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I love being a recruiter for many of the same reasons that I so enjoyed being a newspaper reporter in my earlier life.

Sure, I like the research — preparing to begin an executive search engagement by doing a deep dive into the client’s organization, understanding the job, the people/working relationships, the performance expectations and the hurdles to success and the culture — but it is the candidate interviews that I enjoy the most.

I love listening to them tell their personal and professional stories, from the interesting tidbits about their earlier life that help me gain insight into who they are today, to understanding how and why they lead people. I benefit so much from that engagement and the ensuing conversations about issues and experiences.

In our firm, we call this three-hour in-depth interview the FtoF, or face to face. We sit across the table — never on videoconference or Face Time or Skype (we use those earlier for get acquainted sessions) — and ask the candidates a myriad of questions covering six areas. This is the time when candidates can demonstrate that they are up to a specific challenge — putting words to success. We aren’t just listening for technical expertise, competence and a record of success. We want to get a clear understanding of who they are as a person — a sense of their confidence, style, values and whether they can adapt to our client. If there is a place in the process for the candidate to brag, this is it. But candidates must learn you have to do it in the right way. Delivering overpowering, excessively boastful and/or rambling answers is not the right way. That kind of response signals a lack of preparation or a deficit in self-awareness, both significant warning flags in most searches.

In today’s evolving healthcare environment, it is not enough to efficiently and factually tell the recruiter where you have been and what you have done. You need to be engaging, smoothly selling yourself, connecting the dots of your successes with the needs of the client. And you need to close the deal in a very uplifting way that differentiates you from the 10 to 15 other candidates who are competing for the same job.

In a recent interview with a candidate that I really liked, personally and professionally, I kept hearing him talk about his successes in business development, forming joint ventures, and successfully creating and expanding new service lines. When I asked him a softball question, “You seem to be very adept at building business but you did not mention that as a key competency, he stopped and instead of offering a deal-closer response, he used words not of success, but of surprised recognition, “Well, I guess you could say that I am.” There were so many positive things he could have said, but he suddenly became a little too modest and lost the moment to build on his asset base for this position.

As I have frequently written over the past several months, being prepared to tell your story — to sell yourself — is so important in the recruiting process. Some candidates seem more concerned with image/damage control — age, employment status, number of short tenures — that they fail to effectively employ words of success.

Boards are pressing recruiters for true leaders, not just successful managers who produce positive quarter over quarter results. This is the impression candidates should focus on leaving.