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Being known by the right headhunter can be one of your most important career contacts. When you understand the headhunter’s paradigm, you will be able to increase your chances of getting a phone call that changes your life.

Headhunters begin each workday focused on finding the right candidate to fill the openings on their desk. They’re not finding jobs for candidates; they’re finding candidates for jobs. All fees are paid by their client companies. Therefore, if you call a headhunter to find you a job, you will most likely be ignored. There is a chance that your timing is perfect. You just might call when the headhunter is looking for someone with your exact background. However, this timing is a very rare occurrence.

So what are the best ways to keep your name and background on top of the resume pile? Knowing how headhunters think will help you get inside their head. The following tips will help you network successfully with headhunters.

Be selective in choosing the search firms for your career relationships. Research your industry to find the active recruiters. Ask co-workers for names of firms that have placed them successfully. Snoop around your H.R. department to uncover the firms they use. The location or size of the firm should have no bearing on your decision. East Coast firms place on the West Coast and vice-versa. Small, very specialized firms can be hard-wired into your industry. Once firms are selected, get the name of the recruiter that specializes in your discipline.

Candidates that continually call to see if they fit any openings will soon find themselves left on hold and their voicemails un-returned. What do bankers and headhunters have in common? If you need it, you’re not going to get it! The best approach is to have a reason for making contact, other than wanting a job. There are many valid reasons for making contact. The best are: you updated your resume; you just moved and have new contact numbers; you took a new job; you got a promotion or have a new title and money package.

Most recruiters find it difficult to ignore candidates that helped them in the past. You create career IOU’s by referring candidates and e-mailing resumes that were forwarded to you. Even if you are a marginal candidate, recruiters will take your call and try to help. It takes time to build a relationship, so think long-term. Do not wait until you are between jobs to act.

After you have done everything I suggested, you may still be stonewalled. Understand that you are doing the right thing and will eventually get what you want. It’s not personal, it’s timing. Your best timing is created by positive action, regardless of your employment status.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.