three-page more detailed description of your career to date. Most headhunters will assist you with this upon request. And it’s free!
9. Remember the basics. Keep yourself informed by reading quality newspapers, magazines and industry publications. Keep some business cards in your wallet, handbag, sports bag, and car. You never know just when you might meet someone in the executive search business, and would like to provide your contact details in a professional manner. The card should ideally have your daytime contact number, an email address and a postal address, irrespective of whether or not you are currently employed. And preferably no home addresses or home numbers to preserve your domestic privacy.
10. Keep in touch. Make sure that the key players in your field have an up-to-date CV and contact details. Otherwise you may not get that call!