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A common complaint among executives who have gotten the sack is that recruiters do not return phone calls even though the vast majority of the complainers have invested little or no time in developing a networking relationship with search executives.

Search consultants do this work—day in, day out. Many of my colleagues just assume that potential candidates know how the process works.  They don’t.

Here are some tips to consider:

Build a network  This cannot be accomplished overnight. Search consultants are extremely busy. They stay focused on their searches. If they do not know you—they don’t know that you can benefit their client.

Develop a Plan – Know the names of the leading recruiting firms and the search partners in your field and at your level. There will be 5 or 10 who always stand out. If you don’t know, consult outplacement specialists, they can tell you. Don’t waste your time and alienate recruiters by using the scattergun approach. Your plan must recognize that building a network of recruiters is the same methodology that you use in building your professional network.

Pay Attention to Details – If you get a call from a recruiter, take it, even if you are not currently in the job market. If you are not interested say so but always offer to help. Ask for a copy of the Position Prospectus and whether you may share it with potentially qualified candidates. Even though the recruiter called you, always—as in every time—follow up with the recruiter with an immediate email and then send a snail mail—write a note thanking them for thinking of you and encourage them to call any time they feel you can be of help. If you see the recruiter at an ACHE meeting, (re)introduce yourself and give them a card. Follow up that personal meeting with a another snail mail note encouraging them to call you if you can be of any assistance.

Set Alerts – Set up Google Alerts to send you a note every time one of the targeted recruiters or search firms is mentioned in the press and recorded on the Internet.

Be Consistent – Building a relationship takes time and consistency—consistency with your notes, with your offers for help (remember, you actually need to give them some names to consider) and consistency paying attention to the details—congratulate them on their successes—a new assignment, an honor or even their birthday.

Cautionary Note  Just like some senior executives, there are recruiters who are arrogant beyond description. They will not call you under any circumstances—unless and until you are selected for presentation to a client. Do not give up your networking just because you run into one of these brick walls. Take heart, in this new economy that is unfolding before us, especially in healthcare, these guys will not be around for long.

© 2012 John Gregory Self