Recruiters want to accomplish two things when they undertake a search assignment. Find someone who can succeed in the job and to make their client happy. It makes no difference whether the recruiter works as a corporate headhunter or a as an associate for one of the thousands of recruiting agencies or search firms across the country.
They live for the client’s vote of pleasure: “Those were great candidates you found for us.”
Executives in the job market need to understand that the search process today is increasingly less about them and more about meeting the needs of the recruiter and the prospective employer. If you are a job candidate, that can’t make you feel too good, especially if landing a job is central to avoiding dipping into your savings or, worse, dealing with a financial meltdown. In the world of talent acquisition the recruiting process is not a balanced scale and is becoming less so. To succeed in this new paradigm, job candidates should avoid the BMW syndrome – bitching, moaning and whining – about the recruiting process and focus on out how to compete more effectively – how to be a helpful candidate.
So, what does that mean, being a helpful candidate?
- Your resume addresses the specific needs of the prospective employer. If they are looking for it and you have done it, highlight it in your Professional Summary.
- You are prepared for the interviews. Most executive candidates think that this just means researching the candidate. No, that kind of limited preparation has hurt more executives in the job search process than you can possibly imagine. Be prepared to communicate your value proposition, how your experience connects with the needs of the client and how you can help them solve their pain points, problems, challenges – whatever you want to call it. Connect the dots. And, be ready with authentic answers for all those questions you just as soon no one would ask. There is no excuse not to be prepared for the interview process.
- Do not assume the recruiter or client interviewer is prepared. The vast majority are not. You will be lucky if they have studied your resume – versus scanned it – for any length of time. But if they do come to the table thoroughly briefed on your resume and your accomplishments, you had better be prepared to deliver some world-class answers. I think that the mark of a good candidate is one that excels in interviews even when the recruiter or the employer is not prepared.
- Be self-aware. Every interaction you have while visiting the client’s location, whether it is chatting with the parking lot attendant, the security officer in the lobby or the receptionist in the executive suite, is part of the interview. Good companies, the smart ones that rarely make hiring mistakes, check with their people regarding your interactions. They will ask your lunch hosts how you behaved, how you treated the wait staff. You do not get a pass for letting down your guard outside the confines of the interview.
- Boring interviews are a deal killer. Many candidates are uninspiring in interviews and their impact on the people conducting the interview is the same as students trying to concentrate in a hot classroom right after a big lunch on Friday afternoon. I will admit that I have struggled not to nod off more than once during my career of interviewing. Sometimes it is because of a crushing travel schedule and long days, but too often, unfortunately, it is because the room is warm and candidate is just answering questions – telling, not selling, their experience and their value to the prospective employer. When you are meeting the client’s recruiter or the client, it is not the time to drone on with the same kind of answers the other 10 candidates have provided. Be original, energetic, and engaging – not over the top – but enough to capture the attention of the interviewer.
Communication is a critical leadership competency. Do not patronize the interviewer with BS compliments. I tried that many a time in my youth and it does not work. Remember, if you cannot communicate your value in a compelling way, differentiating yourself from the dozens of other executives who want the same job you want, it will be a long afternoon for the interviewer and a disappointing one for you.