Inducing recruiters to pay attention to you is a lot like borrowing money. If you don't ask until you desperately need it, then you're sure to be rejected. So if your current job isn't on the chopping block yet but might get axed next year, now is the time to reach out to people who can open a door to new opportunities.
A recent Forbes article offers several tips for attaining a profile among headhunters. The common thread in all of them is getting your name in documents that will regularly show up in Web searches for key words associated with the financial industry and your particular specialty. That is an efficient and discreet way to place your name in front of headhunters, who do much of their initial prospecting through Internet tools like Google.
Forbes' tips include:
- Write articles for trade publications about trends in your specialty or sector. This will both boost visibility and help establish you as an expert in the field. For certain people, starting a blog about your sector can fulfill those goals, too. However, compliance and other corporate policies bar many financial professionals from becoming bloggers.
- Offer to speak at industry conferences. "Your name will then appear in the online schedule and will pop up in Internet searches, one of the prime ways headhunters start looking," says Forbes.
- Join a professional association and become active as a volunteer on one of its committees, or even as a committee chairman.
- If you change jobs, notify the professional associations you belong to so the event will get noted in their member newsletter. Do the same with your college alumni association.
(We'll add two related points: To be safe, get your new employer's permission before broadcasting your new job. And, awards, promotions, and even significant projects you completed, also are worth getting the word out.)
- Make a habit of answering or returning recruiters' calls and helping them if you can, even when you're not interested in a specific opportunity they're calling about. In this case, "helping" may mean referring someone you know who may be a better fit or is more open to making a move at this time. A headhunter who you assisted in the past will be much more likely to take your call in the future. (However, do a little research to make sure the recruiter is legit before sending your resume or referring a friend or colleague.)
- Find out which recruiters specialize in your function or sector. Then, instead of sending your resume unsolicited, search for a contact who knows them to forward your resume. Networking sites are designed to locate such mutual connections who can provide introductions.
- Contingency recruiters often post current openings on their Web site. Most candidates will improve their chances of getting called back if they refer to a specific job posting and tailor their cover letter and/or resume to the requirements of that job when contacting a recruiter for the first time.
Originally published Sept. 18, 2008.