Headhunters tipsshare their key tips for candidates
15 tips for being found by the right headhunter (and no one else)
More than 75% of Dutch executives say they didn’t seek out the most important step in their career on their own. In other words, they weren’t actively looking for a new job. Instead, they were approached before making that key career move, by someone like an executive search firm, recruiter, or headhunter.
Want to be on the right headhunter’s radar? Read on for the most important tips from 14 headhunters, each with their own specialty.
1. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date – “If you start updating your LinkedIn profile when you’re looking for a new job, you’re already too late,” says Vivian Linker. She has more than 12 years of experience as a headhunter for C-level positions at corporates and scale-ups. “It’s better to keep your profile up to date. If you list internal promotions, new skills, and relevant outside work immediately, you have a much better chance of getting on the right headhunters’ radar.”
2. Maintain your network – “The same goes for new connections,” adds her colleague, Gijs Millaard. “Add business contacts when you’re in touch with them. It also comes across as much more professional than sending invites to people you haven’t spoken to in a long time.”
3. Don’t forget to update your contact details – Marlies Hoogvliet is a Partner at Top of Minds Executive Search and has nearly 15 years of experience in the industry. “Not everyone thinks about updating a new phone number or email address on LinkedIn,” says Marlies. “Which is a shame. So if you want recruiters to find you, make sure they can actually reach you.”
4. Have a good professional profile picture – “A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes,” says Wiebe Smit, headhunter for commercial roles. “A professional photo is an opportunity to make a good first impression right off the bat. So if you don’t have a photo, that’s a missed opportunity.” Choose a photo that’s in focus, with good lighting and a neutral background. Make sure you’re the only one in the photo, dress professionally, look straight at the camera and convey the right energy.
5. Choose your job title(s) carefully – Jessica Lim has worked as a headhunter in marketing and analytics for over 20 years. “Job title is often the first search criterion. So if you call yourself ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ or ‘Package Boss’ because that’s the job title your hip employer uses, you’ll be harder to find. And it’s always better to translate a Dutch job title into English to increase your chances of being found.”
6. Choose a clear headline – Martine Francken has more than 10 years of recruitment experience with multiple employers. “The headline on your LinkedIn profile is that short line under your name,” says Martine. “It’s the hook that entices future headhunters, employers, and clients to keep reading. So use that space to clearly and concisely communicate what you have to offer.”
7. Use the right keywords – “Recruiters and headhunters often search LinkedIn for keywords,” explains Daan Bouman, Interim Solutions Consultant at Top of Minds Executive Search. “So think carefully about what you want to do and what keywords headhunters are using to search for these types of roles. Add those words to your profile as naturally as you can, in places like the summary, the skills section, and your work experience descriptions. The more a keyword pops up in your profile, the higher your ranking in the search results. So make sure you include words that relate to what you enjoy doing.”
8. List special academic achievements – Catherine Visch manages the consulting practice at Top of Minds Executive Search. Her advice is to always list special achievements on LinkedIn. Catherine: “Did you graduate cum laude or win a thesis award? That’s still relevant for some employers, even if you’re further on in your career.”
9. Make sure you have a good summary on LinkedIn – Vivian den Dekker partners with Catherine as a consulting headhunter. And she says you can’t overemphasize the importance of a good summary on LinkedIn. “This is your opportunity to tell headhunters what’s important to you, where your ambitions lie, and what sets you apart from people with a similar background. That can be especially difficult to judge if you work in consulting and you’re a generalist. So a good headhunter will always read the summary!”
10. Add projects and skills – Imke Peters is a headhunter focused on consulting exits. “It’s a good idea for generalists and specialists alike to list past projects. That’s true for both your CV and your LinkedIn profile. It’s the only way for recruiters and employers to see what expertise you bring to the table and what sets you apart from other candidates.”
11. Collect recommendations – Headhunter Emily Olij has experience in both in-house recruitment and agency work. Her favorite tip: “Ask complimentary colleagues or satisfied clients to recommend you on LinkedIn. Multiple different recommendations where professional colleagues describe what it was like to work with you and your successes with them gives a headhunter a lot of insight into your qualities. It helps you stand out on a long list and means you’re more likely to be approached.”
12. Be social and active on LinkedIn – As a Partner at Top of Minds Executive Search, Roland Vetten recommends not only filling out your profile, but also logging in regularly and using LinkedIn like any other social network. “Read what other people post, respond if you think something is interesting, and share interesting content with your network. After all, sharing is caring.”
13. Let people know if you’re open to being approached – Ian Dove has more than 20 years of experience as a headhunter and runs the interim business at Top of Minds. His advice? “Let people know if you’re open to new opportunities. That LinkedIn functionality exists for a reason. Are you looking? Then be clear about what city you want to work in, what kind of positions you’re interested in, and when you’re available. For headhunters, this information is worth its weight in gold and helps them target their approach. The interim space in particular is so fast paced that you miss a lot of opportunities if you aren’t clear about your availability at the outset.”
14. Only mention relevant skills – “A call from a recruiter can be a lot of fun,” says Lidewij Kosters, who works with a wide range of Product Owners, “if it’s for a role that matches your experience and goals. If you’re getting a lot of irrelevant contact requests, take a critical look at the skills section of your LinkedIn profile. Does it list all the programming languages, software packages, and sectors you’ve ever dabbled in? That might be why you keep getting approached for UX roles when you’re actually a Ruby developer. Cross skills you don’t want to be approached about off your list. That way, you can save headhunters and yourself a lot of time.”
15. Put good headhunters on your white list – “Unfortunately, that’s not always enough to stem the tide,” acknowledges Hayke Tjemmes, who manages for IT & Tech at Top of Minds Executive Search. “If the generic messages are driving you up the wall, it’s tempting to shut down completely. But my advice is to block intrusive recruiters who are missing the mark. Then pick one or two headhunters you do trust and put them on your white list. That way, you’ll stay on top of what’s going on in the outside world.”
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