Get recruiters to call you with great jobs
Here's how to get on headhunters' radar for opportunities you'd really want. Plus: why it pays to Google yourself.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Dear Annie: After 12 years as a finance manager (three promotions, consistently excellent performance reviews), I think I've gone about as far with my current employer as I can go, and I'd like to explore opportunities elsewhere.
Yet the only calls I get from recruiters are for jobs that aren't appropriate for me in one way or another - either a step down from my present position, or in some other way not suitable. It's gotten to where I just don't take their calls anymore. Meanwhile, acquaintances and former colleagues of mine who don't have my credentials or experience are finding great new jobs through headhunters.
Can you explain how this process works? Obviously I'm missing something. -Perplexed in Pittsburgh
Dear Perplexed: Oh, indeed you are. I'd be willing to bet that the people you mention who are getting those terrific new jobs are those who never stopped taking, or returning, recruiters' calls. (No need to take my word for it. Ask them.) Headhunters remember people who make their own jobs easier.
"There is a lot of quid pro quo in our business," says Dale Winston, CEO of Manhattan-based executive recruiters Battalia Winston International. "We keep people in mind who have helped us find good candidates in the past, and we like to reciprocate that help."
Translation: Even if you aren't the right person for the job a headhunter is trying to fill at any given moment, you may be the right person for the next one. So take those phone calls, and see if you can't come up with the names of a couple of good prospects, or at least be willing to try.
Beyond that, it's possible that you aren't as visible outside your own company as you could be. With hiring on the rise at all levels of management, it's a great time to get your name and accomplishments out there where headhunters will notice them.
"If you're not sure how visible you are to recruiters or to other people who might be interested in you, Google yourself," Winston suggests. "Headhunters do use Google to spot people who are leaders in their fields. So be there."
What if you try it and nothing comes up? Time to get busy. If you're already active in a trade association or professional group, try to take a more influential role, perhaps by running for elected office (treasurer, secretary, president...) or heading up an important committee.
"We do look at who is in leadership positions in professional organizations, because these tend to be smart, energetic, proactive people," Winston says.
Giving speeches at conferences and other industry events is another way to get yourself on the map (and your company's very own public-relations folks may be more than happy to put you forward as a possible speaker).
You might also write articles for trade journals or your local newspaper's opinion page on topics in which you're expert, particularly if they're timely. As a seasoned finance manager, for instance, you may have something fresh to say about some aspect of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Don't hide your light under a bushel.
"You need to make the time to get significant exposure beyond your own company - and do it before you get totally frustrated with your current job," says Winston. "Once you reach the woe-is-me stage, you're not going to be a good candidate." Good luck!
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