Guest comment: How to get headhunted

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Simon Hughes, partner with search to search firm Stratasearch, offers advice on how best to get onto headhunters' radar.

First things first - what do you think of when you hear the term 'headhunter'? The search market has changed considerably over the last few years, but it's still divided into firms of distinctly different types.

At the top of the tree are the search firms, like Russell Reynolds and Heidrick & Struggles, which operate almost exclusively at managing director level and above. Firms in this group primarily search for candidates - so don't just send your CV to them, as they are looking for specific people for roles that they've been retained by their banking clients to fill. However, it may be worthwhile contacting the research team and at least making them aware of you, as researchers are always keen to talk to people in the market.

Then there are boutique firms, like Marshall Warburton, Omerta Group, and Akamai, for example, where the firm may employ a hybrid of methodologies - advertising roles, conducting searches and trawling the database. Positions tend to be associate level and above. It will be worth sending them your CV.

Finally, there are the recruiters who advertise a range of roles from graduate entry upwards and primarily operate on a contingent basis - ie, they're only paid contingent upon filling an empty role, which plenty of other recruiters are also trying to fill. As a result, they like receiving CVs - lots of them.

Getting a foot in the door with a CV-driven contingent company is largely a matter of emailing your CV. Bringing yourself to the attention of a search-focused headhunter is a different matter. Here's how to

go about it:

· Headhunt the right headhunter for you

In the same way that it's always useful to keep your CV up to date, irrespective of whether you are looking for a new role or not, it's well worthwhile identifying which firms and individual consultants are covering your space in the market, and trying to establish contact with them. Choose the best two or three of these firms and meet the consultants.

· Cultivate a particular relationship

I firmly believe that it is important to have a headhunter that understands you and can work with you to develop your career in the City. Even if the headhunter does not eventually find you that next role they could be an invaluable source of information and advice.

Establish a rapport with them, exchange market gossip, discuss the players in the market and become part of their network. This way they will always come back to you.

Encourage them to remain in touch and manage the relationship yourself. These are very busy people who are often driven primarily by success and are notoriously bad at keeping in touch with their candidates, particularly when it may be that the candidate is not an immediate placement.

· Raise your profile in the market

How can you do this?

a) Take advantage of invitations to conferences, and be prepared even to contribute, by speaking about issues, etc

b) Contribute articles in respected publications eg, national press, trade publications, etc.

c) Join industry bodies eg, GARP, ACA, REC, ERA, etc.

d) Keep your public profile on Bloomberg and Linkedin up to date!!

e) Network within your own peer group as this is an ideal way overtly to identify good headhunters in the market. Ask people you know who they rate and why.

f) Ask your HR department to publicise your promotion or announce your move to a new firm in the FT, etc.

· Take headhunters' calls

Lastly, it's no good playing hard to get. It's always (or nearly always) worth giving a headhunter a few minutes of your time. If he or she calls at an inconvenient moment, suggest when would be an appropriate time to call back. Give the consultant the time to pitch to you and elaborate on the role. If it's not right for you, explain why - this is a perfect time to go into brief details about your own background and aspirations. If you are impressed with the approach and you believe that the headhunter understands your profile, meet them! It's an opportunity to expand far more on your own background, elaborate on your aspirations and expectations, discuss market, salary and bonus trends. Talking to a headhunter is rarely a waste of time!

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