Headhunters are specialised corporate recruiters employed by businesses to find top management talent for new jobs. Many managers dream of being phoned by a headhunter seeking an appointment or luncheon meeting to canvass interest in a too-good-to-refuse offer to join another organisation. Seldom, however, do dreams come true without planning and preparation…

1. Know how the headhunter finds a candidate.

Headhunters stalk their prey by word of mouth, through data banks, in current business directories, by compiling press clipping files on any newsworthy high-flier, and by keeping tabs on all sorts of industry sources that might turn up the names of likely candidates. The best candidate is often an executive who is not only employed, but happily employed and not even thinking about leaving.

2. Take your first step to being hunted.

If you want to attract the attention of a headhunter, you will need to identify what you want to gain a reputation for – setting up new companies, cost-cutting, planning mergers, strategic planning, troubleshooting, and so on. The best thing you can have going for you is to be acknowledged by your peers as being good at what you do.

3. Assess demand for your skills.

The familiar supply and demand concept applies to headhunting. If you can satisfy a demand or create a new one for your services, you are in the box seat and have progressed a long way toward attracting an offer.

4. Keep a check on your track record.

Results, not ego, will gain for you the reputation you want. Stay focused on what you want to achieve. Remember, success requires just three things: knowing where you are now, knowing where you want to be, and – each day in some way – progressing along the path to where you want to be.

5. Maintain quality networks.

Whom you know, or more importantly who knows you, does make a difference. All decisions ultimately come down to subjective assessments… Do I like this person? Is he respected by his peers? Does she get on well with others? Could I rely on her in a crisis? Such issues as these are why the network is so essential. You need not rush out and join every club or professional association, but you must find rewarding ways to associate with individuals and groups who can help you to achieve your career aspirations. The word will soon get around the network.

6. Be prepared – always.

In front of every talented person there must be a vacancy somewhere – and there’s sure to be one in front of you at some time. So be ready for when that opening occurs. Remain up to date with developments in your field; keep your slate clean; keep your CV current. And don’t despair: Pope John XXXIII accepted the top position in the world’s largest organisation at age 76 and made one of the greatest contributions in the history of the Papacy. So be ready for when your moment of glory arrives.

7. Make things happen.

You’ll just grow old if you simply wait around, hoping for that call. Your actions will make the difference. Stay focused; don’t expect anything of others; drive your own bus; and tell others only what you want made public.

Importantly, make yourself visible. You must attract the attention of the headhunter. Try these strategies…

  • Publish in trade journals and the press.
  • Work on your public speaking skills so that when you make a presentation you make it well.
  • Speak at public meetings, service clubs, and trade conferences.
  • Make a good name for yourself by being newsworthy and active in social, professional, and community affairs.
  • Think, on behalf of your company, of public relations ideas that will indirectly have you quoted in newspapers or trade journals as the author of those ideas.
  • Keep doing a good job.
  • Cultivate professional contacts. Headhunters always listen to the corporate grapevine.

8. Establish your own ‘home page’.

The Internet offers a great opportunity to promote yourself to a much larger audience. Talk to your existing website guru about designing you a home page that will present you to the national and international business community. But be prepared to respond to requests for more information by having your self-promotional pack ready as e-mail or hard copy.

9. And, as a last resort:

Still no phone call? As a last resort, introduce yourself to a headhunter. Send a résumé; wait a week; then phone for an interview. If you are lucky enough to get an interview – and you just may if a vacancy exists in your area – follow-up with a thank-you note and a short reiteration of your current situation. Do not follow up with a phone call. Remember, headhunters work for client organisations, not for you.

Even if you miss out, the headhunter may be impressed enough to call on you the next time a position falls vacant.

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