Sure the economy is in the pits right now, but big corporations say that is no reason to stop searching for new and exciting talent. So today the New York Times bring you an article about the secret life of high end headhunters. What does it take to score those top executives and genius programmers?

A favorite starting point for talent-spotters is to cast a wide net, finding intriguing candidates who might never appear on rivals’ radar screens. In Mill Valley, Calif., the executive recruiter Robin Reed makes her living that way.

She starts by listing the 50 most promising graduate students at each of nine elite engineering schools in the United States. It’s hard to determine their names and even harder to figure out what they’re working on, but she likes the challenge. While she isn’t yet wooing them for corporate clients, she figures that they will be worth watching as their careers unfold. As far as she can tell, no other recruiter is doing anything quite like it.

To widen her contact list, Ms. Reed subscribes to 31 periodicals, including Technology Review and niche publications like WaterWorld. She takes pride in having attended the first Burning Man festival in Nevada and the first TED conference in California; she has been networking at those engineer-friendly events and at many others ever since.

As a result, Ms. Reed has been able to dip into a vast pool of non-obvious candidates over the years to find a chief information officer for Amazon.com, a site-reliability expert for eBay and 275 other placements since she started Reed Shay & Company nearly 20 years ago.

For more on techniques and trade secrets of these highly specialized recruiters, check out the full article here.