How To Get Headhunted


Headhunters have what you don’t have: inside information about your next employer and jobs that will never be advertised. We are watching the job market just like you but the difference is that we do nothing else but this, 50 hours per week and 52 weeks per year. And when we find vacancies, our job is to put the right candidate in front of our client. What can you do to be the one?

Here are 7 tips on how to get headhunted:

  1. Getting ready: Do you have the right skills to make a difference? Be critical and realistic yet ambitious with yourself. If you lack a skill or a degree, go and get it. There are good executive education programs out there. Rule of thumb: if you did your last meaningful training longer than 10 years ago, take one. Do not only consider what you will learn but also the message it sends on your LinkedIn profile and resume. Example: an online course on Feng Shui versus “Leading Change and Organizational Renewal” at Harvard Business School. You cannot afford Havard Business School? Have a look at Coursera and take for instance “Organizational Analysis” at Stanford or “Corporate Finance” at Wharton – for free
  2. Step out of the shade and become visible: In order to be found, you must be visible – online and offline. Critical to online visibility are a watertight LinkedIn profile, Twitter, guest posts or publications. However, you cannot send a handshake by email and it is hard to build rapport online only. When did you last participate in a networking event? Find circles that interest you such as business, alumni, sports or other associations. Mingle and make sure you bring enough business cards. Headhunters will always be there too and your objective is to get on their radar screen
  3. Be meaningful: Being visible is good, being meaningful is better. If the last point is the car, this one is the gas to get it moving. This part is about your personal branding, your marketing strategy or if you want: your sales plan. Going to conferences is good but you will make a real impact by raising the word during the Q&A part. And if you do so, I guarantee there will be at least 3 people that will approach you in the coffee break and talk to you about your contribution. Online, being meaningful is about sharing content on LinkedIn, Twitter or writing guest posts. LinkedIn discussion forums and updates are a very powerful means to communicate what matters to you and to position you as someone who has something to say. What do you want to be associated with? The information I share is usually on career management, the objective being that people think “oh, an update from Jorg. Must be on career management”
  4. Be an expert: What is your expertise? Let’s say it is… step dance: your aim should be to become known as the best step dancer in your market. Establish yourself as an authority by communicating (online and offline as outlined above) about what you know best to ensure that your name comes up when a headhunter asks one of your contacts “who is the best step dancer in your network?”
  5. “If we don’t call you, call us”: Who are the three specialized headhunters for your expertise or niche in your city? Which are the top tier recruitment firms are the most likely to find you a job if you needed one? If you don’t have the answer right now, google it. Contact us in an intelligent way (catchy LinkedIn invitation, a recommendation or a line prior to an industry event that interests us both (“Jorg, we share an interest in coaching. Will we meet Friday at the XYZ conference?”)
  6. Treat headhunters on eye-level: Once we are in contact, do not see headhunters in a binary way (“Jorg’s only reason to exist is to find me a new job”). Follow the basic rules of networking and give first, ask second. Share industry information, give us leads, recommend us, send us a relevant article on our sector or our profession. I remember the candidates best who refer me to new interesting contacts than the ones I meet once and then no one of us follows up…
  7. Be good: if you are not nice, fair and pleasant, people won’t like you. If people don’t like you, they will neither think of you nor recommend you. This was an easy one, right?


These is not guarantee to get headhunted but these 7 steps tell you how to a) get visible, b) meaningful and c) what to do with us once we are in contact. Be strategic but most importantly authentic and honest and we can be a catalyst for your career.

Jorg Stegemann
Jorg Stegemann - Headhunter, Certified Coach and Business Writer - is head of Kennedy Executive Search. Apart from running Kennedy's company blog, he writes for Forbes, BBC and other media.
  1. Charbel Reply

    As usual, Jorg’s input is very practical and complete. I am not however sure that headhunters are physically present at conferences, forums … Most of the headhunters who work on the Middle-East region are based in London, Beirut and Dubai and find their “target” online. I have received many calls and 4 different job offers during the last 7 years (of which I accepted an offer in 2008, and another in 2012). I have never met the headhunter! It was simply over the phone and through emails.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Charbel, thanks, good input. My point is true for markets like Paris (where I live and work) but there are exceptions.

  2. Mark Reply

    Great advice Jorg. It’s #2 (Be visible) that’s the hardest for me to accomplish, but it’s always good to be reminded of the importance of this.

  3. Amanda Reply

    Thank you so much Jorg for a great and informative article!


  4. Jurgen Reply

    Good advice Jorg. I would also add ‘Take the Call’. So many talented people are passing up great opportunities by dismissing a call from a Head-Hunter out of hand before making an informed decision. Listen and evaluate – then decide and engage.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Great point, Jurgen. Could not agree more. My belief is that you need 2-3 headhunters you trust. Also see my posting “How To Use A Headhunter”

  5. Abdullah Reply

    Great advice from an expert, something new to me. I will follow but do headhunters in Saudi Arabia follow the same approach?

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Abdullah – Thanks for your comment. I cannot respond with 100% accuracy but I guess that most things are an universal approach all over the industry

  6. Royston Reply

    Do you consider age an impediment for job search or an experience to reckon? I find the Middle East employers quite biased on the age front.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Royston –

      Thanks. I have heard this before for your region. As a headhunter with a strict set of ethics, I personally refuse assignments with age restrictions.

      • Matti Pekkanen Reply

        Jorg, I must say I admire your work ethics concerning the age restriction. I hope other headhunters follow your example. Incidentally, I’m based in United Arab Emirates and looking for a new job. I dare to say that my qualifications are excellent and I’m not *that* old (I’m 52). My observation is that 4-5 years ago I got almost a weekly call from a few headhunters, whereas nowadays the headhunters I have contacted have not even bothered to reply to my email. Phone calls are completely out of question. One headhunter was honest enough to say that due to the recession in particular in Europe he doesn’t need to bother being polite or sending a “thank you” message to the job seekers contacting him. At the same time he admitted that not so long ago *he* had to pray in order to get a candidate to even listen to his sales pitch. Times are changing, and indeed one day the current job seekers will be hiring new people into their teams. A headhunter with high ethical standards who doesn’t look down at the current job seekers, will be a winner in the long run.

        • Jorg Stegemann
          Jorg Stegemann Reply

          Thanks, Matti. I heard this about your region before. For Europe, I can say that the client’s perception has changed in the last 10 years and today, it is more widely understood that you cannot always get experience and wise judgment with 5 years’ work experience. It’s a learning and change process. Fingers crossed.

  7. Mark Reply

    I am a recruiter myself. Great article, many thanks.

  8. Russ Reply

    I agree, point-by-point, with everything. I particularly agree with the ‘stepping out of the shade’ and the ‘getting ready.’ I’m currently taking, enjoying an Executive Certification Course in Leadership and Management, online, via the University of Notre Dame. Just an excellent article!

  9. Sheila Reply

    Thank you very much for this article. I just learned there was a place to refresh my skills at the best universities free from this article.

  10. Evan Reply

    Great recommendation about http://www.coursera.org/ . I’m currently taking the business course ‘Gamification’. The format and content are great.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Mark, Sheila, Evan –

      Thanks a lot. And thank you also, Janine, who gave me this tip!

      See you – here or at coursera.


  11. Sarah Reply

    Great stuff, I really like this.

    I particularly like your advice around using the phone (#5). These days job hunters can get too caught up in all things online, like branding and networking, when a simple phone call can be incredibly powerful too.

  12. Katharina Reply

    Thank you for this article. Good job!

  13. Mark Reply

    This was a refreshing wake up call for someone who has been out of the job market for quite a while. Good, solid advice. Thank you.

  14. Shannon Reply

    Great article! I’m the director of HR- specialty around recruiting and I have the hardest time recruiting for salespeople. We recently took on an amazing sales person for the Seattle area and I asked her how she heard of us and she said she works with a recruiter that found her the job. We are very happy, she is very happy . . liked how it turned out so I Googled head hunters and found this very helpful article. I am going to touch base with the salesperson’s recruiter, but would like to find another, so I guess maybe I’ll try linked in.

  15. Nico Reply

    Thanks for the refreshing thoughts and for explaining in sharp and simple terms what headhunters are looking for in their candidates. I look forward to receiving your newsletter in future and will surely apply the tips given in your notes.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks for the kind comment, Nico.

  16. Bojana Reply

    Jorg great piece of advice!

    Particularly valuable for the *older* generation looking for jobs in the emerging economies(where I come from). It was very hard to start offering one’s professional qualities to potential employers and break the rule of “waiting” for the job.

    Additional eye opening is very valuable.

    Best regards,

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Bojana!

  17. Rishin Reply

    Many thanks, an eye opener, indeed.

  18. Augustine Reply

    Nice article! One question though, how do we make contacts with the headhunters without supposedly pestering the headhunters, especially if seeking new opportunities?

  19. Mark Reply

    It’s always great to read your posts. They continue to remind me that there’s always something more I can do to promote myself, my skills, and my desires for future professional success.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Mark!

  20. Wayne Reply


    The surest way to attract any worthwhile retained executive search firm is for executives to establish their credentials through creative and insightful writings and speeches in their fields. It is the quality of these publications that elevate them from mere excellence to truly innovative stature in their fields.

    For.in the final analysis, we headhunters can validate our obscene fees only by sourcing and recruiting demonstrably world-class executives to solve our clients’ problems.

  21. Anita Reply


    Thanks for filling that cavity for me. I really thought I’m, or should say ‘I was’ a Networking Guru however, some of the commanding tips made me realize that I was not utilizing the wealth of my huge set of connections. Great eye-opening information!

    After all, Network is your net worth, use it wisely and be reciprocate.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Anita!

  22. Sunil Reply

    Very good and informative post. Thanks.

    Does it make sense to continue calling and leaving messages even though you don’t get a response back. Does it make sense to stay with one or two head hunters or is it ok to send blast e mails or calls?

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Sunil, thanks. I would say yes if it is not too often. Every 6-8 weeks or so sounds good to me and I would personally appreciate this kind of follow-up.

  23. Theorodos
    Theorodos Reply

    Really nice information put up together. However, it is always the execution that really matters…

  24. Steve Reply

    I have been following these comments with interest and agree wholeheartedly with Jorg’s headline submission.

    I would add two ‘mantras’: the principle of “Pay It Forward” reaps benefits on both sides of the Candidate – Headhunter relationship and the principle of “Because You Just Never Know” is always worth adopting:

    – how do you know if that networking event will be worthwhile unless you go?
    – how will you know if it is worth contacting a Headhunter unless you try?
    – how do you know if a potential candidate is appropriate unless you make contact?

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply


      Thanks. You never know unless you try and some will work, some won’t. You do the stats but if I go to a networking event with 500 people, meet 10 people I know, 5 new ones, leave with 3 business leads and transform 1, it was a good event to me though the ratio 500:1 sounds lousy…

      Besides that, I usually spend a great evening!

  25. Alfredo Reply

    Thanks! Quite good article, except that it’s very much US centered advice. Any more headhunter insight for Europe and Asia?

    • Claudio Reply

      I agree with Alfredo, the situation in Europe is slightly different as we are less outspoken networkers and frequently, in my 27 years in Egon Zehnder, candidates who spent a lot of time in events were not the best performers. In Italy, for instance, the real propeller for being headhunted is a stellar performance in your industry throughout the years and a strong reputation acquired among the gurus of your industry, we normally source whenever we start a new

      Nevertheless I found Jorg’s comments very interesting to the point that I will use some of them in my seminars.

      Thank you Jorg.

      • Jorg Stegemann Reply


        Thanks. I live in Europe and 90% of my business is European…

    • Stephane Reply

      US centered ?… welI I don’t see your point!

      As a ‘froggy’ I found these advices very valuable and useful
      thanks for sharing !

      Trying and starting with coursera.org, I would also recommend edX.org and udacity.com about the same purposes

  26. Brett
    Brett Reply

    Well said and direct, practical advice.

  27. Gianmaria Reply

    Great set of advice. I especially like nr. 2. I personally don’t like to blog or post too much, as this is not in my DNA or education

  28. Anna Reply

    Hello Jorg, Thank you so much for the inside information. This is the first time I have read your post, but I will be a follower. Your writing is clear and your points are practical. I will be incorporating the ideas in my current employment search. Best wishes for the New Year!

  29. Trace Reply

    Thanks for the article, Jorg. I found the article helpful overall. I especially like bullet #4. I think many candidates try to brand themselves as having a very wide skill set rather than being an expert in any one area. In today’s corporate matrix management environment, companies are many times looking for someone to fill a particular void, not be a jack of all trades. Good insight. Thanks.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Trace.

  30. Andy Reply

    Nice article Jorg, and nice also to see you following up on the comments with some additional clarifications. I am Asian based, although not in recruitment/head-hunting, and one thing to remember is that the heads of many companies there are either from Europe or the US (or Australia). So to a large extent, then it is “business as usual”, and therefore then all of your points remain valid for Asia. Amongst Asian owned and managed companies, then they will have a huge preference for those that they already know very well, personally, when it comes to new appointments. So it is not an easy circle to break into, and this becomes extremely tough when you get to Japan or Korea and even China. SE Asia is much easier.

    The point which Wayne made was extremely valid, that attending industry conferences is one thing, getting to speak and present makes the visibility perfect. Many conference organisers are always looking for “free speakers”, so that is also an extremely excellent network to create for your respective industry.

    Good luck to all, and be nice! :)

  31. André Reply

    Jorg Congratulations, your article is very enlightening.

  32. Anthony Reply

    In my experience there are three important parts to networking:

    The first is “targeted” networking. It’s impossible to meet everyone and talk about everything. It becomes a networking frenzy and gets little traction. Decide what you have to say, where and to whom you want to say it and then focus on getting to the right forum and once there to meeting the right people. From there make links to others in a targeted way. It’s better to get two or three well targeted new contacts into your network than a whole lot of people who you add no value to or who can’t add value to you.

    Second, don’t underestimate the power of “weak” links. Someone you worked with 10 years ago, a teacher at school or someone you met last week. Touching people and creating these weak links can have much more of an impact on you than you may at first think. Don’t dismiss any contact. Everyone is worthwhile – you just can’t tell ahead of time.

    And lastly, we all have champions, people who like us and who will sing our praises. People we can use as references and people who can give us guidance and good advice. Cultivate you champions. Call them up and say “let’s have a coffee”. These people are absolutely essential to network with and make sure you do so several times a year. Let them know what you are doing. Share something with them and adds value to them. Think before you meet them about what you are going to contribute. These people are critical to your success. And see if you can turn people in your network into one of your champions

    My thoughts stimulated by Jorg’s article. And to all of you – thanks for sharing

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Great points, Anthony. Thanks a lot.

  33. Michael Reply

    Hi Jorg,

    Great article! You mentioned Coursera in the article. I just wanted to let other readers know that there exists other sites too for free online courses, such as udacity.com and ocw.mit.edu (MIT Open Course Wear)
    These sites may be a little more specialized in the engineering/technology side of things rather than for the management types.

  34. Bjorn Reply

    Thank you Jorg for a great post!
    I have always tried to stay in touch with my network, often by email and by sharing info – trying to share advice and recommend others. One thing I find that people really appreciate is a hand written ”old fashioned” thank you note as a follow up. (This is a habit from my days in sales and something that comes across quite powerful making a lasting impact).
    Happy New Year

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Bjorn!

  35. Ashlee Reply

    Appreciate this post – clear and simple!

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