I hear that question a lot. Back in the “good old days,” if any of us were in transition or Human resources and CRMwanted to explore other job opportunities, we would reach out to our favorite, go-to recruiters with whom we had built a relationship over the years, sit back, and wait for the phone to ring. Fast forward to 2013, and the retained search world has changed.

When the 2007/2008 financial crisis hit, several things happened. Corporate search budgets were slashed and VP’s of HR in most companies were told to begin to handle much of their own “talent acquisition” internally. While fees for a retained search are worth every penny (and more!), it is not inexpensive. At the same time, many recruiters who had been working for search firms exited the business and were hired by companies as internal recruiters—doing what they did before but beholden only to a single company. I’ll save my evaluation of this internal recruiting model for another blog, but, needless to say, many companies are now doing much of their recruiting on their own.

I recently saw a statistic that indicated less than half of Director level and up positions are coming through outside, retained recruiters. I’m not sure if this is exactly correct, but directionally it is right. And internal recruiting teams are not just handling the Manager and Director level assignments. There are plenty of VP/EVP/SVP level searches being handled internally. Most of the larger firms, including Boyden, have their own proprietary candidate databases which are very effective but are also complicated and expensive. For companies who are handling some or all of their own recruiting internally, LinkedIn, as you’d guess, has become the default candidate database. While LinkedIn has successfully positioned themselves as a professional networking site for all professionals (not just job seekers), they have monetized their site behind the scenes by selling recruiters and search firms a wide range of recruiting products, and it’s not inexpensive. Have you checked LinkedIn stock lately? There is a reason it is doing so well.

So, what are the ramifications? It goes without saying that staying in touch with a core group of recruiters is important, but here are two other suggestions. First, build your list of target companies and, assuming no direct line to the executive team, work to build a relationship with the company’s internal recruiting team. It’s normally pretty easy to identify a few names by looking at postings the company may have, or searching for the VP of HR or Talent Acquisition on the company’s website, or checking elsewhere in the public domain. The other suggestion is to be sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and kept current. There are all sorts of “behind the scenes” algorithms and programs LinkedIn uses to assess your relevance so that your name comes up in a keyword search a recruiter may be doing, but the more active you are and the more connections you have, the more relevant you become in the LinkedIn world.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the “sourcing” of candidates via databases and LinkedIn is only a small part of what as recruiter like me does. The real work in any search starts once a candidate has been identified and the conversations (phone and face to face) begin. It is then that both the candidate and company are able to start to assess the potential match. Nothing will ever replace real live, person to person conversations, not even LinkedIn. But, I hope these suggestions may help increase your odds of making that conversation happen.