How To Get Headhunted For A Top Job

Looking for a job sucks. It's time consuming, it costs you money in lost wages and you often have to jump through series of unpleasant hoops — screening calls, tests and interviews. Wouldn't it be nice if you could sit back and have recruiters approach you with great job offers instead?

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I don't want to give you any false impressions — to be headhunted you need to be a star player. If you don't produce results at work, it's just not going to happen and no amount of polishing a *you know what* will help.

But if you do have a track record of nailing your targets, solving problems outside your job description and starting side projects which you are passionate about, then read on — I'm going to share with you some tips which can make you pop up on recruiters' radars.

Getting Spotted

To know how to win the game, you first need to know the rules.

The good news is that the rules of recruitment have changed in recent years — and if you know the new rules, you can win quite easily.

In the past, most recruitment was done like this: a recruiter would place ads on job websites, collect thousands of resumes, weed out unsuitable ones and enter the rest into a giant database. That searchable database of potential candidates was his secret weapon.

Whenever a company called with a request to fill a position, the recruiter would search his database and proudly declares to the potential client that he has "5 top-notch, screened candidates matching your job description". Would you like him to send them through for an interview?

The Talent Problem

The problem with this approach is that best job candidates aren't often the ones browsing ads on job boards — because they're typically not short of offers and opportunities.

Which means that recruiters' giant databases have always been likely to be thin on top talent.

Recruiters know that. It's also every recruiter's dream to get their hands on this top "passive talent" that never looks on job boards, but finding them, connecting with them and cultivating relationships has always been an immensely laborious and costly process.

That's why headhunting has traditionally been limited to high-level management and specialised technical roles, where commissions could justify the time and money invested into the search process. Until now.

Headhunting 2.0

These days, much of what you do at work, and results you produce, has a digital signature.

It's difficult to be a mover and a shaker in your niche and not leave behind a series of social media profiles, connections, guest blog posts, press releases, patent applications, industry memberships, forum discussion threads, online portfolios, interviews, social media feeds, code snippets, comments, debates and even complaints.

Which means tracking you down and assessing your suitability for a job is a matter of looking at the trail of breadcrumbs you leave on the Internet.

In the last few years tools have emerged, which allow recruiters do precisely that — effectively and quickly.

All of your digital activity is crunched and cross-checked with social media networks to paint an accurate picture of what you've been up to.

It is Headhunting 2.0, and it's quickly becoming the preferred method for flagging, and making contact with, top "passive talent".

Leaving Breadcrumbs

So, will you pop up on recruiters' radars?

A good way to gauge your discoverability is to type your name into Google. Do you show up in results? Or all you see is a bunch of famous namesakes in unrelated industries?

As a minimum, a search of your name, combined with your profession, should return 1-2 pages of relevant results, which reveals a focused snapshot of well-connected social media profiles, ideas, passions, opinions and contributions.

To put it in more familiar terms, you need a solid online personal brand.

Getting Started

Personal branding might seem hard, but it's not. The most difficult part is maintaining consistency. You need to be regularly connecting ideas, solving problems for other people and sharing your discoveries online.

It's also not an overnight process — give yourself six months to see some results and 12 months to nail it.

During this time, you need to make sure that:

  • Your LinkedIn profile is well-written (make sure it's not just a copy of your resume), optimised for the right keywords and has a healthy amount of connections and endorsements. (Here's some more advice on how to do that.
  • You have at least two more social media profiles through which you disseminate original ideas to a decent, loyal following.
  • You are consistently writing on your personal blog and on a few industry blogs as a guest.

The Critical Ingredient

Creating online content and beefing up social media profiles just for the sake of getting noticed will leave you very bored, very quickly. You'll quit, disillusioned, just a few weeks into this project.

What you need is a clear answer to the "why" question. And by that I mean — why would you get out of bed for this?

What do you want to achieve, that is greater than you? What is the one thing you'd like to change? What cause will you be a voice for? What's the one problem in the world that you'd like to solve?

For example, if you're a chef, what's the one problem in the hospitality industry that you're fed up with — and you're willing to stand up and put a stop to? Or how can you use your cooking skills to make a difference to a cause you care about?

Get Inspired

If you want to see how others are doing it, take a look at Jamie Oliver. For him, cooking has gone way beyond making 15-minute meals:

Discovering Your "Why"

Reaching deeper to find your truth involves a process of exploration or meditative contemplation.

My friends and clients, the more self-aware ones, tell me that they have been able to obtain profound insights about themselves only by removing noise from their lives.

They take some time off — be it a few hours, a day or a week — and they spend it in solitude, doing what they enjoy doing, contemplating, meditating — until the lack of distractions allows for meaningful answers to emerge.

Those answers will form a departure point from which you will set off on your mission and will get you noticed and then headhunted for the difference you make.

Irene Kotov helps managers and executives land jobs in exciting companies. Through online presence creation, resume writing services, and LinkedIn profile writing, Irene helps her clients stand head and shoulders above their competition during the job search process. You can catch up with her on Google+.


    "As a minimum, a search of your name, combined with your profession, should return 1-2 pages of relevant results, which reveals a focused snapshot of well-connected social media profiles, ideas, passions, opinions and contributions."

    That works well for the Dweezil Zappas of the world...

    At one company I worked at there were so many people with the same name as me that we had to create an email group just to swap misdirected communications. I'm not alone in this - I've lost track of all the multiples of Smith, Jones, Nguyen, Kim etc I've worked with over the years. If you've got a name pairing that's drawn from the top 10 in both first and last names, then this sort of search recognition is a faint hope. I struggle to find a career-related reference to myself on Google without adding extremely detailed keywords, just because there are so many others with like names and profession(s).

    "If you want to see how others are doing it, take a look at Jamie Oliver." All respect to Mr Oliver, but for years now he's been building on an established brand with massive public exposure.

    Last edited 29/08/13 1:57 pm

      i completely get what your saying. However extreme it might sound, hows about start using your middle name in all your communications as well? eg... Tim Henry Smith. Dont have one? get yourself one! I know its tough, but its something you need to be smarter then all the other people who share the same with you. Saying that, recruiters/head hunters will pump extra keywords into the search when they see common names, so the more you help them out by giving them a unique string to work with, the more likely you will be found.

        Agreed! A middle name is a great differentiator.

        It is tough to get ahead on Google, though that's not a bad thing. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it (mind you - I think this is where we're headed i.e. so get ahead while you can).

        And if your name is John Doe, all is not lost. It *is* still possible to have useful information about you come up on the first page of Google - you just might have to work a little harder to get there.

      Heh -- I just did the search of my name and profession.

      One of them is an article I wrote about a bug in open source software. That people don't think is a bug.

      I'm sorry, but SPAutoInstall is something that should not be used. Ever. It's aweful, and people only ever run into issues when they install third party software that have assumptions that the SharePoint platform is configured correctly. The issues I've seen from clients using that script are tremendous. It doesn't even enable the claims service... SharePoint 2013 is claims based... By default.

      Edit: And yep, I work with SharePoint, and most of these results aren't me. At least I'm 5 from the top 5!

      Last edited 29/08/13 9:18 pm

    Hi Irene,

    I would imagine from your site that you have had quite a bit of business to be able to target such a specific segment of the market (resume's essentially) - I'm interested, would you say linkedin is your main source of clients/work?

    All the best! :)

    I have been targeted by headhunters before. However the idea that you skip the interview process and have an easy run is a total myth. Yes there was less competition for the role, but I put in nearly 30 hours of prep, completing exercises etc.

      I'm not sure you've been head hunted. It sounds more like those dodgy recruitment firms. When your genuinely head hunted, you MIGHT do a casual interview and then get parachuted into the role.

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