You’ve probably heard of people being headhunted for roles and you may be wondering how it works. Headhunters are constantly looking for quality candidates to fill roles at many levels – from IT specialists, engineers and health professionals, to marketing experts, non-executive directors and board-level directors.
And it’s no wonder. Many companies will not be able to find the skills they need with most qualified candidates already happily employed.
This has led to recruiters increasingly targeting ‘passive candidates’ with sought-after skills and experience. Passive candidates are those already employed and not actively looking for a new role. Headhunters use a variety of techniques to identify passive candidates to whom they can pitch the roles. There are several reasons why headhunters prefer passive candidates over active candidates. The most common reason is because of the chronic skills shortage in some sectors.
Those who apply for advertised roles don’t always have the skills or experience required. Alternatively, they may not be a good culture match for the company.
Another driver of passive candidate recruitment is the belief that someone already employed is more likely to possess skills which are niche, specialist and up to date. Employers also see passive candidates as more adaptable and able to hit the ground running.
If you want to be headhunted for your next executive role, there are several strategies you can use to make it easier for headhunters to find you.
Build your network
Attend networking events and build connections with those you meet. Make sure you swap business cards, connect on LinkedIn and show an interest in their work. These conversations can lead to job offers. Typical networking events include conferences, trade shows, training activities etc.
Aside from using it to look for a job, LinkedIn is an incredible networking tool. Every professional should be using it. While LinkedIn has a paid-for premium account, the basic free version is more than enough for most people. LinkedIn enables you to network with other professionals and engage with companies all over the world.
For LinkedIn to be effective, it’s important that your profile is complete. It should share an introductory summary, your career history, education and other information such as certifications, courses, volunteering activities etc. Your profile should be framed by the keywords used to describe your skill sets. Headhunters will be drawn to your LinkedIn profile when searching for possible candidates with your skills. Having a profile picture is always good as it shows you are a real person.
Though executive search companies will use many tools to seek out candidates at the end of the day to be headhunted you have to be known. For recruiters to find you, your profile status should say you are ‘open to new opportunities’. To do this, go to the same Settings & Privacy in your LinkedIn account. Scroll down to ‘Job Seeking Preferences’ and click on ‘Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities’. Make sure this option is ticked ‘Yes’.
Current and past colleagues can write recommendations about your skills, experience and character. This can help a headhunter learn more about you and see why you’re a possible fit for a role.
Another way to get noticed on LinkedIn is through groups. LinkedIn groups are networking communities that bring users with common interests and goals together. Aside from boosting your engagement score within LinkedIn, being active in groups can make you more visible to headhunters.
After joining a LinkedIn group, you can post your own conversations. As well as liking and commenting on others’ conversations, you could become a group moderator or even start your own group.
It’s important to understand that when headhunting for talent, recruiters will use LinkedIn’s search filters to find exactly what they’re looking for. A strategy that recruiters use to headhunt people is setting search criteria to view profiles updated within a recent time period. This can help them identify a passive candidate who might be starting to think about looking for a new role. With this in mind, you should aim to update your profile on a regular basis e.g. weekly or fortnightly.
Become a thought leader
A thought leader is an authority within an industry or on a particular topic. People often seek them out to gain their insight into an issue or challenge. Alternatively, they may talk about opportunities and trends. Recruiters often headhunt thought leaders for roles because they are visionary, dynamic and innovative.
If you consider yourself to be a thought leader and want to brand yourself in this way, there are things you can do to help build your reputation. You can develop your thought leadership status in your current role by creating or joining a specialist group or team, contributing to your company’s blog or by mentoring emerging talent.
Thuli Nkosi, CEO of Boss Jansen Executive Search advocates making yourself more ‘shareable’. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn are a quick and easy way to share your thoughts and ideas. Videos and podcasts are very shareable via social media and can help boost your profile and expert status.
Writing articles for magazines, trade journals etc., start your own blog or being a guest blogger are other ways to become a thought leader. Webinars also provide a great opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader and can take the form of sharing your thoughts on a topic or helping others build their knowledge and skills. If you’re good at public speaking, consider speaking at events such as conferences and trade fairs to raise your profile.
Ready to get headhunted for your next executive role?
Getting headhunted for your next executive role should be a breeze once you’ve taken on board some of these suggestions. Building and nurturing your network and positioning yourself as a thought leader will help you stand out to the right people.