How to attract IT headhunters

It is always better to be headhunted than to start applying for a new job, so how do you stand out from the IT crowd?

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The employment landscape for IT professionals is set to change dramatically. The drive to Cloud and software as a service is one factor driving change. The government’s Comprehensive Spending Review and the cuts and shift to shared services, are others.

IT roles in the public sector will fall victim to “back office efficiency savings” as the Government makes 490,000 job cuts, while a similar number of private sector jobs are also in the firing line, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

IT manager vacancies are already on a downward trend, with the number falling for the fifth consecutive month in September, according to specialist recruiter the IT Job Board.

With more people in the jobs market chasing a diminishing number of roles, standing out from the crowd and attracting the attention of IT headhunters is going to be more important than ever for IT professionals.

To be on a headhunter’s radar, you need to be in the places that headhunters look, according to James Leder, senior consultant at recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash.

“Headhunters, or more accurately their researchers - the highly skilled people whose job it is to identify potential candidates for the headhunter - look in a number of places,” he says.

“The list is long, but includes: their personal database of contacts; the web, industry databases and target companies – companies pre-agreed with the client that the headhunter will contact directly to find the right person.”

How to attract IT headhunters

It follows then, that to get onto the radar of a headhunter you need to have as many of these ‘bases’ covered as possible, Leder adds.

“Probably the most important of all of these, for aspiring IT leaders, is LinkedIn,” he says. “Make sure your LinkedIn profile is not only 100% complete but that you have invested time in making your profile attractive to headhunter searches. For instance make your job title understandable to the outside world and make sure your experience is fully documented on the site.”

Your wider web presence also counts, so Leder suggests getting your name on your own company website, volunteering to become a spokesperson and be quoted in the press and setting up a blog.

“But above all, look to develop personal relationships with headhunters,” he stresses. “Connect with them via LinkedIn and then look for a reason to stay in contact. Remember, good candidates are the headhunter’s life blood – networking and staying in contact is second nature to them.”

Stuart Day, business manager at recruiter Hays IT Leadership, agrees that having a strong online presence is a pre-requisite for all IT candidates, particularly those at a senior level.

“It’s too great a risk for employers to get senior level appointments wrong in the current climate, so don’t be surprised if they have looked at your profile. Make sure you are confident that it reflects you at your best,” he says. “Employers at a senior level will often use their industry contacts to take informal ‘off the record’ references on candidates, so bear this in mind.”

For Justin Sleep, head of operations at Randstad Technologies, the most important factor to becoming a “killer candidate” is being able to provide clarity on what benefits you bring to the business over and above any technical skills.

“People in IT tend to get very focused on the technical side of things, but when you’re moving into senior roles, that becomes a ‘hygiene’ factor – necessary but nothing more,” he says. “What’s more important is demonstrating how you add value to the business and what you bring to the market.”

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