Advice for Candidates: First Meeting with an Executive Recruiter


The retained executive recruiter is like a casting director for the client. The recruiter wants to know: “Can I see putting the candidate on stage with the client?” Recruiters will have a handle on the organization’s leadership priorities and sensibilities but will be less able to speak about all the details of a job or organization—which you can learn from the hiring manager (if you make it onto that stage!). There is an aspect of long-term value to discussing a new position with a recruiter. The recruiter, the client, and you, the candidate, are exploring possible relationships with each other; you may get placed by the recruiter for this position or for another position later on if this one does not work out.meet with recruiter


Preparing to Meet with the Recruiter

  • When preparing for an interview with the recruiter, rehearse your questions and prepare to share your accomplishments. Experienced interviewers tend to focus more what you have actually done rather than pose hypothetical questions.
  • Do your homework! If you don’t do due diligence in preparing for your interview, recruiters may make assumptions ranging from lack of interest the opportunity to concerns that you will show up unprepared to meet with the client. Use LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Google, etc. and anticipate making one or two references to your research in the interview. Remember, the recruiter will present his or her impression of you to the client! 
  • With the application of new pay equity laws, recruiters will be less likely to ask for your salary history. Consider and rehearse the salary range you would be seeking to make a change.  


During the Interview

  • Dress as if you are meeting with the CEO; even if it’s a position in a casual culture, still go a bit formal.
  • Arrive 5-10 minutes early. If you have an unavoidable delay, call/text/email as soon as you can. Be prepared with contact information ahead of time.
  • Don’t overthink it. There are umpteen reasons why a recruiter might ask a particular question.  Just look at the recruiter in the eye, answer their questions directly, and be brief.
  • And this is really important: Talk about your former employers as if they were in the room. Enough said! 


Follow Up

  • Send a thoughtful thank you/follow up email within 24 hours. If you have heard nothing in 10 days, send a check-in email request for an update.  Hand written notes are no longer the standard or expected.
  • Don’t go around the recruiter and contact the hiring manager. Remember the recruiter is the client’s trusted advisor and will be honest with the client about his or her experience with the candidates being presented. The recruiter can reinforce your interest and desire to work for the client and shouldn’t find out anything from the client that you haven’t already told him or her. Following the chain of command can lead to future opportunities with a recruiter.


This article was originally published on the Development Guild website

Excerpts derived from the BlueSteps webinar, “How to Ace your Next Executive Search Interview” on February 28, 2018. Listen to the recording of the full webinar by becoming a BlueSteps member.

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About the author

Bill Weber's picture

Bill Weber is President and co-Founder of Development Guild DDI.  As a recognized leader in the field of nonprofit leadership and executive search, Dr. Weber has focused his career on the convergence of strategic planning, philanthropy, and leadership development and the transformational impact it can have on an institution. To learn more about Dr. Weber and Development Guild DDI, visit their website: www.developmentguild.com.


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