Having spent the last few years of my career in the staffing and recruiting industry, I’m asked all the time by friends and relatives if I can help them find a more desirable job. I’ve helped my fiancé get a job, helped my college buddies get jobs after graduation, and even helped a few high school buddies find jobs having not seen them for years. It’s a real joy in recruiting when you can help someone find a job that positively impacts their life. But the fact of the matter is, not everyone has the opportunity to work with a headhunter. I would say that only a small percentage of career moves are made at the hand of a headhunter. So what do the rest of us do when we find ourselves in a dead end situation and no one to conduct the hunt for you?
I’ve heard lots of gimmicks, tricks, and tactics for aiding the process and I’m sure you’ve heard a few yourself. Do any of these ring a bell? Sending out resumes on extra thick paper, memorizing the most dazzling answers to commonly asked interview questions, wearing a brightly colored outfit to your interview to be memorable, and the list goes on and on. I honestly don’t know if any of these things help or hinder the hiring process, but I do know that I’ve never met a professional headhunter that coaches his candidates by taking them shopping at Old Navy and picking out the seasons brightest colors to wear to an upcoming interview.
So what things do professional headhunters do that puts them in the position to move CEO’s from one company to another and get paid to do it. Here are the top 5 things that top dog headhunters do in the search and placement process that you can incorporate to your own job search tomorrow.
1. Network – Now I know you’ve heard this one a million times before, but the first thing that a headhunter does in the morning is make 20 calls to people they know and find out where the jobs are. Only the rookies wake up every morning with nothing more to look forward to than a few dozen agonizing cold calls. You’re probably thinking to yourself “Who do I know that I could talk to about finding a job…I don’t know anyone.” Well, in headhunting 101 you learn that it’s not who you know that matters, it’s who they (your contacts) know that counts. It’s okay to call every person you know and tell them you’re looking for a new job. Everyone excluding your boss and the other people at your office of course. Make a list of 100 people that you know, pick up the phone, and start talking to people. Ask them if they know of any companies hiring people in your area of expertise. If they don’t, ask them if who they know that might know of some openings. Let me give you a tip about how to supercharge your networking. Pick up the book “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, he describes three types of people in social circles. One of those types is called a “connector”. This is the type of person that seems to know everyone. I bet if you think about it, you probably know one or two people that everywhere you go with them, they know someone. Well, every person on your list knows one or two connectors and if you ask the question ‘who do you know that might know of something?’, you’re bound to run into a few of these extraordinarily well connected people. Your network stops when you stop asking ‘who they know.’
2. Email Everyone on Your List – This is similar to networking, but you have to take a different approach when networking through email. Here’s a strategy that I have found to be pretty effective. First, an example of what that email might look like.
Not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve recently started looking for a new career. I wanted to see if you could help me with this arduous process. As you know, I have been with PrideStaff doing Business Development (or whatever it is you do) for the last two years. It has been a good experience and I have been given several promotions and opportunities along the way. However, I seem to have run into a glass ceiling and don’t see any more opportunity for advancement here.
I’m writing to ask two things. First, if you know of any openings in my area of expertise, at your company or at any other that you know of, I would greatly appreciate any referral you could give me. Second, if there is anyone you know that might have knowledge of any openings in Business Development, I would really appreciate if you would forward this email to them along with my resume that I have attached.
John, any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. Let me know if there is any way I can reciprocate.
Director or Business Development
The reason this email is so effective is because it conveys warmth, it details your credentials, and it directly asks for referrals. Feel free to use this email yourself, just make sure you insert your own name and credentials before sending it out.
3. Harness the Power of the Internet – One of the most tedious and frustrating tasks that you do when looking for a job is scouring the internet job boards and corporate web sites looking for new openings. Talk about frustrating. In an intensive job search, you should be looking at about 100 different companies that you would like to work for and if you’re checking every site daily, that’s a lot of wasted time. I know that 100 might sound a little high, but by utilizing a few online tools, you can easily keep up with the activity of well over 100 companies. To accomplish the 100 company mark, first determine the industries you’re interested in. Most of you probably want to stay in the industry you’re in right now, but if you’re thinking of changing, understand that this is a very challenging move because direct industry experience is the #1 factor headhunters use when moving people from one company to another. After determining what industries you would like to work in, find out their SIC code listing and cross reference that to find all the companies in the city that are operating under that SIC code. If you’ve never done this before, you may have to do a little homework, but it should provide a good company list to start with. There is a more recent industry classification system known as the NAICS codes that you can use as well, just stick to the one you’re more comfortable with. If you’ve chosen a few industries and utilized one of the code systems to find a cross section of companies in town, you should have a substantial list of companies that will be the foundation of your search.
With your list of companies in hand, check out a web site called ChangeNotes.com. It is a free web site that monitors changes on any site that you ask it to. Now look up the career pages of the 100 companies that you are interested in and have ChangeNotes monitor the sites for you. You will receive a daily email of changes on those pages and won’t have to go to all 100 sites every night to make sure you always have up to date information. You know have daily information coming to you about any job opening at your top 100 prospects.
4. Call Hiring Managers Directly – Once you actually find an job opening, it’s not enough to send a few resumes and wait by the phone. You’ve got to get on the phone with the company receptionist and figure out who the hiring manager is for the position. Don’t act aggressive, but be confident, firm, and respectful. These people get calls all day from salesmen that think the way to deal with them is to bully their way through to get the information they want. You’d be surprised how much someone will tell you if you just ask nice. If you want more information about some techniques that the big boys use to get information about a company, check out my article entitled “Sourcing 101: How to Get Information and Find Top Talent in any Company.” Once you’ve figured out who the hiring manager is, give him a call and pitch your credentials. Let him know that you’re extremely interested in the position and you wouldn’t be calling if you weren’t convinced you’re the right person for the job.
5. Upload your Resume to Every Relevant Job Board – Many headhunters will tell you that advertising online and using massive internet job boards is a waste of time, but I know plenty of recruiters that regularly conduct searches primarily using online job boards. By now, you should’ve polished up your resume and brought it into the twenty first century by having an electronic copy. Now you just need to upload it to the web. I recommend putting it on as many job boards as are relevant to your search. I recently read a statistic that around 70% of recruiters and job seekers are loyal to one job board. That means that if the company you’re trying to land a job with is using Career Builder and you’re only using Monster, they’re not going to find you. Recruiters have to pay a separate fee to each resume database and because of the sheer number of candidates on each job board, most recruiters are able to find plenty of candidates by using only one source. The big three are Monster, CareerBuilder, and Hotjobs. Start with these three and then start posting to the smaller and more local sites.
One word of caution about posting to internet sites. If your search is confidential, only put your first name and last initial on the resume and list your current company as “Company Confidential”. Don’t be afraid to do this, recruiters see it all the time and are able to glean your experience from the industries and titles that you list.
Implement these five tips and you’ll begin seeing a big difference in your job search. These are the things that headhunters do every day to make a living. They work if you’re just willing to try a few new things.
I know some of you are saying to yourself “I don’t think I can do this stuff,” or “Sounds a little scary to me.” If your stomach gets a little queasy the first time you cold call a hiring manager to pitch your credentials, you’re just like every other headhunter in his first year on the job. I’ll tell you a closely guarded secret though, that feeling never entirely goes away. The only difference between the top dog headhunters and the one’s that can’t cut it are that the top dogs acknowledge their fear of the phone, consider the ramifications of giving in to that fear, and overcome it every day.
Roger Ailes says in his book, “You Are the Message.” “It’s a mental process to overcome stage fright. You have to say, ‘I have a right to be here. What I have to say is of value to this audience. I am an authority on this subject.'” Mr. Ailes goes on to say, “Interestingly, courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is action in the presence of fear.” If you’re willing to take action, despite your fear of doing some new things, you’re well on your way to finding your next big opportunity.