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by Erik Sorenson | May 20, 2009


We all know that the Executive Career is under fire.  As our companies (or former companies) struggle, they look to us as “potential savings” or people to blame in the midst of falling profits.  Many of us are already out of work due to restructuring or the simple elimination of positions.  Others have been fired as part of a finger-pointing game.  And many more of us have avoided those two fates but know that we may not escape for long.

That brings me to the point of this posting:  the Executive Recruiter.  By happenstance, I have spoken to three prominent headhunters in the past couple of weeks.  They all confirm what most of us have known for a long time:  the odds against securing a new position via an executive recruiter are long.  This reality pre-dates the current economic meltdown.  All three headhunters told me it means more candidates in the pool are currently unemployed – and maybe a bit more desperate than earlier in this decade.  But due to the nature of the process, there really aren’t significantly more candidates.  The pool is the pool – and executive recruiters search for the best candidates regardless of employment status.  And yes – often the very best candidate is someone currently employed.

So tip #1 is:  Forget about the Economy.  It doesn’t do you any good emotionally to focus on it, and obsessing about it downright damages your chances to score a new position.  And, from the recruiter’s point of view, it’s really not on the radar anyway.  Here are a few more tips on how to deal with executive recruiters

  • Remember – the recruiter is working for the client, and you are NOT the client
  • The client has put forth a detailed, lengthy set of requirements – chances are very good that you do not meet the requirements which doesn’t mean you’re not a qualified executive; it simply means that your background isn’t going to match up with every position out there
  • When dealing with big firms, find one recruiter in your industry sector and lock in – do not engage with multiple recruiters in the same firm
  • Look for sole practitioners – the assignments are often just as meaningful as those done by major headhunting firms
  • In your CV:  specifics, specifics, specifics – companies (clients) have given highly specific requirements for the open position and you’ll have no hope of matching up if your experiences and qualifications aren’t just as precise
  • Don’t fib, be transparent – exaggerations, intentional vagueness and omissions will all backfire, and backfire badly
  • Don’t feign interest – if a position isn’t right for you, say so; recruiters will reward you for that kind of honesty as it saves them time & money (remember: their job is to fill the position with the best candidate, so think about making recommendations of people who might better fit the bill)
  • Be the woman (or the man) with the plan – in other words, when you speak to the recruiter after seeing the company and job specs, show your industry knowledge by stepping up with 3-4 concrete suggestions of how the situation can be improved
  • Set realistic expectations:  this is a tough, tough path and the odds are against you in every single search situation so expect to “lose” frequently in pursuit of the one right fit


Filed Under: Job Search