Pick Me, Pick Me: How to be a TOP CANDIDATE with Executive Recruiters

My name is Mark Wayman, and for the last twelve years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, my average placement is $200,000 and last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.

I am frequently asked, "How come Executive Recruiters never call me with the GOOD jobs? How can I stay on their radar?" Two great questions. Executive Recruiters DO get the best jobs. Any company that is going to pay a Recruiter 25% to 35% of your base salary is a company you want to work for! And everyone wants to be that "go to" candidate when a great job comes up. So here are a few of my tips for making an Executive Recruiter your best friend.

Gainfully Employed - You can hold the hate mail. I'm not here to judge anyone, just give you the honest truth about how the system works. Gainfully employed candidates are the most attractive. They are followed by folks they just left their current job this week, and finally those that have been on the street for some period of time.

Education - Nearly 100% of high end jobs require a college degree. Again, these are NOT the Recruiter's requirements; they are the hiring company's. If the Recruiter wants to get paid, he has to follow directions. Either you have a degree or you do not.

Professional Experience with High Profile Companies - From an experience perspective, Recruiters like stability. Three to five years minimum per gig. Candidates with five jobs in five years are "job hoppers" and eliminated from consideration. And of course there may be a very logical reason for moving around, but Recruiters get paid to place executives, and good companies expect stability. And the most attractive candidates have worked for high profile companies with names everyone recognizes.

Without Integrity, I Don't Care How Brilliant or Talented You Are - So those first three are a prerequisite - Gainfully employed, college degree and stable work history. Now we move on to more subjective areas. A great CEO once told me, "Without integrity, I don't care how brilliant or talented they are." Surprisingly, a large number of executive candidates are NOT truthful. Candidates lie about their education, experience, job title, compensation...you name it. Had a candidate tell me his base salary was $150,000. After we made the job offer, the background check came back at $100,000 from his last job. "Oh, I thought you meant with my bonus, insurance, dry cleaning and car allowance." No you didn't. You just flat out lied to get the job. And then there are all the candidates that list colleges they never graduated from. Either you have a college degree or you don't. Only list a college if you graduated. INTEGRITY is the biggest deal breaker in recruiting. No Recruiter wants to represent someone that is dishonest.

Relationships Trump Talent - All things being equal, Executive Recruiters submit candidates they know and like. If you remember nothing else from reading this, remember this - RELATIONSHIPS TRUMP TALENT. Candidates say, "You are doing your clients a disservice by not submitting me - I'm the smartest person to ever walk the planet." Not true. Recruiters get paid to know the candidates personally, and to provide scripture and verse on their backgrounds. Why did they leave their last job? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Companies pay good recruiters to submit executives they know and trust, not candidates that cold call and send unsolicited resumes.

You Need to Add Value!
- Let's say I have a CFO search. I'll send an email to 200 CFOs that I know personally to see if anyone wants to volunteer, but also to see if anyone can provide a referral. Top Executive Recruiters don't post jobs online or use Monster candidate databases. They are careful to only represent executives they know personally, or those referred to them by a credible source. BIG TIP - If an Executive Recruiter asks for a referral, and you can provide one, DO IT. Recruiters love people that add value, and have exceptionally long memories.

Don't Spam Your Resume - If you are going to apply for jobs online, there is no need to send an Executive Recruiter your resume. We get paid to find the unobtainable, inaccessible, gainfully employed executives with impeccable pedigrees. Online job postings are for "B" candidates.

Arrogant and Self-Absorbed is NOT Attractive - Let me tell you about the worst candidate I ever represented. He was a $500,000 type with a very impressive background. Better yet, a high profile person sent me the resume. When someone important vouches for you, that goes a long way with me. Unfortunately, this candidate set new records for hubris. Absolutely refused to listen. Eventually I met with him in person and said, "If you don't listen to me, I have to withdraw you from the search." He did not get the job, was unemployed two years, worked a year and is unemployed again. Humble and genuine is attractive. No company wants to hire narcissistic megalomaniacs.

Don't Be Desperate or Needy - This is another area you need to be careful with. The fact you got fired may be an emergency on your part; it is not an emergency for the Recruiter. RECRUITERS GET PEOPLE FOR JOBS, NOT JOBS FOR PEOPLE. Really, really important to understand. If you come across as desperate, no Recruiter will represent you. Recruiters focus on finding jobs and placing strong executives in those jobs. They are not going to drop everything they are doing to solve your crisis. If you think constantly calling and emailing will "keep you on their radar", you are sadly mistaken. Pretty quickly they will stop returning your call.

No Cold Calls - Top Recruiters don't accept unsolicited resumes. In other words, resumes of executives they don't know. The "B" Recruiters do that because they are throwing spaghetti on a wall and praying something sticks. The best Executive Recruiters only work with executives they know personally, or those referred from their professional network. If you don't one or two Executive Recruiters personally, make it your goal to meet a couple. Ask one of your peers for a referral. Build the bridge before you need to cross the river.

Confidential means CONFIDENTIAL! - Never, ever ask an Executive Recruiter to share information about a confidential search. Like a Doctor or Attorney, our work is very sensitive and confidential. In some cases the incumbent has not been terminated yet. In all cases the company does not want to be assaulted by unqualified candidates. If an Executive Recruiter tells you the company is confidential, leave it at that.

Be Realistic About Compensation - If you are making $200,000, no company is going to pay you $400,000. Probably not even $300,000. Although I have seen some pretty big pay increases for specific technical skill sets, the typical increase is 10% to 20%. Pretty much everyone thinks they are underpaid, however my sense is that 10% are underpaid or overpaid and 80% of executives are receiving the market rate. If you are unrealistic about compensation, Executive Recruiters won't represent you. We get paid to place people and don't spend time on the impossible.

Never End Run a Recruiter - Here is a great way to become persona non grata. If the Recruiter says you are not a fit, YOU ARE NOT A FIT. Period. Not a discussion item. If you try to end run the Recruiter and go directly to the hiring company you will accomplish two things. First, the hiring company is going to ignore you. They hired that Recruiter to keep unqualified people like you from gang tackling them. Second, you will join the Recruiters "excluded list" of executives they won't represent in the future. And you know what? All the Recruiters know each other and talk to each other. And many times hiring companies call the Recruiters for input, even if they are not engaged with the search. Never seen a successful end run. Don't do it!

Compliance Issues are a Deal Breaker - If you have a criminal record, DUIs, bankruptcies or tax liens, you will be challenged to find a senior level job. Companies want to hire executives that make good personal decisions.

Don't Burn Bridges - I often tell Las Vegas executives, "This is a town of two million, but only 200 of them make all the decisions, and they all know each other." There is no benefit to burning bridges. Wish I had $100 for every candidate that was otherwise highly talented, but had burned their bridges and could not get a single interview. Mostly they all have to leave town and find a city where no one knows them. It's like you Mom told you, "Play nice."

No Sour Grapes - If the Recruiter secures you an interview, but you don't get the job, be positive and upbeat. Thank the Recruiter for their time and effort on your behalf. Never say "it's their loss" or "they must be idiots not hire me." Sour grapes paints you in a negative light and will get you excluded from future searches.

An Attitude of Gratitude - Once you find a job, let your Executive Recruiter connections know where you landed and give them updated contact information. Thank them profusely for their help during your career search. And make sure to stay in touch. A shocking number of executives ask Recruiters for help, and then cast them away once they get a job. Make no mistake; it will be remembered next time around.