News & Insights

POSTED Tuesday 10-05-22

How to Stand Out from the Crowd: Headhunting

Building on a previous blog of ours on how to get headhunted, we would like to give more specific advice on how to stand out to head-hunters in executive recruitment. Obviously having the experience, necessary skills, relationships, and a strong network are all key to get headhunted, but the reality is that there are hundreds of people who have the above. Even in highly specialised fields, there is sometimes an overwhelming number of people who could feasibly take on executive roles. However, there are a few things you can do to really shine amongst your peers, especially from a head-hunter’s perspective. Here’s what they are looking for:


  • Be aware of any title names for CVs and cover letters


If you’re sending your CV to someone or posting it online, make sure the title is professional, neat, and specific to you. Something like: ‘cv edited’ is very generic and the lowercase is not grammatically correct, which comes across as unprofessional and unpolished. Writing something like ‘CV [your full name] [organisation name] [position]’, (e.g., ‘CV John Smith Aspen People Project Coordinator’) gives the full information, shows attention to detail, and demonstrates that you’ve tailored your CV to the organisation and role you’re applying to. It also makes life easier for head-hunters and employers when finding your particular CV amongst all the others they receive. Similarly, make sure files are in either Word or PDF (some portals or organisations specify which they prefer), as JPEGs are more difficult to scroll through and tend to be a lower resolution. Make sure not to send a Pages or Microsoft Works file either, as there is no guarantee the recipient has the right software to even open it.


These are small details, but it might make the difference in deciding which of the candidates they’re choosing from has a little extra in terms of capability, conscientiousness, and professionalism.


  • Have a complete, professional, and tuned-in LinkedIn profile


We spoke in our previous blog on headhunting about having a professional social media presence, and this applies even more pressingly for LinkedIn. This is the main social media platform head-hunters use to find out more information about candidates, so it’s worth giving it an extra polish. Make sure to fill out all the sections – even the optional ones – to showcase your talents and exceptional qualities. This is not a cue to waffle, however; you want the information on there to be concise and specific, so that head-hunters aren’t having to look far to see what in particular makes you stand out.


The real challenge here is having a balance of concise professionalism and demonstrable passion on your profile. The ‘About’ section is a great place to put your soft skills and passions, so that people get an immediate insight into your personality. Additionally, filling out the ‘recommendations’ sections with testimonials from colleagues and clients is an absolute must, as it provides an air of reliability and gives greater insight into who you are, how you work, and the connections you form.


Another tip is to think about the key ideas and innovations going on in your industry right now. Make sure you include words and phrases related to those ideas and innovations to show you are in touch with what’s going on, and have ideas going forward. Creativity is key for executive roles and you’ll want to demonstrate that you have it sooner rather than later.


  • Communicate and build relationships with head-hunters


Having an ongoing conversation with head-hunters on LinkedIn is a great way to 1) stay in the back of their minds, 2) get them to add you to their databases, and 3) receive news and information regarding new posts. Head-hunters will likely also give invaluable tips through their own profile, so be on the lookout for posts that talk about what they are looking for, particularly in industries that they specialise in. This is a great way to get really specific advice and get you thinking about what you in particular bring to your industry.


Furthermore, head-hunters enjoy the sociality of their jobs and hope to help people, which means they are happy to chat to you and coach you, especially if you’re being considered for a position. Don’t hesitate to accept their help because it’s an aspect of their work they tend to really enjoy.


  • Be transparent


Following from the above, when you are talking to head-hunters, but open and honest about your skills, aspirations, limitations, beliefs, and how you work. More than facts on a CV, this will help them decide if you are a good fit for the role they’re looking at, and will make you more likely to be considered should a role appear that you would excel in. This is not only useful for them, but also means that you will secure a position that is ideal for you, too.


  • Build – but more importantly, maintain – your network


In our previous blog, we advised that you stay in touch with head-hunters and work with them to help fill roles within your own organisation, which builds up mutually beneficial relationships. This is just one way to maintain your network, but even further, make sure to accept and send out LinkedIn connections and continue conversations through online chat. Quantity is not more important than quality here; it is better to be well-connected with a smaller group of people than having lots of surface-level relationships. Not only will this mean you have more energy to build those mutually beneficial relationships, it means you’ll be more memorable in circles where it matters. Maintaining networks is harder work than simply building them, but the effort will pay off in the long run, and you will create more meaningful relationships in the process.


For more info and advice, consider joining us on the 18th May at 12 pm for our free online event on ‘How to optimise your LinkedIn for Job Searching’, delivered by CV and LinkedIn Guru Emma Alkirwi. After working for over fifteen years in recruitment and the welfare-to-work industry, Emma found it disheartening to watch people fail to secure interviews that she knew would be capable of the role, and has committed her time to training potential candidates to stand out from the crowd. More details of the event can be found here: See you there!