How to get noticed by recruitment agencies and search firms


By Dr Marianne Broadbent*

One of the most frequently asked questions of search firms and recruitment agencies is ‘how do I get on your radar’ or ‘how do I get noticed?’.  My semi-facetious response is usually ‘make sure you have some real achievements and a track record that is worthy of being noticed’.

So what does matter and how do you ‘get noticed’?

From the start it is important to appreciate that only relatively few roles are filled by search firms, particularly in the public sector. Most are filled through internal advertising, on Seek or related job boards, or by invitation.

While a search firm will generally do considerable research and proactive ‘call outs’ to both good sources and potential candidates, it is usually not the case in other situations. Of course the hiring manager or executive might well be alert to potential candidates he or she is keen to see in the candidate pool for a particular role.

The challenge here then is as much ‘who knows you’ as ‘who do you know’. Your next role is most likely to come about through your network, contacts, reputation or by recommendation.

Below is my Top 10 for ‘Getting Noticed’. Some might seem a bit cynical or self-serving. All I can say is that this is an effort to answer that frequently asked question. And note a good CV and a Linkedin presence are numbers 9 and 10.

The Top 10 for ‘Getting Noticed’

First, ensure you do indeed have a good track record through being accepting of accountability, and in many cases being able to implement accountability. Document your achievements, analyse and understand failures and write up ‘lessons learned’. Be very clear about where you have really ‘added value’, delivered more than was expected, helped solve an intractable problem, or shaped and implemented an innovative policy, process, product or deliverable.

Second, you need to make sure that you manage upwards in a thoughtful, consistent and considered manner. Part of your role is to help make others successful, particularly those to whom you report. You need to ensure they know what you are doing, that there are ‘no surprises’, you let them know of your successes and that you alert them early to problems. Know their agenda and what they need to do to succeed.

Third, an important part of your network are your stakeholders, whether they are other agencies, community groups, clients, your peers, your minister’s chief of staff, or the chair of your council committee. Are you providing what they need from you? Do you keep them in the loop sufficiently? They can be some of your best supporters if you are well engaged with them.

Fourth, ensure you know your own story, that you have captured your achievements and internalised them. You need to be articulate about your work and accomplishments, in every situation, whether it is in the office, sitting next to someone at a breakfast networking meeting, or when stuck in the elevator with the head of your department or agency.

Fifth, do not shy away from dealing with conflict situations and ambiguity – both can be great sources of energy. Constructively challenging and being challenged should be part of every robust team experience. Understand the differences between content and relational conflict and how your own emotional intelligence attributes will shape your default response. Dealing effectively with conflict and ambiguity is what senior people need to do well.

Sixth, be a good internal and external networker. Being professionally involved demonstrates your willingness to have new experiences and a focus on curiosity and continued learning.

Seventh, celebrate your team’s successes – publicly. Celebrate milestones and make sure your team gets the credit they deserve. Your team are also some of your most positive advocates – and of course they can also be the most negative, so make sure you never take them for granted.

Eighth, have a reasonable public profile, accepting some conference speaking opportunities, making sure of course that you have something of substance to contribute. Those who are constantly on the speaking circuit can lose credibility, but taking some opportunities is likely to mean that  you have some achievements and experience worth sharing. It is also requires you to exercise discipline in putting together your thoughts, clarifying those achievements, and working through the best way to convey them to others.

Ninth, have an informative, concise, achievement focused CV. I read a lot of CVs and too often they are too long, meandering, self-indulgent and miss the ‘essence’ of achievements and capabilities. Four pages should be plenty with a great summary on the first page.

Tenth, yes do have at least some presence on LinkedIn as it is a key tool for identifying candidates by companies, government agencies, search firms and recruiters. And again, make sure your profile is succinct, informative, achievement focused and no more than a couple of screens.

So these steps will certainly help you to ‘get noticed’ though they won’t necessarily ensure you are successful in that job quest. But they do mean that you will be well prepared.

Do remember too though that when you want to be ‘noticed’ it’s your track record and how you have dealt with others that will be of most interest. Whether you realise or not, you are marketing yourself in everything you do every day.

*Dr Marianne Broadbent is Senior Partner, with the Leadership Consultancy, EWK International.,

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One thought on “How to get noticed by recruitment agencies and search firms

  1. I thought this article was full of constructive advice, much of which I had not heard previously or had considered when in the job market. A really good article – Thanks – Stephen

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