Recruiters and headhunters can be key assets in finding your next job. But many job seekers don’t have a clear strategy for connecting or engaging with them. When you fail to engage recruiters as part of your job search, you can miss out on some of the best opportunities. That’s because recruiters often have access to great jobs you’ll never see posted publicly, especially if you’re at the executive level or in a more specialized field. But don’t fret – these more elusive jobs may be closer than you realize. One of the best resources for working with recruiters is a website you’re likely already using: LinkedIn.

Tap Your Digital Network

Searching for recruiters in your field should not be considered traditional job hunting but rather a form of professional networking. To do it correctly, you should emphasize quality rather than quantity. Try to build just a few quality relationships with recruiters you trust rather than sending out a large number of messages to recruiters you don’t know.

You can get a good start on this networking process by searching for recruiters or headhunters on LinkedIn. To begin, follow three steps:

1. Type “Recruiter” or “Headhunter” in the search bar (top-left corner of the home page) and click “See all results.”
2. Click the “People” menu option (which appears at the top of the page just under the search bar).
3. Click the “Connections” dropdown menu (which appears to the right of “People”). Check the box labeled “1st” and click “Show results.”

LinkedIn then shows you a list of (past or current) recruiters or headhunters you’re directly connected to on the site.

To expand your search, check the “2nd” box in the “Connections” dropdown. LinkedIn then shows you a list of both your direct and indirect connections who hold (or once held) whatever job title you searched for.

Checking the “2nd” box often generates a drastically longer list of search results. You may have just a few recruiters in your direct network but a few hundred thousand in your indirect network. You can narrow your search back to a more manageable size by clicking “All filters” and selecting more criteria in the menu that appears. For example, you can scroll down the menu to the “Keywords” section. Under “Title” in that section, re-enter whatever job title you searched for. LinkedIn then limits your search to direct and indirect connections who only currently hold that title.

Another helpful part of this menu is the “Connections of” option. Click “Add a connection” and type the name of a person in your contacts. LinkedIn limits your search to people directly connected to the person you specified. This is an excellent option if you have a direct connection you’re already in touch with about your job search, who may introduce you to people in their network.

You can filter your connections by various other criteria, such as their school, past employers, or current location. Through these filters, you can find recruiters or headhunters you have things in common with who may be much more eager to work with you. For instance, say you attended San Diego State University. Enter that in the “School” field, and you’ll be able to see any recruiters in your network with the same alma mater.

Strike Up a Conversation

Once you’ve found a recruiter or headhunter who looks promising, you’ll need to use your discretion about the best way to reach out to them. Of course, if the person is a direct connection of yours, you can simply send them a message using LinkedIn’s “Messaging” page. As you’ve probably already found out, if you have a Basic (free) account, you can’t send a message to anyone who’s only indirectly connected to you. However, you can include a brief message with your connection request if you ask to connect with them . Also, look at the direct connection(s) you have in common with the person, and consider if you’d be comfortable asking any of those people for an introduction.

Any first message to a recruiter or headhunter should be a yes-or-no question: “Can I tell you more about my job search?” Your main goal is to start a correspondence and then see if they work with the types of hiring companies that may interest you for your next job. Include details on the jobs you’re seeking but be careful not to overwhelm the recruiter with information early on. Often, it’s better to hold off sending your resume until asked, especially considering the recruiter will likely first refer to your LinkedIn profile for career details before deciding if they see a good fit.

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