How to Get Your Head Hunted

How to Get Your Head Hunted

Scenario #1: You decide to explore the legal marketplace and want a headhunter’s help. But, you’ve heard that it’s better if the recruiter calls you rather than the other way around.

Scenario #2: Your colleague was happily working away when, out of the blue, she got a call from a search firm and just landed a terrific job. You want that to happen to you.

So, how do you get your head hunted?

To get a legal recruiter’s call, you need to be the kind of candidate the recruiter’s clients seek. You also need to be visible and accessible. Once you have the headhunter’s attention, it helps if you have clear career goals, an updated resume, and supporting materials. Below are strategies to best gain a headhunter’s interest and assistance.

Getting Noticed

Most recruiters start their searches online. Therefore, make sure you’re listed at all of the appropriate places, such as state bar online records, your firm’s website, and directories of any professional or educational organizations to which you belong. Post and regularly update your profiles on online business-oriented social networking sites such as LinkedIn. Facebook is primarily a personal networking site, but is becoming more popular for business purposes. Confirm that all information is accurate, complete, and professional everywhere you appear online.

If you don’t answer your own telephone, or if calls don’t automatically connect to your direct voicemail, make sure your assistant isn’t overzealous in screening headhunters out. Assure your assistant that you’re happy in your current situation but like to hear what’s going on in the market and refer other potential candidates who may not be as satisfied.

Other ways to catch a headhunter’s eye include:

  • Speaking before professional and trade organizations, writing for relevant trade publications, and blogging regarding your area of specialization – and sending program notices and articles to recruiters and professional contacts;
  • Getting press coverage for your high-profile accomplishments, or being quoted as an expert in business publications;
  • Actively participating and seeking leadership roles in professional associations, or charitable or civic activities;
  • Building a reputation in your current organization as the “go to” person for your area of expertise; and
  • Staying ahead of the curve regarding business developments to ensure that your expertise is cutting-edge and marketable.

Handling the call

When a recruiter calls you, be receptive. Even if you aren’t contemplating a move, listen to the opportunity. You may find it’s the perfect next step towards your career goals. Even if you’re not interested, you might want to establish a relationship with the legal search consultant for the future. One way to do this is to suggest other prospects the recruiter might call, or provide (non-confidential) information regarding your job or organization. Specify whether or not the search consultant is free to you use your name when making the call to the prospects you refer.

In this dynamic marketplace, you never know when you might need a recruiter’s expertise and, if you’ve already establish a congenial relationship over time, you’ll have the respect and attention of the headhunter when you need it. If you regularly refer appropriate candidates when a headhunter calls, others will be more inclined to return the favor when your dream job comes available. Even if you never make a move, over the course of your career the headhunter can be a valuable source of information for you regarding trends in the legal marketplace.

Being Prepared

Whether you’re hoping for a headhunter’s call, or are the one making the call to a recruiter, prepare beforehand. Clarify your career goals so you can tell the search consultant what kind of position, type and size of institution, level of responsibility, culture, and geographical preference you seek. On the other hand, keep an open mind in the event the recruiter is working on an unusual search that might be perfect for you.

Update your résumé and gather supporting documentation. Put together a supplement listing your representative accomplishments, such as cases or deals in which you played an important role, if relevant to your current search. Give thought to your transferable skills if you’re seeking to change fields. Prepare a tentative list of references. Associate-level candidates will need a law school transcript. If you earned advanced degrees relevant to your area of practice, have those transcripts handy, as well. Litigation associates also need at least one recent writing sample.

If you’re a partner-level candidate seeking a position in a law firm, know how much revenue your portable clients generate on an annual basis. Be ready to discuss the nature of your practice, the clients that likely will move with you, and the kind of future matters for which they will require your services, or the services of others in your prospective firm. Create a business plan outlining your proposed client development activities.

Be ready to discuss compensation requirements. Your recruiter needs to know up front whether you fit within the range envisioned by the potential employer. Provide your current compensation, broken down by its base, bonuses, and various additional components, and the value of each. Know the minimum you will accept in a new position.

Reaching Out

Once you put your information together, if headhunters aren’t calling you, you can contact them. Recruiters spend a significant amount of time on the telephone talking to clients or seeking candidates for assignments, and may not have time at any given moment to devote to an unexpected call from a potential candidate. Therefore, most legal search consultants prefer an e-mail with a résumé and cover letter setting forth the information discussed above.

Make sure your resume is clear and that there aren’t any unexplained gaps in your employment history. Recruiters are inundated with résumés and can’t take extra time to figure out your story. Please include dates on all degrees and positions. State what you seek and why you’re considering a move. Also, elucidate the factors you believe set you apart from other candidates. Demonstrate how you can add value to the search consultant’s client organizations.

Remember that even the best headhunters may not have time to respond to every unsolicited résumé. However, if the recruiter determines that you’re a potential match, you’ll be contacted immediately. If your background isn’t appropriate for a current assignment, your information will be stored for future retrieval if an appropriate search arises.

Rest assured:  Headhunters will call you if it appears you have the background their client is seeking.

Valerie Fontaine

Valerie A. Fontaine earned her JD from UC Hastings College of Law and her BA, Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, from UCLA. She was on the Editorial Board of COMM/ENT, a Journal of Communications and Entertainment Law. Valerie practiced law with a prominent Los Angeles law firm and entered the legal search profession in 1981. Valerie is a member the Board of Directors of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC) and serves on its Ethics Committee.
Valerie Fontaine

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