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There are two parts to the executive search process that bedevil candidates: the initial resume review interview and managing references. 

NCAA Football LineAn amazing number of candidates hurt their chances in these two areas.

I have two suggestions:

1. Work History – Be prepared for the “walk me through your resume” question.  Think this through.  If it has been a while since you last talked about your work history, sit down and prepare, remembering dates of employment, scope of responsibility and significant accomplishments.  Not remembering key information, especially over the last 10 years, is a poor excuse and reflects a lack of attention to detail.  If you are an early careerist I cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping a career journal (title, salary, scope of responsibility, big successes, failures, lessons learned, for every employer and position).  I cannot tell you how impressive a candidate can be when they have this kind of information at the ready when a recruiter digs in.

2. Reference Management – Develop a reference list that is large enough so that the same people are not repeatedly called.  Check the contact information to be sure the reference contact information is up to date, including an email address.  The list should be broken down into two categories:  those you can call now and those you can call if you become a finalist.  You should also be prepared for the fact that, at the end of the search process, with a contingent offer on the table, your current employer must be called.  You should also prepare a briefing memo for your references, outlining the job you are pursuing, reminding them of accomplishments, etc.  Memories fade, even for reference contacts, so help prepare them.

Top recruiters will drill down on the detail.  They know that is where the devil resides so be ready, especially for a job you really want.