How does one get on a headhunter list?
January 14, 2008 9:45 PM   Subscribe

How do I get on a headhunter list?

I am an executive in a major call center environment and I'm looking for something new. I would like to move on to something where I am responsible for the entire operation.

How does one get on a headhunter list?
Would one want to get on a headhunter list?
posted by jseven to Work & Money (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't any headhunter resources to offer. I am acquainted with a headhunter and find his practices unsavory, to say the least.

Sorry if this is a simplistic question, but have you refined your résumé?
posted by bonobo at 10:21 PM on January 14, 2008

Put your resume on a job site like You will start receiving calls.
posted by mphuie at 10:25 PM on January 14, 2008

Response by poster: The issue I have with putting my resume on Monster etc. is that my company's own recruiters will see it. Given my specialized experience and specific job history I would be getting a call from my boss before any headhunter...

posted by jseven at 10:37 PM on January 14, 2008

Headhunters are typically contracted by specific firms that give the HH's specific goals to recruit with - people with experience in XYZ, people with grad degrees from XYZ Uni, and most especially - people who have worked for / are working with XYZ company. If you work with an industry leader in your field you will start getting calls from headhunters (you said major, but where does your company fall compared to the rest of the call center industry, do you know?).

In my line of work, I field maybe 1 HH a quarter, try and keep up with them all, even though I have no current interest in leaving, should things turn sour with my company, they are good contacts to have. My company is the largest in the world in my industry, so other companies are constantly trying to poach.

The best advice I can give you is try to get in with a leader in your field, get some experience there, and then sit back and wait. If you can't make that happen, try to network with people in your field that do work for the industry leaders, and ask them to refer any HH's they hear from to yourself. If that fails - try for colleagues you can certainly trust who may have heard / hear in the future from HH's.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:45 PM on January 14, 2008

Make contact with headhunters. Research reputable headhunters in your area, and contact them directly. Recruiters have contacts with people in industry and will know about open positions before they are (ever) advertised. During your meeting, tell the recruiter about what kind of position you want, and ask that they help you. Then they may, or may not, call you. This is a process that takes time.

Also, network. Meet people in your industry, get to know them a little better and learn about potential openings.

This is a slow process, as you know. The more tentacles you have out there, the easier it will be.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:50 PM on January 14, 2008

My impression has always been that they hear about you via word of mouth and their own research and then call you. (Might be wrong.)
posted by salvia at 11:42 PM on January 14, 2008

Have you tried
posted by iviken at 3:36 AM on January 15, 2008

Former HH here. When a HH takes a candidate looking for a new opportunity and cold-calls that candidate into other companies (as opposed to throwing your resume after known openings), he's pitching you as a "Most Placeable Candidate," or MPC.

From this article:
A recruiter, being a professional consultant, spends the majority of their time researching, interviewing, meeting, and qualifying key players within their specialized industry or niche. Personally knowing the major players, identifying their skills and strengths, and understanding the industry itself defines that recruiter’s value to their candidates and client companies, as well as the worth they add to the industry in which they specialize. A recruiter, based on the number and variety of positions for which they recruit, may search and contact the entire spectrum of people within their niche. It’s of value to them to know and understand what motivates everyone they meet—both candidates and hiring managers.

Occasionally, a recruiter qualifies a person who they determine to be “head and shoulders” above the rest. Regardless of whether or not this candidate matches the particular assignments the recruiter is looking to fill, the recruiter has the sense that this candidate is someone special. This is the concept of the “Most Placeable Candidate..."
Naturally, the keys there are finding a recruiter who is not only familiar with your industry, but connected. Not only accomplished in his field, but respected (there are "unsavory" recruiters, as per bonobo above, but there are plenty who have great reputations). Not only willing to work with you, but willing to recognize your accomplishments and experience present him a unique chance to help you create an opportunity where there may had been none advertised.

You don't want someone who's going to work with you reflexively - i.e., seeing a job opening and chasing your resume into the pile. You want him to network into his contacts to sing the praises of what you can do to bring value to their business.

How to find this recruiter? Networking. Look into industry groups, niche newsletters. Call around to peers in your field.

How to know you have the right guy? In my experience, non-IT recruiters fall into one of three categories*. First, you have the young, slick wannabe Gordon Gekko types - a few of the bigger agencies recruit guys like this right out of college, teach them predatory practices, and operate in a churn-and-burn environment. Most of these types fail miserably after a year to eighteen months, and never have time to build a clientele. If your recruiter is less than 25 years old, you're probably barking up the wrong tree. The second type is the former HR/casually competent type. There are plenty of washouts from corporate HR who are barely treading water in the world of recruiting. Perhaps they were downsized, and maybe this was the first job they found in the wake of that. Since recruiting is commissioned work, there's nearly no risk for an agency to constantly be hiring, and the former HR rep thinks they can handle sourcing candidates and filling jobs. Unfortunately, many of these types wash out quickly as well. The level of rejection and the intermittent paycheck schedule are difficult adaptations to make. The third type is the entrenched lifer. These people have been repping their agency, which might be their own small business, for the better part of a decade or more. They don't want to be everything to everyone. As a matter of fact, they realize that specialization allows them to be more effective than trying to chase every piece of business on the market. These are the recruiters who have the ear of the right people in your industry. They've focused on being successful recruiting for call centers, they network into your trade groups and industry associations, and they are always looking for a great candidate with a solid resume to sell back to their corporate clients.

*With IT recruiting there's a whole 'nother strata or two of recruiter types when you factor in the H1B body shops...

There will be trial and error involved. The right recruiter will interview you. As a matter of fact, he should interview the hell out of you. You should feel raked over the coals by the end of it. He should spend less time talking about himself and more time asking about you. He should end the call with a game plan - never promising that he'll get you in to ABC Corp or that you'd be perfect for XYZ Industries, but letting you know that he intends to spend "X" amount of time a day "introducing you" (via your resume) to his contacts in the field.

You'll need to put a lot of trust in this guy as well. Don't work with another recruiter while this is going on. Keep in close contact (maybe twice a week), and always let him know when you're interviewing, where, and how that's going. Don't ever hold anything career-move-related back from the guy. Don't go on vacation without telling him, don't go dark (not picking up your phone) at a conference in Topeka without sending advance word. If you've got an offer, let him know immediately. A good recruiter isn't going to edge in on action you created on your own, but can use your progress to get you a last minute interview for your dream job if the manager was on the fence previously.

Good luck. I hope you find the right recruiter to help you get to the next level.
posted by peacecorn at 3:37 AM on January 15, 2008 [6 favorites]

Headhunter in today's job market (US) is the same as "Exectutive Recruiter". I am in a project management and engineering, and after a rough few years starting in my career I am at the point where I have had enough exposure to clients and co-workers that I get referred to recruiters a great deal for available positions (getting about a call every 2 weeks). Part of this is because my line of work has specialized training/experience requirements, and also that there are many contract positions. Having said all that...I do have a 15 year experience with "Recruiters" (techincal and exectutive) that leads me to suggest this to you....

I am going to go a little against the grain of some of the other posters and suggest you follow this course of action:

(1) Update and polish your resume. No more than two pages, VERY professional looking, research and add your fields key words. At the executive level it is reasonable to pay someone the common ~$300 to professionaly redo your resume. Some people will poo poo this...but I see this making the difference in getting call backs all the time. I strongly suggest you create a profesional sounding free gmail account to use for your resume and job contacts. No ""..think "JaneSmilth". I also can not suggest enough to use key words in your resume. Employeers love these. For instance I have on my resume "Prject Management" "Engineering" "Solid Modelling". Etc...

(2) Open and fill in an LinkedIn account ( Add all your basic resume information on there. Do not worry about others seeing it..even your workplace. Of course, I wouldn't say on the profile that you are looking for work....but do not say you are. It is up to you if your work sees it and asks you about it what to say..."As an exectuive with XXX company I am always looking to expand my contact base to further my job set skills" or some such poop always sounds professional, without lying or commiting to anything.

(3) Research the market for the position you wish to get. Look at similar companies and its ok to call people to intoduce yourself. Don;t ask about jobs yet...just an intro. Decide if you have to and are willing to relocate. The higher up the jobm the more likely you will have to. What salary and comp do you want (minimum)?

(4) Research and contact several (I suggest 6-10) larger recruiters in your metro area. Cold call and say "Hello, I am interested in talking to someone about emplyment opportunities". They will connect you to a recruiter and they will talk to you and ask for a copy of your resume. Never never pay a recruiter....the employer always pays. You can be honest with them that you are employed, but tell them what your salary and position requirements and tell them to not contact your current employer. They will keep your informations confidential.

(5) Create online jobhunt accounts. I have used,,,, and some local sites. Of those I have 90% of the GOOD job contacts from 8% from, and the rest a mix. It may be dependant on my area (Northern OH, although I work all over the US) and skills...but I have heard that many of the recruiters use to search for candidates for jobs they are tasked to fill. Since you have concern with the current employer seeing you, you can elect to make your profile contact information hidden from searches ("Interested employers will still be able to contact you by email, anonymously" though the website).

(6) Tell your professional contacts that are not affiliated with your current employer that you are open to new opportunities. Tell them the type of work you are interested and leave it at that. This would include old co-workers, school mates, etc...

(7) I'm sure you know this but never never never.....not to the recruiters, not on interviews, not to your professional friends...bad talk your current or past employers. You are looking for something better, not leaving something bad.
posted by wylde21 at 11:38 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Current HH here. Pretty much everything peacecorn said I agree with. There are some head hunter directories out there (google recruiting directory or some such like that). There might be something here for you. Find one in your industry or something closely aligned. Then, to make yourself a good candidate, be open (to sharing your resume with a variety of people -- don't demand to see job descriptions because as peacecorn said the best benefit a recruiter can bring you is the jobs that don't have descriptions yet). Also, to protect yourself from shady recruiters, find out what their policies are -- they should never share your resume without your specific permission, unless you feel like giving them carte blanc and don't plan on making any efforts on your own for a job search. Because if your resume arrives on a hiring manager's desk twice -- once from you, and once from a recruiter, well, that's usually a bad thing, and I've had hiring managers say "when this happens, i think the candidate has a broken judgement function and i won't touch him" or "i'd love to follow up on this candidate, but i can't deal with the complications of conflicting sources, so I'm going to have to back off." Thus, you should either decide to do nothing of your own job search when working with a recruiter, or make sure that person is going to let you know every company they want to shop you to. I frequently make a list with my MPC's during initial phone conversations -- usually just companies off the top of my head that i'd like to take a crack at placing the candidate. I try to be very ethical, and my company supports company works with 95% of the employers of my particular type of candidate in the country...5% either won't work with us specifically or won't work with any recruiters...anyway, I let my candidates know if there is a viable option for them in their geographic preference that I cannot represent them to, and then i request exclusive "they don't do a thing" searches with the other 95% of the companies.

Well i've blabbered here enough.

Good luck!
posted by Soulbee at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2008

oh yeah, also, one major thing that i always ask my candidates, especially if i'm going to put in "special" work for them, "is there anything preventing you from making a change within the next 30 days for the right job?" if someone says they can't possibly move within 30 days, it's a pretty major turn-off. even though job searches can easily take longer than that in my field of search, you gotta strike when the iron's hot and i don't want someone getting cold feet on me because of an unfinished project or a bonus looming out there. if you want to make yourself really presentable and attractive to a HH then make it clear you're ready to move fast for the right opportunity.
posted by Soulbee at 12:09 PM on January 15, 2008

This site might be helpful: Ask the Headhunter. Lots of advice for working with recruiters and your job search generally.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:48 PM on January 16, 2008

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