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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.


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How to Contact Headhunters


In the first post of this series, I talked about how headhunters work. In the second post, we looked at how to find them.

Finally, I want to walk you through how to get in touch, because the way you approach headhunters is key to your success or failure. Here’s how I recommend going about it.

1) Contact them by email

I recommend contacting headhunters by email. It’s easy for the headhunter to answer in her own time, it allows her to add your resume to the database even if she never responds to you, and it isn’t as intrusive as a phone call.

2) Offer help

Make sure you mention that you would be happy to help them with any searches they are currently conducting. This is an open invite to contact you, since most headhunters are always looking for candidates.

Instead of thinking of headhunters as a source of jobs, think of them as more people to add to your network. By reaching out and helping them, you make it much more likely they will contact you in the future. Not only have you created good feeling, but you have also shown that you are a respected resource within your field.

3) Be clear about what you want

Headhunters receive hundreds of resumes a day, many of them totally unsuitable. Make it as easy as possible for them to know that you are perfect for their firm. Do this in your cover letter and/or email, as well as by writing a concise and informative subject heading for your email.

4) Create an effective email subject line

Don’t contact headhunters with an email subject line that reads “hi” or “resume.” There is nothing compelling about that to a person with a thousand emails to read in a day.

Do use a headline that explains exactly who you are: “Marketing Executive resume attached,” or even better, “Marketing Executive –- Fortune 500 Experience –- P&G Training” or “Internet Marketer –- named Innovator of the Year 2009.”

5) Address the question of salary

I don’t usually recommend revealing salary requirements when writing to potential employers (unless they insist) but when writing to headhunters it’s important to let them know what salary you are expecting. This helps them decide whether to contact you, and may encourage them to get in touch for positions they may otherwise have assumed were not at your pay level. Here’s how to make salary expectations clear without limiting yourself too much.

6) Attach only a resume – in the right format!

Don’t attach lots of extra documents when you email a headhunter -– they don’t need to see your references or copies of performance reviews or work samples. Just send your resume in either Word or text-only.

Do not send your resume in PDF format when mailing headhunters – it won’t be stored because most applicant tracking computer systems can’t scan PDFs for keywords.

7) Write a strong introductory email

Your introductory email is one of the most important things to get right in order to maximize the responses to your resume. Remember that headhunters are busy people who earn money only when they make a good placement. They have seen every self-promotional trick in the book and read every stale resume phrase you can imagine. This means your email to them must be direct, to the point, and informative about what they need to know. No BS, no fluff, no unnecessary self-promotion. And focused 100% on them and their needs.

Here are a few examples of headhunter contact emails I might have sent back when I worked in Human Resources. The first is an email that I would have written if I were currently employed.

Dear Paula,

David Bloom mentioned that you frequently recruit HR executives within the fashion industry and suggested that you and I should meet. Even if you are not currently looking for a candidate like me, I have a great network and would be very happy to act as a resource for any other searches.

I am currently employed as Senior Director for HR with XYZ Inc., where I lead a team of 10 HR professionals located across the country and serve an employee population of 1,800. My annual budget is $3M and I report to the COO.

I am in no hurry to leave my current job, but I am beginning to explore options to take the next step in my career. My next move will probably be into a VP role and, while salary is not my first consideration, I should tell you that I have earned between $$$ and $$$ in recent years.

I would prefer to stay within the fashion industry and would be open to relocation.

If you have any time, I’d love to meet up and see whether I might be a fit for any current or future searches, as well as to offer my assistance with any other fashion industry assignments. You can reach me at 914-555-5555 or by email at louise@net.com.

Sincerely,

Louise Fletcher

PS: If you need to know more about my background before we meet, feel free to call me at any time. You’ll also find lots of information on Google.

Notice how this email is entirely focused on the headhunter’s needs. I start by telling her that I want to help even if she isn’t currently looking for someone like me. This is very important because a good headhunter is always looking to expand his or her network and many will accept this offer.

Following on from this, I quickly give her the facts she needs to determine whether I would be a good fit for any positions she has open –- and I give her only the facts without any self-promotion. I close with an offer to meet, and again reiterate my desire to help her out with other searches.

The whole email is short and to the point, and, most importantly, it doesn’t convey a tone of desperation but rather an offer of mutual support.

But what if you are currently unemployed and desperate for a job? Can you still convey that confidence?

Let’s revamp the contact email just a little:

Dear Paula,

David Bloom mentioned that you frequently recruit HR executives within the fashion industry and suggested that you and I should meet. Even if you are not currently looking for a candidate like me, I have a great network and would be very happy to act as a resource for any other searches.

As Senior Director for HR with XYZ Inc., I led a team of 10 HR professionals located across the country and served an employee population of 1,800. My annual budget was $3M and I reported to the COO.

As you may know, XYZ has gone through some major changes recently, and the HR department was relocated to the West Coast. Therefore, I am now exploring options for the next step in my career. I am open to positions at the Sr. Manager, Director or VP level and, while salary is not my first consideration, I should tell you that I have earned between $$$ and $$$ in recent years.

I would prefer to stay within the fashion industry and would be open to relocation.

If you have any time, I’d love to meet up for coffee or a brief phone conversation to see whether I might be a fit for any current or future searches, as well as to offer my assistance with any other fashion industry assignments. You can reach me at 914-555-5555 or by email at louise@net.com.

Sincerely,

Louise Fletcher

PS: If you need to know more about my background before we meet, feel free to call me at any time. You’ll also find lots of information on Google.

Only the middle two paragraphs have changed, but note that they still convey confidence, while showing a little more flexibility in terms of the types of positions I will consider. The PS is very effective in this situation as it serves to emphasize confidence, a very important trait to convey when you are unemployed.

In summary

Professional headhunters can be a great resource, both short- and long-term, once you understand how they work, how to find them, and how to contact them effectively.

Good luck!

Read more about Job Search.

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Blue Sky Resumes

About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

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