The Art Of Being Headhunted - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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An executive recruiter–often referred to as a headhunter–has just called you. We hope you didn’t show annoyance or suspicion and hang up the phone. If you did, you may have just severed an important career lifeline. In other words, never view a call from an executive recruiter as a nuisance call. Instead, consider it a bluebird of opportunity.

Last spring, when Deborah L. Kass gave a presentation for the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago conference, she knew it would be an excellent way to share her work with colleagues. She also knew it would lead to calls from executive recruiters. “They called me for information, to tell me about themselves and to see if I knew anyone who would be a good fit for a search they were working on,” says the senior vice president of human resources for Yellow Freight System Inc. in Overland Park, Kansas. Her professional activity and involvement with organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management and the American Society for Training and Development had given her so much visibility that she attracted at least one call a month from recruiters. Over the years, she used her relationships with recruiters to refer top-notch colleagues, find candidates for her company and, perhaps most importantly, secure a position for herself. In fact, she got her current position through an executive recruiter last year.

Working with an executive recruiter probably won’t guarantee a corner office, but making the most of a headhunter’s call is one of the most pragmatic steps you can take to your success. Building an effective relationship with search professionals can help you stay marketable in a changing workplace. So take the calls and take them seriously. If recruiters are not calling you, there are steps you can take to get the phone ringing.

Recruiters can keep you plugged into the newest hiring trends and opportunities in your field. A 1997 Coopers & Lybrand survey revealed that more than 64% of the 171 firms polled found their executives with the help of a search firm. Recruiters help plug successful minority professionals into high-level opportunities at companies interested in reviewing a diverse pool of qualified candidates.

James S. Sampson, managing director of Sampson Associates in Oakland, California, recommends building relationships with search firms as part of a long-term career strategy. “In order to move your career forward, you must anticipate where your industry is going. A recruiter can help you do that,” he says.

A search professional’s expertise in an industry can also help you assess your market value. He or she can evaluate your strength and weaknesses and suggest ways to become more marketable.

The more visibility an executive has, the more desirable that person is to recruiters–and to top companies. “Our clients are looking for people who serve on boards, are involved in professional, civic and community organizations, and show that they are exceptional networkers,” says Marian H. Carrington, co-owner of Carrington & Carrington Ltd., a Chicago-based recruitment firm.

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