Fortune shares tips on how to get the attention of recruiters at elite executive search firms:

➜ Look at the website and find consultants who seem relevant to your goals, then send each one a note (physical or digital) describing what you’re looking for and where. If you don’t get a response, it may be because you haven’t reached the right consultant. Make each message personal; even the top firms get letters and emails that begin, “Dear Recruiter …”

➜ Be realistic. The major firms tend to search for public company CEOs, directors, and other top executives. Are you really ready for such a job? “We’re inundated with inquiries, many from people who are completely off the mark,” says Alexis Stiles, a Spencer Stuart consultant. “Hyperbole has a place in life,” adds her colleague Jason Baumgarten, “but not in this letter. Show it to a friend first.”

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