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Headhunting: How to appear on a headhunter's radar
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Headhunting: How to appear on a headhunter's radar
This article first appeared in Personnel Today magazine 28 February 2006.

We all like to think that one day we'll be spotted and asked to take up the job of our dreams, complete with suitable pay and benefits package and...

... privileged lifestyle. But, for most of us, this is unlikely to happen unless people know who you are and what you are capable of. So put yourself in the frame for a top job by getting on headhunters' radars.

Rewrite your CV

Ensure you have a clear, concise and up-to-date CV. As well as career history, it should cover key achievements in each position. It is a good idea to provide a one-page summary, with two or three pages providing further detail if the headhunter wants more information.

"There is no need to keep to the magic one page, but if it's more than three, you risk a busy headhunter deciding they haven't got time to look at it," says Victoria Provis, partner, corporate communications and board practice at City headhunter Odgers Ray & Berndtson.

She also advises doing some research to find out which individuals in which firms might be interested in you. "At Odgers, we sometimes receive CVs that have been copied to every partner in the firm. These show a lack of basic research skills. Most of this information is available by search on company websites," she says.

Seek publicity

Raising your profile and maintaining a high visibility are crucial steps to registering on a headhunter's radar screen.

Make friends with leading reporters at your preferred industry publication and let them know that you are happy to comment or write on various topics and issues. Or get signed up to write a regular column - headhunters' research departments will notice individuals who contribute to and make regular comment in trade media.

Put yourself forward to present at conferences, seminars and other speaking engagements. Make the most of any networking opportunities - headhunters will also canvas journalists and industry commentators for recommendations, so ultimately, the more people who know you, the more likely you are to be noticed.

Create an online portfolio

There is a growing trend to post an online version of a CV to showcase talents and provide a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week reference point for headhunters or prospective employers - wherever they are in the world.

The other main benefit is that they offer more scope and space for selling yourself and provide plenty of detail for those who want to find out more about your career history, capabilities and achievements.

Showcase your talents

Flaunt any specialist skills or expertise you possess that are in short supply, or if you have something to offer that the rest of the market doesn't provide, but is in great demand. Ultimately, if you show promise and are good at what you do, you will become known.

You can also be judged by the company you keep, so hang out with the brightest and best performers in your organisation.

If you do get headhunted

When a headhunting agency does call, it is natural to feel flattered, but you must be careful to manage the situation properly.

Check out its credentials: who are its clients and is it experienced in your sector? Also, make sure you are satisfied with its integrity and confidentiality.

Even if you are neither thinking about nor ready for a career move, it is still worth hearing what it has to say. Some months down the line, you may be ready for such a fresh challenge. Bear in mind that a good relationship with a headhunter can serve you well for future career moves, not just the next one.

Expert's view on getting on a headhunter's radar

Victoria Provis, partner, corporate communications and board practice, Odgers Ray & Berndtson

What are the key traits and skills that a headhunter typically looks for?

The key skills and experience we seek clearly depend on the specific roles we are trying to fill.

The first thing we will look at is whether the individual fits a current role we are handling, as our first priority is to current clients and 'live' assignments, not to speculative candidates. All is not lost if a candidate's skills are not a match now. They may work for an organisation that is of interest to us and we might feel a meeting could be useful, not just to find out more about the individual, but also to probe them about their company. They should realise it is a two-way street.

What is the best way to get noticed?

Demonstrate a tangible achievement in business. Of course, it also helps if you are a 'name' in your profession or industry. Or if you have not quite made it yet, you can be introduced to us by someone who we know and respect.

Once spotted, what's the best way of building a productive working relationship?

If our systems and procedures are good, candidates' names should come up if we take on an appropriate brief. Otherwise, a call once every six months is fine. If you achieve something noteworthy, such as publishing an article, or being mentioned as a speaker at a senior-level industry conference, send us a copy.

Out of courtesy, however, do let us know if you find another role through another route. Even though we believe we keep our ears to the ground, we cannot always know about everyone's career moves.

If you only do 5 things

1. Be good at your job
2. Write a targeted CV
3. Get yourself out there
4. Develop an online presence
5. Make the most of networking opportunities

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