Executives in the job search should consider the cautionary tale of a man we’ll call Joe. Joe was a skilled leader at a small New England healthcare organization who had always felt he could do better. When a recruiter came calling with what sounded like a fantastic growth opportunity at a larger hospital system, Joe jumped on it. The salary sounded good, and he’d always wanted to live on the West Coast. It was a competitive search, but he landed what he thought was a dream job.  He pulled his two kids out of school, packed up the wife and family, and moved across the country.

Six months later, Joe’s wife had moved the kids back home, the new house was back on the market, and Joe was looking for another job and wishing he’d never heard that recruiter’s name.

Joe’s dream job wasn’t what he’d thought it would be, and whose fault was that? The hospital’s? The recruiter’s? Or Joe’s?

In truth, the responsibility for ensuring a perfect match of candidate and hiring organization lies on all three. But unfortunately, not every recruiter has the candidate’s best interests at heart. To protect yourself, you must know your rights in the recruiting and executive search process.

Get Answers
When it comes to something as important as a career move, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. The recruiter and employer have their checklists and lists of interview questions, so make sure you have yours. Ask about everything that matters to you.

A few other important points to consider:

  • The recruiter should offer all relevant information about a position. You should never have to pry for details such as the hiring organization’s name or the title, salary, reporting relationship and location of a job.
  • Timely contact and open communication are vital, and help you build a strong relationship with the recruiter.
  • If the recruiter is not willing to retrieve information for you or avoids your communication efforts, it might be time to move on.

If a recruiter makes a job sound too good to be true, it probably is. Every organization has its challenges, and every group of people have their unique way of interacting. One of the trickiest questions often left unanswered is why a position is open. The answer is important, so be persistent. A good recruiter will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about the organization, its problems, its culture, how decisions are made, and how you will be held accountable. It’s far better to find out what you’re getting into ahead of time, rather than after it’s too late.

Keep Private Information Secure
We’ve all heard horror stories about identities being stolen, so we’ve learned to keep a tight rein on personal identifying information, such as Social Security numbers. But, legitimate recruiters do need to ask for such details to verify college credentials and complete background checks. How can you tell if a recruiter’s request is legitimate, or if the person on the other end of the phone is really a scam artist?

First, if a recruiter you don’t know calls you and quickly requests personal identifying information, hang up. Second, if the recruiter won’t tell you the name of his or her client, do not give them any confidential information. Third, expect a proper release form when asked to provide personal data. Never give confidential information over the phone or in an e-mail until you know the position is real.

If you’re currently employed, chances are you don’t want your employer to know you’re in the job market. Always use a personal e-mail and phone account, as well as your own computer and electronic devices, when accessing job-search information or communicating with a recruiter. Legally, your employer has full access to any information in a company e-mail account or their own devices. In addition to getting you fired, such violations could get you sued by your employer.

Protect Your References
Potential employers have the right to ask for and check your references, but it’s your right to ask what kinds of questions your references will be asked and how the potential employer will get in touch with the people on your list.

If you’re active in your job search, your references may be getting multiple calls. Keep a list of more than five references, and offer only a few at a time, so that no single individual will be inundated with calls. Fail to respect your references’ time, and they will be less willing to go to bat for you in the future.

Negotiate the Right Salary
As a rule, never take a job without taking a step up. Executives should not accept less than a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in salary and/or a better title with a broader scope of responsibility. Take anything less, and you are telegraphing that you are being forced to change jobs. That devalues you, permanently. Too many people damage their career brand by accepting a lower-level job rather than taking a step closer to fulfilling career objectives.

Salary is a tricky subject in recruiting. For executive-level positions in the healthcare industry, employers always set a pay grade and/or salary range. If a recruiter doesn’t share this range in the position overview, it’s a red flag. Be warned: Some unethical recruiters may also encourage candidates to ask for more money in hopes of padding their own fees, which are based on a percentage of the position’s compensation.

Be Your Own Advocate
While a recruiter can be a big help in landing you a new job, keep in mind that recruiters are paid by the hiring organization – they are not working for you. A good recruiting firm serves its clients well by thoroughly educating and screening candidates, so that the person who gets the job is more likely to stay for the long haul. If the recruiter does his job well, and you do yours by knowing your rights as a job seeker, you’re more likely to land in a job that’s an ideal match.

© 2012 John Gregory Self