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Job Magician 10 Ways to Turn Off a
Retained Executive Recruiter

Remember:  a retained recruiter works for the client.  Many candidates simply don’t get this, and they kill their chances of getting presented to the client because of some foolish mistakes, such as:

1)  Treat the meeting with the recruiter as if your meeting with her is less important than would be an interview with the recruiter’s client.  The recruiter decides which candidates are presented to the client, and works closely with the client to help them make their ultimate hiring decision after candidates are presented.  Treat recruiters with the utmost respect, or you won’t make it through their screening process.  You’d be surprised at how many people tell me, “You’re only a recruiter,” and feel that my meeting with them is a mere formality before they meet with my client.

2)  Come late to the job interview.  Enough said.  Be on time (get there an hour early, and read the New York Times in your car for an hour, in other words), and if some unforeseen disaster is going to make you late, call ahead of time to warn the recruiter.

3)  Dress unprofessionally.  Some candidates feel they can dress comfortably, and don’t believe they need to dress to meet the recruiter as they would for a job interview.  (I once arranged to meet a candidate at his home when I was traveling through his area, and he came to the door barefoot, in shorts.  He said he was working from home, and that was how he dressed when he worked at home in the summer.  Obviously, barefoot in shorts is inappropriate in any business meeting, even if it is at your home.  I didn’t present him to the client, not surprisingly).
If you’re coming straight from work or sneaking out at lunch for the interview and can’t dress in a suit at work without raising suspicions, tell the recruiter that ahead of time.  However, I’ve changed in McDonald’s bathrooms to be dressed right for job interviews, and if you’re really interested in the job, could you do this, too?  You will always be better off in a suit (or the woman’s equivalent); with a few extra minutes, you can make a better impression.

4)  Ask if the recruiter has any other positions for you, in addition to the one he or she is discussing with you.  No retained search firm will ever present you to more than one client at a time.  If the recruiter tells you about a position, and you say, “I’m interested, but is there anything else you’re working on?”, you’ve just told the recruiter that this position isn’t that appealing to you.  The recruiter won’t waste any more time with you.  An unemployed candidate once told me that he was interested in my Upstate New York VP/Operations position, but then told me he was actually more interested in moving to the South, and wanted to know if I was working on anything down there, as well.  That told me something I wanted to know – would he relocate from his home to Albany, New York, and stay there?  I sent him a polite no thank you the next day.  The position would have been a step up for him both financially and in responsibility.  A year later, still unemployed, he contacted me to see if I was working on anything that was appropriate for him.  

Remember, once again, and I’m being repetitive because so many people don’t seem to get this, the retained search consultant isn’t interested in getting you hired any more than is the human resources director at Generous Electric.  I’m paid by the client, and am paid even if the client doesn’t hire anyone. 

5)  Tell the recruiter something that you don’t want repeated to his or her client.  You’d be simply amazed at the number of times that a candidate will tell me something along the lines of, “Don’t tell the client this, but …”.  She probably didn’t realize it, but she just told her secret to the client.  I work for the client, so I am the client.  The good retained recruiter doesn’t keep secrets from his or her client.  Not only has this candidate leaked out information that she didn’t want repeated, but now she’s got me wondering about her common sense.
6) Feign interest in a position just so the search person gets to know you.  If you’re not interested, don’t simply meet with the recruiter so he’ll know you for future assignments.  If someone tells me this truth, I won’t meet with that candidate – I meet with people for current assignments, not to fill up my files for a rainy day.  Meeting with me and then dropping out will get me mad, and won’t help you.  Better to bow out early, recommend some other candidates (then I’ll really like you), and then follow up with your resume for my files.  Your resume will then go into my files with a note that says, “not interested in Persnickety Manufacturing CFO position, but helpful – referred three candidates.”

7) Interview for a job when the geography is wrong.  If someone tells me before they meet with my client that they’re willing to move, and when offered the job, they drop out because their spouse won’t move, they are blacklisted from future searches.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  If the location is iffy, tell the recruiter that.  In that case, he’ll present you only if you are a real catch, and will tell the client they’ll have to work hard to recruit you.  When in doubt, tell the truth.
8)  Fudge your education on your resume.  Checking degrees is unbelievably easy, and any reputable search firm checks these before presenting a candidate.  If you lie here, you’ll be immediately discarded.  If you’ve flourished for the past 25 years with only three years of college, say so.  Lack of a degree is a big deal for some clients, and unimportant to others, but in either case, you won’t get away with pretending you have one (even if you’ve gotten away with it in the past, as a number of candidates I’ve caught cheating have been able to do).

Aptitude, Entrepreneurship and Personality tests

9) Trick the search consultant into thinking that you are a prospective client.  Feigning interest, part II.  You're thinking of moving on, and you get a call from Swish Pleasant at BeegBoyz Search.  Great firm, and great timing!  But this time, she's trying to sell her firm’s  services to your company.  She can come by to introduce what they do when she's in Cleveland next month.  What a great opportunity to show yourself to a top firm!  So you invite her in to show her stuff, and after giving her oohs and ahhs about her presentation, you tell her of your availability, your requirements for your next job, and maybe even hand her your resume.  She makes really nice, and promises to contact you if something develops that is a good fit for you.  Mission accomplished – you've gotten yourself known by a top firm … 

Right?  Actually, if you're lucky, she's torn your resume to shreds before she reaches her car.  Otherwise, if she takes the time to enter comments about you in their database, they will not be one bit favorable.  If Swish's firm had been working on a position for which you could be considered a candidate, she or someone at her firm would have called you about it.
10)  Tell a long, detailed, boring story explaining why you got fired.  When I ask if or why a candidate is unemployed, I invariably get a story several minutes long about reorganizations, bosses that fired almost everyone, terrible things that happened in the industry that were well beyond the candidate’s control, etc., ad nauseum.  My attention has just been diverted from the candidate’s qualifications to his why I got fired story, and I really don’t believe anyone’s story about why they got fired, because virtually no one tells the truth about this anyway.  Rehearse a two-sentence explanation and deliver that, and if the recruiter wants to know more, he’ll ask.  Even better, take some responsibility for what happened – few candidates have the guts to admit that they did something wrong – and you’ll earn points for being forthright and self-aware. 




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