6 Ways Recruiters Use LinkedIn to Headhunt

Have you ever wanted to get inside the head of a headhunter?

There is a certain mystique about the people who make their living by finding the specific talent that will add value to their clients' businesses. If you want to be recruited, it is important to understand how recruiters, commonly referred to as "headhunters," research talent and build relationships.

Mary Truslow, a veteran recruiter at Pile & Co. in Boston, focuses on creative types of professionals, such as marketing managers, writers, Web designers and more. She operates as part of a well-oiled team of other recruiters, account managers who interface with clients and administrative support personnel. Interviewed for this article, she offers valuable insights about how recruiters go about their work. With this in mind, we can discern valuable lessons for job hunters.

LinkedIn isn't everything, but it is at the core of today's recruiting function. Truslow has in excess of 3,500 first-degree LinkedIn connections, which expands to an immense network of people at the second and third degree. "I'm constantly adding contacts," she says. When sourcing talent she readily admits that she "relies on people providing appropriate, honest and continually updated information in their profiles." Truslow employs several different tactics to leverage her LinkedIn presence:

1. Recruiters perform straightforward keyword searching. All it takes is using LinkedIn's Advanced People Search function to find people within a certain geographic radius who possess the self-identified skills, education or experiences integral to a given search.

Tip: Carefully read several job descriptions of positions similar to what you seek, and parse out the skills, actions or descriptors that can be used for keyword searches. Make sure that you sprinkle these words throughout your branding statement and profile summary. Take pains not to just list a block of keywords. Instead, use them in the bullet points that describe who you are, what you've done and how you have achieved it.

2. Recruiters join industry and skill-based LinkedIn Groups, and carefully follow their Discussions. Truslow uses this tactic to observe quietly what leaders are talking about, and who else contributes to the discussion. This way she can see easily who really has the combination of knowledge and the communications skills that everyone claims to possess.

Tip: Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your skill set and industry to keep up with what is going on, and make constructive contributions to the group discussions.

3. Recruiters follow thought leaders and key influencers. A significant part of a headhunter's value is to know "who's who" in his or her specialty field. Beyond that, headhunters need to know who makes up the first-tier followers. Truslow makes it a point to stay up to date with her large base of contacts, to understand and follow the real leaders by analyzing who is following whom on LinkedIn.

Tip: Make sure to stay extremely current in your field, and show it by following the people who will benefit you by your association with them.

4. Recruiters follow their connections' LinkedIn behavior. Part of the art of recruiting is understanding the timing of what is going on in people's lives, and the signals that they give off which demonstrate that they are “recruitable."

Truslow follows people's actions and LinkedIn behavior patterns to determine when someone is about to begin an active job search. "Sometimes," she says, "the tip off is obvious, like when a person I haven't had contact with for several years checks out my profile… or, when someone who has been quiescent all off a sudden starts making frequent use of status updates."

Tip: Often people are reticent about letting their current employer or others know that they are in the market for a new job, for good reason. Yet you can do some of these subtle things that don't outwardly say, "I'm looking," but let the right people surmise that you are ripe for a call.

5. Recruiters are open to working with unemployed people. Truslow suggests that whether or not you indicate that you are unemployed on your profile, one way or another doesn't much matter. She counsels: "A highly motivated job seeker is not a bad thing, as long as they are relevant for the job. Today, there is less stigma than a few years ago. But it depends on how you carry it. Sometimes people are their own worst enemy."

Tip: Whatever your situation might be, lead with the positive. Demonstrate your knowledge, and your leadership. Define yourself as a professional (who might just be unemployed), rather than as an unemployed person seeking a job.

6. Recruiters don't want to guess. Truslow advises: "Don't make people guess about who you are or what you have to offer. You are a good match for a given position or not. You can't (and shouldn't try) to trick people into considering you." Keep your profile up to date, and build long-lasting relationships with quality recruiters. And remember that all that you do online is simply the key to building strong, better relationships in the "real" world.

Happy hunting!