In our post ‘How to Get Headhunted’, the onus was on what you could do to be noticed by a headhunter. However, how can you make the most of your relationship with a headhunter, how can you cultivate it, and how can you ensure that the effort benefits you in the long-term? Is there such a thing as headhunters for job seekers? Or do they only look out for the employer?
Whilst it is true that a professional headhunter is necessarily focused on an individual employer and an individual post – they are, after all ‘the client’ – this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work with them as a job seeker. You just need to know how.
Your first step should be ensuring that you know what a headhunter is. Yes, it’s a great feeling to be able to say you were headhunted, but do you know what it actually means? Headhunters are quite distinct from other recruitment methods. A job advert, or a recruitment agency, is a method of matching position requirements with individual skills. They are the dating agency of recruitment.
A headhunter is more like the matchmaker matriarch. A headhunter’s job is to get inside the mind of the organisation and its vacancy, identify the specific attributes that will contribute to the organisation’s goals and then go hunt down an individual who is already displaying these qualities. Therefore, the number of candidates doesn’t matter, as long as you find the ideal few.
This kind of puts the job seeker on the back foot when it comes to using a headhunter as a recruitment method. You need them more than they need you. However, that’s no reason to despair.
Headhunters are, by nature, specialists. They have to become specialists for each and every role they are seeking to fill. However, what you find is that some headhunting businesses focus only on one specific industry. If this is your industry it makes sense to get seen by them as being an active candidate. You also get those who specialise in cross-continent, global, or executive research, such as Eagle Headhunters. It can be worth drawing the attention of these headhunters to your availability.
However, it takes more than simply batting off your CV – that’s what you do with a recruitment agency. So what are headhunters for job seekers looking for?
You need to invest in your relationship with a headhunter to make it successful. There’s no way you can do this across a wide range of headhunters in the same way that you can with a recruitment agency. Instead, you have to identify a headhunter with a track record of success in your field and nurture and cultivate this.
This requires time and effort and isn’t a click-of-the-fingers exercise. It’s about getting on the headhunter’s radar – for the right reasons, and at the right time. To do this, you need to think like a headhunter. If you were looking for the ideal candidate for your ideal role where would you look? Do any names already come to mind? If so, why? Where have you seen and heard about them?
Then you need to communicate. Headhunters are, by their very existence, expert communicators. You need to match them. It’s not enough for your interest and CV to land on their desk, you need to encourage them to find out more about you. This may not result in automatic success but it helps to build up the picture of who you are and what you have to offer so that when the right position does become available, you’re at the front of their thoughts.
Finally, don’t appear too keen. Headhunters are used to enticing the right individuals out of existing roles and into their vacancy. They know these individuals have a distinct characteristic. Therefore you need to emulate this as you communicate with a headhunter. They need to know that you’re not just after any job, but the right job.
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