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CEO candidates DO NOT like serious game-changing surprises with new jobs, especially those that surface AFTER they have accepted the position and relocated their family.

Ask the RecruiterThis happens far too often.

One rhetorical question I frequently hear:  “The recruiter didn’t know or they chose not to tell me.  No one on the board of management team disclosed it. How was I to know”?

Not to be glib, but you have to ask the tough questions.   If you are kicked out of a search for being thorough, for asking questions that the hiring authority may not want to answer, then consider it a blessing.  Not getting a potentially bad job is nothing to be upset about.

Another question I am frequently asked, one that is almost always a follow-up to the first:  “What should I have done differently?”

While many recruiting organizations are transparent, some are not.  As my Grandmother Jackson loved to say, “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is and you should be honest with yourself when you feel doubt.”  In other words, if there is something bad lurking under the surface that has not been disclosed, no amount of hope or wishing for the best will make it go away, and that includes how much you want the job.

For the record, at JohnGSelf + Partners we research our clients through in-depth due diligence site visits.  If we sense that there is an issue we will ask the direct questions and will disclose our findings. We cannot catch everything but over the years we have earned a reputation with our clients and candidates for our thoroughness.  If we do find an underlying material issue that we want to insert into the Position Prospectus and the client resists, my response is always the same, “Given the high cost of executive turnover, don’t you think this will be the least embarrassing and least costly time for the candidate?”

If our Firm is not involved in the engagement, and as a candidate you are struggling to find real insights in the 12-page position summary most national firms provide, then here are three strategies to consider:

  1. At a minimum, run search engine checks for news stories.  Do not rely on one source.  If anything applicable pops up from Google, Yahoo, etc, use your findings to frame questions for the site interview.  Do not say, “I Googled you and this came up “, but do ask a carefully thought out question and ask for  clarification.
  2. As a senior executive you should have a robust professional network.  If you do not, that is a whole new kettle of fish, a discussion for another day.  Tap into that, carefully selecting people who may have market intelligence that could lead to greater insight.
  3. In virtually every organization in which I have worked as a consultant or recruiter there is an employee who knows the truth and will share, if only they are asked.  You have to be careful with this approach.  It is potentially the best  source of information available but an overture poorly executed could produce serious repercussions.  You have to know who to ask and then frame your question in a non-threatening “I would value your insight” manner. You must take the high ground and approach with some subtlety. Remember, if there are serious issues lurking under the surface there will be truth tellers.