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Sharks in the Water - What Attracts a Head Hunter's Bite?

  |  September 29, 2011   |  Comments

To get hunted by the best you need to stand out from the crowd.

I have recently had quite a few people ask what exactly attracted me to pick up the phone and give them a call. I guess on this side of the recruitment fence, it's a fairly obvious question, but to those not involved in hunting talent for a living, it can be about as clear as mud.

Obviously, the best way to get onto a head hunter's radar is to actually be good at what you do for a living. Our primary means of gathering market intelligence on the top applicants is by networking with people whose opinion we respect and having them recommend someone to us. We will often tell the person who it was that gave their name to us.

At other times, someone may make a recommendation to us but for whatever reason they want their name to remain anonymous. Either way, when someone we trust says you should be in touch with XYZ, we will make the effort to reach out to them. They may not be looking to move right now, but at least we will know each other. At some point in the future, the odds are good that we will be of mutual advantage to one another.

Now it's not always possible to have the perfect person recommended to us and so we approach the market reasonably cold and start to gather names of potential people of interest. You may be thinking there is no rhyme or reason to this, but like so many other disciplines in life, there is a scientific method to how we approach this.

For arguments sake, let's say we have a client who is currently looking for an SEO director. The salary the client is looking to pay is good, the benefits stack up well, and they have an excellent reputation as an employer. Our preferred type of assignment.

Where would I begin after exhausting those people that have been personally recommended? Remember, those recommendations may not be right for the role or interested. Well, first I'd take a look on LinkedIn. Yep, it has become the first port of call for identifying qualified candidates.

Job titles can be misleading, but if you happen to have a bizarre one and want head hunters to find you, change your profile to reflect a commonly identified one. If you are an SEO director or head of search, then put that on your profile. Something like "Ranking Samurai" is not going to do you any favors.

Secondly, get some keywords that represent what you do in the body of your profile text. There is no need to spam it, but have "SEO" near the top and have a precise paragraph on what you actually do. If it's not obvious, then someone may browse past you and you end up missing out on a call that could have changed your life.

Any achievements need to be highlighted too. If you organize or speak regularly at industry events, or write for major blogs or news sites, have it displayed. Add links if you can or at least make it easy to do a Google search and pull that information up. SlideShare is a great plug-in and integrates with sites like LinkedIn. Add your presentations; they are like a primetime advert to potential head hunters checking you out.

Get endorsements, too. It is always good to see multiple recommendations for candidates, especially from satisfied clients or recognized industry experts.

Ensure you have the previous companies you have worked for entered correctly into your profile. It's amazing how often people add an employer but don't bother to use the main entry for that company, or even worse, totally omit it, as they think it's irrelevant. There are certain companies out there that are renowned for only employing the best and the brightest. As head hunters, we always keep an eye on the employees at those firms.

Other areas of note are your education details. It doesn't matter where you live; there are always employers who want to see a top education, especially in Japan. If you happen to have attended a top university, then don't be shy. Make it obvious. I can tell you now that if I see Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, or Harvard, I'm going to dig a little deeper into your details.

A well-rounded and up-to-date profile is essential. There is nothing worse than a brief one with no details, just a job title and nothing else. Ensure dates are listed and correct and that there is a little flesh and bones to what you did there. Never presume someone knows what you did; make it obvious.

If you are actively looking to be approached, add an email address where you can be contacted. This can simply be one you use when job hunting.

Lastly, network hard. Get connected with everyone in your industry. This will make it far easier for potential employers and head hunters to find your details in searches.


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Jake Langwith

Jake Langwith is managing director and founder at International Head Hunters Stone Carter where he specializes within SEO, web analytics, and social media. With over 17 years experience across the U.K., Europe, and Asia Pacific markets he has established a strong global reputation and works in close partnership with some of the world's leading digital agencies and brands.

Jake is actively involved in the digital marketing community. He's also an avid blogger and a speaker at SEO-related industry events such as the SES conference series. He takes a keen interest in his market sector and outside of recruitment runs several websites where he puts into practice SEO and marketing strategies. Jake is particularly interested in SEO and conversion strategy within e-commerce.

A self-confessed search and tech geek, Jake is married with two children and lives in London where he was born and bred.

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