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Recruiters and executives in transition have more in common than each group would care to admit.

Consider this:  executives who are looking for their next job cannot talk to enough people in order to land the next gig.  Recruiters need to talk to a lot of people trying to find the best candidates for their current searches as well as leads for new business.

The problem comes when executives feel they are too busy and/or too successful to spend (read: waste) time with a search consultant.  For every executive who complains about recruiters who do not call back, I can find more than a herd of search firm researchers or consultants tasked with finding great candidates who are routinely frustrated by executives who do not return their calls.

The conventional wisdom on the part of out-of-work executives is that recruiters never call you unless they need you.  If there is no pressing need, as this line of thought goes, then why should an important recruiter bother with some anxious executive beginning his or her transition and drawing down on a severance package?  That does sound a bit arrogant, I will admit.  But, to be fair, search firm partners are busy people.  In addition to reviewing candidates and interacting with current clients, they have to make a lot of calls each day to land new business since, in the end, that is, in large part, how their performance will be evaluated.  That does not leave a lot of free time in a day.

There is certainly a more cynical side to this situation.  A well known partner in a national firm once said, in effect, there were two types of candidates: those that help us and those that don’t.  We will help those who help us (get new business).  The rest are on their own.  And for years, that was bedrock policy for that organization.

One reason I never fled for the security of a large firm and a fat guaranteed draw every month is that I wanted to reserve time each week to take those calls from executives in transition and help with insight on how the search process really works or perhaps even review their resume.  Do I hope they will remember me when it is time to hire a recruiter or when I am looking for a great candidate? Absolutely.  But there is more to it.

As I have noted in the past, when you ask healthcare executives why they go into the industry, most say they want to help people.  This is a noble, and no doubt, sincere response.  When I was discussing this issue with a fellow search colleague, she agreed but then she added: We get paid to find candidates for our clients.  That is our job.  Taking those calls from anxious or desperate candidates on a Friday evening, or even a Saturday morning, when you are not getting paid for the time, that is when the “helping people” comes into play.

She has a point.