As an executive, whether you’re trying to advance in your career, find a seat on the board, or transition to another new position, knowing how to capture the attention of executive recruiters is an important part of your search strategy.
Executive search firms often receive hundreds of CVs and resumes for every vacancy they have on file, so how you prepare is very important.
Bear in in mind that their primary obligation is not to you, but to the company footing the bill. That company wants a top performer, and they may lack the time or internal talent to find that executive on their own. For that they turn to executive recruiters, at a rather high cost, which is a hefty part of the first year’s salary.
This is the reason recruiters won’t consider executives that are not a match. Their reputation is at stake every time they recommend someone to a position.
Strategies to attract executive recruiter’s attention
What does work is familiarity; relationship building is a good way to get on their radar screen. One way is through your online presence. Don’t underestimate the value of social media in attracting executive recruiters’ attention. You may be thoroughly qualified, but unless you are a well-known brand, don’t assume your name or reputation will do the trick.
Below are five tips you can use to increase your visibility.
1. LinkedIn is Critical
Executive recruiters use LinkedIn regularly as a primary source. They look for keywords and phrases that describe your abilities, strengths, expertise, skills, and achievements. They’re looking for your geographic location, or your willingness to relocate. They want to see a business-like photograph, with proper office attire, neatly coiffed hair, and an approachable demeanor.
Smile, but don’t look outrageously happy. It may come as a surprise to you, but huge smiles are not “in” and neither are busy backgrounds full of distractions. A light or dark plain background is best, preferably, lightly contrasting with your clothing or skin tone. You don’t want to fade into the background.
2. Be visible
Make certain that your LinkedIn profile is complete and robust (no sketchy outlines) and keep it updated regularly. It should not be a replica of your resume, but should present your information in a less formal, more conversational tone—one that helps recruiters get to “know you.” Executive recruiters need to know your talents.
Try to build at least 200 related contacts, although more is better. Increase your network with appropriate contacts. Join groups related to your industry, discipline, etc. Post White Papers, articles, a video or anything else that will reinforce your brand. Blue Steps, ExecuNet and Netshare are among the sites that will also give you increased visibility among the executive recruiter community.
3. Be discreet
Be aware that your company can see your LinkedIn profile (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.) even if you exclude them from your network, because HR can use a different account to see it. So make sure to turn off the notifications to your network to avoid alerting your contacts whenever you update your profile. Steer clear of the groups catering to job-seeking activities.
4. Learn social media etiquette
Executive recruiters want to see that you are a good communicator and a thought leader. Understand how social media works, learn the etiquette. Remember: without visual cues we can be brusque and assume people will understand what we mean. So imagine them in front of you and reacting to your words; select your words carefully.
In an executive recruiter’s eyes, respected social forum leaders are desirable. They have already made a point of steering people towards more profitable solutions—not necessarily by giving them the answers, but pointing the way so they can arrive at their own conclusions and achieve a feeling of accomplishment. These are the top performers that are in demand.
5. Be professionally active
Engage in your community offline to build your network and add connections to your profiles. Represent your organization at public functions when possible; make presentations at industry-related events; write articles/blogs or post comments that demonstrate your expertise, knowledge of industry trends, etc. It will enhance your credibility across the board, including with executive recruiters.
Being helpful goes a long way to build relationships with recruiters
Because relationship building is important, you may be able to help recruiters that approach you. For example, if you are contacted, but are not interested in the position, you can provide recommendations about other candidates you know or even information about appropriate vacancies of which you may be aware. This will go a long way to being memorable. You never know when they could circle back about a perfect spot where your skills are a good fit.
Consider: you have multiple candidates to review for a position, say 20 or 30 people with similar backgrounds and qualifications, and one or two that you are familiar with personally. That is, you know their personality, their working style, their reliability, their ethics, and even their sense of humor. Who would come first-to-mind when you had a suitable position?
Having a presence online and becoming known as a thought leader will reinforce your brand and build your visibility. Revive the relationship with recruiters you have worked with in the past and develop new connections through LinkedIn. A recommendation to a recruiter from a respected source will carry a great deal of weight. Hiring via social media is here to stay. Embrace it and use it.