How To Be Headhunted

Much has changed in the eight years since Barbara Edlmair and I wrote How To Be Headhunted. Here's an update which should help you get your next job.

A blog page

No unsolicited material accepted

LinkedIn has become essential. Some executive search firms now actively discourage people from sending in unsolicited CVs. Instead, they recommend you keep your Linked

In profile up to date, so they can find out about you when they need to. It's best to include about as much information as you would in a one-page CV. Don't include your email address or phone number, unless you want to attract spammers and cold-callers.

Keywords in your summary

Do think carefully about what you write in the 'Summary' box just below your name on your profile. Rather than repeating your job title, it's best to insert key words which describe what you do for people, e.g. "I raise money for high-growth technology companies through private funding rounds and IPOs." This will increase the probability that someone searching on 'technology', 'funding' and/or 'IPOs' will find you.

Use social media

Identify search consultants who specialise in your field and connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter. Following a search consultant on Twitter enables you to build up a picture of who they are and what they do. You can also interact with them on topics of mutual interest.


If you are actively looking for a job, it is worth investing time to meet those who specialise in your field, where possible. The ideal way to do this is via personal recommendation. If you are introduced by a senior person who has been a client of theirs - or could be one day - they are much more likely to meet you. Some search consultants will also introduce you to their competitors, if you ask them who else you should be talking to.

Be careful where you send your CV to

Be careful about sending out your CV. Reputable search firms who are retained by their clients will only forward it with your permission. However, there are others - including some agencies or 'contingent' firms that operate on a success-only basis - who are less disciplined. This is a particular hazard in the financial services sector.

Avoid spamming

Likewise, it is best to avoid sending a slightly updated CV to the same search consultants every few weeks or months. It makes you look like a job-seeker with little else to do. It also takes up their time and increases their administration costs. The best time to send them your CV is when you have just left one job and/or have started another. Or when you have begun an active search for your next opportunity.


Before you send your CV, it is best to check it carefully for grammar and spelling. Test it on a couple of friends or family members - particularly those who do not work in your field - to make sure it is comprehensible. If you use an acronym, it is best to spell it out in full the first time you use it, e.g. three-letter acronym (TLA).

Help out when you can

Once you are known to a few relevant search firms, some of them are likely to contact you from time to time, to ask for your advice on an assignment they are working on. It is not advisable to disclose confidential information. However, any other helpful information you can give them will mark you out as a 'helpful source'. Many search firms have a drop-down menu on their database which enables them to identify you as such. You are then likely to be among the first to hear about any assignment they are working on that could interest you.

Build your brand

If you really want to stand out from the crowd, it is best to start building your personal brand. Doing so effectively requires an understanding of your talents, values and purpose. In short, you have to know yourself in order to market yourself effectively. If you are keen to find a new job, then it is well worth the effort. We will cover this in a dedicated feature on personal branding.

John Purkiss was a partner with Heidrick & Struggles and now runs the board practice at Veni Partners. He is the co-author of How To Be Headhunted and Brand You (published by Pearson): Follow him on Twitter @johnpurkiss.


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