How to get yourself headhunted in 2010

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It's all very well applying for jobs. However, the most desirable and prestigious ones are not necessarily advertised but filled by headhunters who approach suitable candidates on behalf of whoever's hiring. If you aspire to being headhunted in 2010, here's how we suggest you go about it.

1) Put yourself about

Most articles on how to get yourself headhunted (and there are many), suggest you need to get your name out there. And how better to do this than to become known as a great authority on your subject? This can be achieved via appearances at conferences and frequent citations in the media.

Such things tend to have a snowball effect: once you've appeared at a conference or in the press once, you're more likely to be asked to speak or provide a quote in the future. With luck, headhunters and their researchers will then spot you, add you to their databases and call you when a suitable opportunity presents itself.

2) Frequent the company of respected professionals

If putting yourself about publicly is helpful, putting yourself about in the right circles privately is crucial. All the headhunters we spoke to for this article told us they source candidates through recommendations from people already known to them.

"Most of our people come from referrals," says Alex Tracey at Clifden Partners. "You need to make sure you have a big network of people who like and rate you."

"It's all about the company you keep," says Ray Baptiste of search firm Marlin Hawk. "Good people recommend good people. Everyone understands that the people they put forward reflect on their own reputation."

3) Let your frustrations be known

As well as knowing 'good people,' you need to let those people know that you're ripe to be headhunted. This carries the risk that your boss may become aware of your frustrations. However, it also makes it more likely that your name will crop up if one of your esteemed friends is headhunted themselves.

"The most effective way of getting someone to call you is to let your friends know that you're actively looking and are open to conversations," says Tracey. "The best referrals we get are those where someone recommends Bob Smith because he's fed up and will be receptive to a call."

4) Ensure your clients rate you

As well as asking peers in the market for recommendations, headhunters and line managers will also ask clients for names.

"If we want to hire someone, we simply phone our most friendly clients and ask them who their favourite people in the space are," says the head of research at one brokerage firm. "We then tip the headhunter off. The same applies for any client facing role."

5) Be a big earner

This may be a slight chicken and egg situation, but you're more likely to be headhunted if you earn lots of money and are at VP level or above than if you're an analyst or associate.

This is because headhunters are paid a percentage fee according to first year total compensation of the person they're placing. The incentive to move a lowly paid analyst is therefore minimal. However, headhunters do exist to ferret out top analyst/associate talent for private equity funds.

6) Fall into a minority group

Needless to say, you will have little control over this, but your allure to headhunters may be increased if you fall into a minority group. "Most of our shortlists are full of white, upper class males," says the director of one financial services search firm. "If we find someone who can do the job and who doesn't fall into this category, they make the shortlist more diverse."

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