Shane Hill, a Raleigh, N.C., recruiter for the Hudson Highland Group, encourages job seekers to attend industry conferences. These events can help establish relationships that will give you an edge when openings occur. At the same time, Hill advises executives not to underestimate the importance of non-industry activities, such as golf outings and church groups, which may also provide valuable contacts. "People shouldn't be afraid to recruit for themselves through any networking events - wherever they're comfortable," says Hill, who is part of Hudson's accounting and finance practice. "Networking is very mass-production."
Hill offers one warning: Networking won't help unless you know what type of company you'd like to work for, and have clear ideas about compensation and how far you'd like to commute. Recently, he recruited an executive for the chief financial officer's position at a large, southeastern healthcare company, partly because the candidate was able to articulate what he wanted in his next job. That enabled Hill to pinpoint the right opportunity and make a strong case for the executive. "I could provide a crisper picture to the company," he says.
Roger Wilson, a Singapore-based managing director for Boyden Global Executive Search, says candidates who can specify what they want in their next position make a more favorable impression on recruiters. He expects top candidates to give him a short list of about five companies and the types of jobs they'd consider. The list is a starting point that may change after he's met with the candidate. "The candidate doesn't have to identify the opportunity, but he has to get things close," Wilson says, adding: "Don't expect the headhunter to do all the work. The real value of the headhunter is in navigating the approach to companies with jobs to fill and in closing the deal. The headhunter is going to be your sponsor."
When meeting with a recruiter, Wilson says it's important for candidates to show proof of their success, particularly if it's benefited the bottom line. "You have to show what your achievements are and, when possible, monetize those achievements."
Kevin Ford, a Chicago-based executive recruiter for Korn/Ferry International, says executives should seek new assignments outside their areas of expertise or normal job responsibilities. Such initiative and well-rounded skills impress not only other firms, but higher-level executives within your current organization. Often, those executives hire people when they switch jobs themselves. "If you increase your visibility within your own company, you expand the population of executives who think of you as an up-and-comer," says Ford, Midwest leader of Korn/Ferry's financial officers practice. "People don't just want someone sitting in on a meeting, they want someone driving a meeting."