Don't call us, we'll call you

Head-hunters are out to get you, and, if you're desirable enough, you may be snapped up the day you graduate, says Helen Jones
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Think head-hunters and you usually think clandestine telephone conversations or illicit meetings in anonymous hotel lobbies where chief executives and finance directors are hired for astronomical sums.

In the past, those with less than four or five years' experience under their belts have not been head-hunted, but now a growing number of companies are using professional talent scouts to seek out bright young things.

Curly Moloney of Moloney Search says "I was working for the head-hunting firm Saxton Bamfylde, recruiting at a very senior level, but I realised that no one was head-hunting people at my level, so I decided to do it."

Ms Moloney, who had spent three years at Oxford and then a further three years at Cambridge studying medicine, decided to set up her own head-hunting company with the help of some old college friends.

"We had a lot of contacts between us and started head-hunting Oxbridge people, but it is now from a much wider range of universities," she says.

Ms Moloney head-hunts final year students for top graduate training schemes as well as high-flying graduates aged between 25 and 35. Clients include Pepsi, Reuters, Asda and the new low-cost British Airways airline, Go.

Suitable candidates for fast-track graduate training schemes are found through a number of different routes.

"We talk to tutors and year heads and ask them to identify the outstanding students, but we also talk to the head of the junior common room or head of the ball committee or one of the student societies for their recommendations. Employers want candidates who have shown that they can take responsibility and who are well rounded as well as academically very bright," she says.

Those with a few years experience are recruited through constant networking. Ms Moloney and her team talk to young contacts within major organisations as well as to more senior staff who may have noticed a rising star.

Ms Moloney says "a lot of the bright young things we recruit may have left university and gone straight into management consultancy or the City and are now looking to move into new areas that perhaps they hadn't thought of before, such as retailing."

The search for a list of suitable candidates for any given post usually takes up to six weeks. All are interviewed by Ms Moloney or one of her consultants before being put to the client.

Following a successful appointment both the client and the new employee are questioned to ensure that the placement is working out.

As well as outstanding academic qualifications, successful candidates need strong analytical skills, commercial acumen and enthusiasm. And head-hunters rarely come into contact with shrinking violets.

"You have to have made a mark, whether it is at university or in your first job, so that your peers will notice you and then recommend you to a head-hunter in the first place," explains Ms Moloney.

And she suggests that if you get a mysterious telephone call, don't be too suspicious or cautious - after all, it happens to the best chief executives all the time.