How to Get Your Head Hunted

How to Get Your Head Hunted

To get a recruiter's call, you need to be the kind of candidate the recruiter's clients are seeking. You also need to be visible and accessible.


These days, most recruiters start their searches online. Therefore, make sure you are listed on all of the appropriate places, such as State Bar online records, your firm's website, directories of any professional or educational organizations to which you belong and so forth. Set up and regularly update your profiles on online business-oriented social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Plaxo. Facebook is primarily a personal networking site, but is becoming more popular for business purposes.

Confirm that all information is accurate and professional everywhere you appear online. Include all professional affiliations, publications and presentations, with links to the full texts of any articles you have written where possible. You want to position yourself as an expert in your area of practice. If you are a solo practitioner, create your own business website containing the same sort of information. Your web presence must look professional, so unless you are a true webmaster, hire one!

Make sure that your assistant isn't overzealous in screening out headhunter calls if you want to receive them. You can assure your assistant that you're happy in your current situation but like to know what is going on in the market and refer other potential candidates who may not be as satisfied.

Beyond those basics, you can take steps to stand out from the crowd, such as:

• Speak before professional and trade organizations, write for relevant trade publications, blog regarding your area of specialization, and send program notices and articles to recruiters and professional contacts;

• Get press coverage for your high-profile accomplishments, or be quoted as an expert in business publications;

• Actively participate and seek leadership roles in professional associations, charitable or civic activities;

• Build a reputation in your current organization as the "go to" person for your area of expertise; and

• Stay ahead of the curve regarding business developments to ensure that your expertise is cutting-edge and marketable.


When a recruiter calls you, be receptive. Even if you have not been contemplating a move, listen to the opportunity. You may find that it is the perfect next step toward your career goals. Even if you are 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 whom the recruiter might call, or provide (non-confidential) information regarding your job or company. You can specify whether or not the search consultant is free to you use your name when making the call to the prospects you refer.

Over the course of your career, the headhunter can be a valuable source for you regarding trends in the legal community. In this dynamic marketplace, you never know when you might need to call on a recruiter, and if you have established a congenial relationship over time, you will have the respect and attention of the headhunter when you need it. If you make a habit of referring candidates as appropriate when a headhunter calls, others will be more inclined to return the favor when your dream job comes available.

Ideally, before you talk to a headhunter, you should be prepared. Clarify your career goals so that you can let the search consultant know what kind of position, type and size of institution, level of responsibility, culture and geographical preference you seek. On the other hand, you should have an open mind in the event the recruiter is working on an unusual search.

Update your resume 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 are seeking to change fields. Prepare a tentative list of references. Associate-level candidates will need a law school transcript. If you have advanced degrees relevant to your area of practice, have those transcripts handy, as well. Litigation associates also will need at least one recent writing sample.

If you are 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 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 prepared 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 your desired compensation range.


Once you have your information together, if headhunters are not 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 recruiters prefer an email with a resume and cover letter setting forth the information discussed above. This allows the recruiter to save and search on the information in a database management system. To facilitate that process, use keywords, such as you see on job listings, describing both your practice area and the specific tasks you have performed.

Recruiters are inundated with resumes and do not want to take extra time to figure out your story. Make sure that your resume includes dates for all jobs and degrees and does not have unexplained "holes." If there are periods of unemployment, try to explain them on the resume or, at least in a cover letter. Recruiters need to know all the facts and will work with you in presenting them in the best possible light should they wish to submit you to a client. In your cover letter, elucidate the factors you believe set you apart from other candidates. Demonstrate how you can add value to the recruiter's client organizations. This assists in preparing the pitch the headhunter will make about you to the client.

Headhunters may not have time to respond to every unsolicited resume. However, if the recruiter determines that you are a potential match, you will be contacted immediately. If your background is not appropriate for a current assignment, your information will be stored for retrieval if an appropriate search arises.

Read articles in the series:

  1. Headhunters 101
  2. What Recruiters Can and Cannot Do for You
  3. How to Get Your Head Hunted
  4. Selecting a Search Firm
  5. Maximizing the Recruiter Relationship