9 Ways To Get HR Headhunters To Come To You

by Alan Collins

The best HR recruiters, headhunters and executive search firms pride themselves on being able to find you.

The only problem is they never seem to call when YOU most want to be found.

So what do you do if you want to get headhunted?

Well, you can reach out and start contacting recruiters yourself.

But, that’s typically what only the most desperate, out-of-work HR candidates do.

So that isn’t such a great strategy if you truly want to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

As an alternative, what about flipping the script?  What about positioning yourself so they contact you?  Interested?

Well, here you go…nine ways to make that happen:

1.  Become more visible.

An HR senior director colleague of mine has been headhunted three times in the last two years.  Her formula is brain dead simple:  she makes herself visible and social.

She goes to all the local SHRM meetings, HR lunchtime seminars or conferences in her city (and the ‘burbs) and simply talks to people.

When she really decided to become serious about putting her skills on the market, she targeted the seminars that recruiters and search consultants had sponsored.

Her favorite strategy was to make sure her name, title and organization were on all of the attendance lists of those events — since many headhunters scan these for contacts.

2. Make your voice heard.

Next time you go to an HR industry event, try to secure a speaking slot either giving a presentation or by participating as a panelist, whatever it takes to get listed in the event’s directory.

You can also offer yourself as a substitute speaker — speakers often pull out at the last minute.

Public speaking is a brilliant way of being included on the hit list. Recruiters often sneak in to these functions and make contact with prolific people in HR.  So be sure to stay for a drink, chat and network afterwards.

3.  Get your name in print.

With current technology, it’s never been easier to get quoted or written about. HR industry blogs, websites and magazines like HR Magazine, Workforce, and HR Executive often look for HR experts to comment for articles on topics like talent management, health care cost containment, use of social media in HR and the like. Check out their websites to learn about their article requirements.

You can also write articles on LinkedIn’s Pulse. Consistently posting there can increase your exposure to a wider audience and can help you build up a network within your HR specialty.  

The key here is to write about topics that will get read by the right people (in this case recruiters).  Ensure that you include your name, title and company at the end of your piece to make it easy for the headhunter to follow up with you.

4.  Pimp out your LinkedIn profile.

I’ve written about this before, but let me reiterate:  LinkedIn is where most hungry recruiters hang out all day long. And the good ones always keep an eye on their front page feeds for the latest updates.

So make sure you’re all set up on LinkedIn.  Polish up your profile.  Get active in HR-related LinkedIn groups and discussions so you get noticed.  Twist some arms and make sure you get plenty of endorsements and testimonials on your profile from some heavy hitters in HR and you will jump straight on the recruiter radar.

Another tip: Join your college alumni network on LinkedIn.  Headhunters often search through these alumni groups for candidate leads or to get information on someone they already have their eye on, so it helps if you are in contact with former classmates.

5.  Get active on Twitter.

Yes, I’ve written about Twitter before too.  Many headhunters love Twitter as a tool for quickly posting new HR jobs in the marketplace.

Finding HR jobs on Twitter takes very little effort.   Follow the recruiters you know that have the positions you want, by using the Twitter search box for your HR specialty + recruiter + your location.

Get on their radar screen by retweeting of their tweets and providing them with potential referrals.  Before you know it, they will check out your twitter handle, online bio and will want to find out more about you as well.  This requires you to have an employee friendly Twitter profile, clearly stating what you do with a link to your Linkedin profile.

6.  Stay employed.

I know it sounds callous if you are out of a job.   However, there’s still a mentality among some headhunters that if you’re out of a job, you’re desperate and will take anything.  You are therefore less attractive than someone who isn’t.

Some also believe that if you aren’t working, there’s some sinister reason for it… even though everyone knows plenty of outstanding HR pros who have been in transition at some point in their careers.  

Clearly, these opinions are fallacy and relics from the last century.  But lets face it:  you are a far more attractive target for a headhunter if you’re grinding away at an HR day job — whether you like it or not.

7.  Help ’em out. 

If you get a call from an executive search firm for the scoop on someone you’ve worked with in the past, be helpful. Return the call immediately and supply the information requested.  These things are appreciated and remembered.

Also use it as an opportunity to start a relationship with them as a prime source of referrals.  By putting forward potential candidates for a open positions demonstrates your own expansive network – and also your willingness to help them do their job.

And sooner or later, the tables will turn.  When this happens, they’ll likely start considering you for an opportunities because your name is always the first one that springs to mind.

Therefore, treat any cold call you get from a headhunter as if you’ve just been hit with a lawsuit and respond to it that same day.  If you’re buried with the priorities of the day, it’s easy to blow off their call.   Don’t.   Call back as soon as you can.

8.  Get referred.

Having  friends in high places who can vouch for your professional ability can help establish your credibility with a headhunter. Even if you are not exactly what the recruiter is looking for, they will be interested in you have come recommended by somebody they respect.

It’s easier than you think to get referred as some recruiters pester their candidates and ask for referrals all the time.

If you make it known to your contacts that you are interested in exploring the marketplace, they will be very happy to pass this on as it gives them future leverage as well.

If you’re currently employed, it’s easier to make yourself seem even more sought after.  You can pretend that the referral was made without your knowledge (and most cases this is true) and that you “weren’t actively looking for job, but will listen to what they have to offer.”

9.   Recruit inside your organization. 

Get yourself involved in the internal recruitment at your company.  By working with your talent acquisition team, they will introduce you to the external recruitment partners they use.

There is a BIG caution here:  This is a very sensitive area for the search partner and it’s easy for you to fall into a “conflict of interest” trap.  But if you’re careful and send out the right signals, then sooner or later he or she will subtly probe you about your career.

Sometimes they can actually help you directly.  But most times it will have to be more discreet (involving a 3rd party) due to their contractual obligations with your current company not to poach existing talent.

The point is that once the external recruiter knows and has built a relationship with you, they will be able to help you in one way or another. Recruiting internally is also very useful for understanding exactly how headhunters operate and how the HR hiring process works in general at other organizations.

To conclude, there are lots of ways to set yourself up so that professional recruiters and headhunters find you.  As part of your career strategy, you should consider putting a few of these into action — starting today.



For even more strategies for making headhunters and hiring authorities come to you, check out:  HR RESUME SECRETS:  How to Create An Irresistible Human Resources Resume That Will Open Doors, Wow Hiring Managers & Get You Interviews! by CLICKING HERE.

About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling HR books including HR RESUME SECRETS.  He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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16 Responses to “9 Ways To Get HR Headhunters To Come To You”

  1. Marie Says:

    Great ideas. Loved the graphic too.

  2. Prasad Says:

    Great . . . . thank u sooooo much

  3. NOVELLA Says:

    Excellent advises for our hhunters club!

  4. Alveda Says:

    Excellent article by Mr. Collins, I think this is a “must read” for everyone. Great ideas, like using Twitter and other social networking sites to make yourself more visble. As a wife of an active duty air force member, I am always having to find new ways to find employment. Our current assignment is in the worst state in the U.S. for unemployment and will immediately start applying the 9 Ways to get yourself headhunted in HR, by Alan Collins.

  5. Alan Says:

    Alveda – thanks for your kind comments & I applaud and commend you and your husband for his service to our country!


  6. Chareese Says:

    Excellent discussion. Some of these points were just addressed to me by my mentor so its great to see another HR professional mirroring those words

  7. Alan Says:

    @Chareese – Thanks for your comments — also, it’s terrific you have a mentor.

  8. jacqueline Says:

    Great article. I am a freelance consultant and always looking for work/clients. Your list is a wonderful resource of ideas and I will definitely use them. In fact, I do have a presence on web on Women of HR (womenofhr.com) where I do a funny column on HR related topic. I am definitely going to look at doing more writing on some of the other sites you mentioned.


  9. Alan Says:

    Sounds great Jacqueline, go for it! These ideas can also help generate business for you as a freelance consultant also.

  10. Victoria Says:

    Thank you once again for sharing a helpful, yet simple article full of tips for those searching in the HR field. I found the tips on making one’s self more visible, getting active on Twitter and helping out search firms when they call especially beneficial.

  11. Nwabisa Says:

    Great article,an eye opener as well. Will definately put this into practice and most importantly share with my network

  12. Dave C Says:

    As always quick and easy advice. Most people overlook the chance to self promote and no one should expect someone to always come knocking on your door. Effort equals opportunity. Thanks Alan for another great tool and reminder!

  13. Jessicah Says:

    Thanks a bunch Allan. An eye opening article 100%!

  14. Robby Says:

    Great stuff, perfect reminder, Alan! As a job seeker I find this extremely invaluable.

  15. Durodoluwa Koya Says:

    Thank you Alan for sharing this simple tips. great reminder.

  16. Gregorie Kalipersad Says:

    Mr. Alan Collins:
    There are some items included that I never thought about. It’s an excellent script.

    It’s something I have been speaking about with many people at recruitment sessions and this confirms that I am on the right track.

    God bless you abundantly sir.