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In the line of hire: How to get headhunted
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In the line of hire: How to get headhunted

With the global financial crisis behind us and employment levels high, headhunters are once again on the prowl for Australia's best legal talent. So how do you land on their radar? Claire…

With the global financial crisis behind us and employment levels high, headhunters are once again on the prowl for Australia's best legal talent. So how do you land on their radar? Claire Chaffey finds out.

Dress to impress: how to get the attention of headhunters.
Be good at your job

According to Jacqui Pearce, a senior partner with Brisbane-based u&u executive recruitment partners, the most obvious way in which lawyers can awaken the interest of headhunters is by being very good at what they do.

"It is a good idea to show technical excellence and to learn from the best," says Pearce. "You have to show initiative, work hard and be involved in high-profile work, because that gives you the substance to be a high-quality candidate that we would want to headhunt."

However, Pearce adds that simply being great at what you do is not enough: other people need to know about it.

Build a reputation

According to Pearce, developing a reputation is essential, and the best place to start is within your own firm or organisation.

"Often when I am interviewing somebody from a firm, I will ask them who is good in a particular practice area," she says.

"People within your firm must know you and respect you."

Having a good reputation amongst your clients is also a good move, says Pearce, as happy clients are likely to be good advocates for your cause.

Pearce adds that senior lawyers can ensure they are seen as leaders in their practice areas by appearing in the Australian Financial Review's Best Lawyers Guide, writing articles for the firm and other publications, blogging or doing CLE presentations and other industry-related talks.

The best thing about becoming an author, says Pearce, is that the publications usually end up on the internet, thus forming the basis for a strong online presence.

Build an online profile

According to the managing director of Bandura Headhunters in Perth, Phil Prosser, getting yourself "out there" is the only way you'll end up catching the eye of a headhunter.

But what exactly does that mean? For Prosser, the most obvious tool lawyers can use is online professional networking site LinkedIn.

"LinkedIn is certainly an area where headhunters do search for individuals," he says. "You need to make sure that your information is accessible. Headhunters work on contacts and networking."

Pearce agrees, and says that beyond a simple Google search, LinkedIn is the most valuable online tool for headhunters. But according to Pearce, many people with LinkedIn profiles are under-selling themselves.

"A lot of people don't have their profile viewable by everyone. I don't see the point of that," she says. "The primary purpose of LinkedIn is so that people know who you are. Put all your experience, qualifications, where you've worked and when on there, almost like a CV, and make sure that your full profile can be seen by anyone."

Pearce also advises that candidates have as many connections as they can and make sure a private email address or phone number - as opposed to a work contact - is provided, just in case that call or email comes through.

Develop a presence within the industry

While an online presence is crucial, it is not the only thing headhunters look for. According to Prosser, headhunters will get a sense for whether you are out and about and engaging with key groups in your practice area.

"The majority of headhunters aren't looking for people who are out of work. They are looking for individuals who are doing a good job where they are," he says. "But if you're not affiliated or a member of a particular group within that industry, or not attending networking functions, it makes it much more difficult to be noticed and get tapped on the shoulder."

On top of this, Pearce recommends becoming an accredited specialist in your chosen area, writing articles for hardcopy publications, and even popping up the social pages of law society journals.

Beware the social network

If you're one of the growing number of lawyers on Facebook, Pearce suggests being aware that headhunters screen candidates by looking at their profiles and searching for anything that may be controversial. And while she is yet to dump a candidate on this basis, she says lawyers need to be careful.

"We'll often do quality control using Facebook," she says. "People need to be mindful that they have a semi-professional looking Facebook site, even in the photos that they have. We do check. It's a tool that lots of people use."

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