9 Job-Finding Secrets From Headhunters

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You’re on the prowl for a new job? Good luck with that. You can furiously send out resumes and cover letters all you want, but research suggests most new hires don’t actually apply for their new jobs at all. Instead, they are either recruited or referred. As for the latter approach, you can reach out to your friends and hope they’ll put in a good word for you at their company. Or you could take matters into your own hands and make yourself attractive to the millions of headhunters searching for qualified applicants. Here, a few tips on how to catch recruiters' eyes and land a job, from those who know best. 

1. BEEF UP YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE... 

For many recruiters hoping to fill a role, LinkedIn is the first place they look. “I always start with LinkedIn,” says Heidi Nicoll, a recruiter with Shutterstock. “There are some basic principles to LinkedIn: If you really want people to reach out to you, make a list of what you have done. Too many LinkedIn profiles aren’t filled out with enough information. Have us wanting to ask you for your resume. Make your LinkedIn a teaser—a list of your ‘Best of.’” 

Emily Levine, a Vice President and recruiter at Career Group, adds that an incomplete or out-of-date LinkedIn profile is a red flag, as are gaps in employment. 

Many headhunters also pay LinkedIn for a special Recruiter Package, which not only gives them access to your profile, but all the jobs you’ve applied for through LinkedIn. “I can see when somebody’s recently applied to a job, who is on the market, who might not be putting their resume out on public job boards,” says Levine. “If they’ve applied to 20 jobs and continue to apply, there might be something hindering them.”

Many recruiters also do reference checks without your knowledge. “They will look on LinkedIn to see who they know that is connected with you from one of your past roles,” writes Shanna Landolt, a 15-year veteran executive recruiter. “They will ask ‘off the record’ for feedback on what you are really like. This feedback can often be more meaningful than the references you personally provide. … This technique is often used when you say that you were laid off, but they have a concern that you were fired.”

2. ... BUT DON’T GET TOO EXCITED ABOUT THOSE ENDORSEMENTS. 

Sorry to break it to you, but nobody cares about your endorsements. “It’s not something I look at because I get endorsed all the time for things I’m not even qualified for,” says Levine. “Amongst the world of recruiters, we don’t look at endorsements and take them seriously. If they weren’t earned, they’re just sort of suggestions you can pass on to people.”

3. GIVE YOUR RESUME THE ONCE-OVER—AND BE CAREFUL ABOUT THAT FONT. 

If you’re contacted by a headhunter and asked to send over your full resume, give it a long, hard look before firing it off. “Within five seconds [of looking at a resume], I know if it’s a no or a maybe,” says Susan Underwood, Glassdoor's director of talent acquisition. You probably know the basics: keep it to one page, explain any career gaps, etc. But there are a few simple mistakes that are still all-too common.

First of all, font matters. “An easy-to-read font is best,” says Underwood. “We don’t need lots of different sizes or things underlined and italicised.” According to Bloomberg, typography experts recommend Helvetica as the safest resume font. “Helvetica is so no-fuss, it doesn’t really lean in one direction or another. It feels professional, lighthearted, honest,” Brian Hoff, creative director of Brian Hoff Design, told Bloomberg.

After you’ve updated your resume and selected an appropriate font, check your verb tenses. “People need to make sure everything is in the correct tense,” says Levine. “For example, people don’t switch their old positions to past tense, and it needs to be done.”

4. YOUR RESUME ISN'T THE RIGHT PLACE FOR A SELFIE.

Don’t even think about putting a picture of yourself at the top of your resume. “This is more common in Europe, so if you’re European, you can get away with it,” says Nicoll. “But if you’re American, it’s better not to do it because it might not always be your best look.” 

5. ALWAYS BE HONEST.

In case you needed a reminder: DO NOT LIE. “Offers are regularly detracted and revoked from people because they’re not honest,” says Levine. “That means even disclosing a DUI. Most hiring authorities are comfortable with it so long as you’re up-front. But the second you get into lying on an application, what else are you gonna lie about?”

The same goes for inflating your current salary in hopes of boosting future offers. “Companies are now asking for W-2s for verification of what you earned,” says Levine. “Everything needs to line up.” 

6. A LITTLE SNOOPING BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW IS OK.

Hiring managers expect you to come dressed to impress, but how fancy is too fancy? One good way to know what’s appropriate is to stalk the current employees. OK, not actual stalking: Bonnie Zaben, COO at recruitment firm AC Lion, recommends checking out the company website for any photos you can find that might hint at how buttoned-up the environment is. “See what they’re actually doing and dress one level above that,” she says.

7. NEVER BADMOUTH PAST EMPLOYERS.

One big turnoff is a bad attitude. “When I interview someone and every other past employer was bad, that’s a red flag,” Zaben says. Come with something nice to say about your previous roles, and if you’re asked why you left, try to put a positive spin on it by listing what you learned.

8. NEVER BRING YOUR OWN BEVERAGES TO AN INTERVIEW.

More taboos: bringing coffee or water to the interview (“It’s far too casual,” Levine says. “A lot of people come in with a Starbucks and it’s just a little cozy”), forgetting to put your phone on silent, and talking salary.

“I think people should focus more on the company culture and how they can make a difference,” rather than focusing on the money right away, Levine says. 

9. SEND A THANK-YOU NOTE IMMEDIATELY, AND THEN GIVE THE HIRING MANAGER SOME SPACE. 

Yes, you should follow up. No, you should not email the hiring manager every day for a full two weeks after your interview asking if they’ve made a decision. 

“Send your thank-you email the same day as your interview,” writes Landolt. “If your interview is in the evening or at the end of the day, send the thank-you note first thing in the morning.”

As with your resume, “make sure you don’t have typos in your thank-you note,” says Levine. “That’s a number one disqualifier.” And if you know you’ve got some time before the final decision is made, consider sending a hand-written note. “It’s really classy and something a lot of people don’t do, so it’s a differentiator,” Levine says. But if you have bad handwriting, just stick to email. 

All images via iStock.

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January 25, 2016 - 12:00am
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