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Feb 3 2016
You’ve been approached. Now what?
My last post described what to know for the first time you are being recruited by an executive search firm. This time, let’s talk about what will be expected from you if you would like to go through the interviewing process.
Yes, I know the person who is recruiting approached you and not the other way around, but that’s only the first step in the interview process. If you would seriously consider leaving your current position for another one, there will be things that will be expected from you. The real evaluation is just beginning. And working with and winning the trust and respect of the search professional is as important as impressing the company looking to hire.
One thing to know, according to Amy Cuddy, author of Presence, Harvard professor and subject of the second most widely watched TED talk, the first thing people decide when they meet or talk with you is “Do I trust this person?” First then, be honest about your interest. You don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s if you are not interested in the position and the company. If you are not sure, let the search professional know. Then you both can decide whether to move forward or not.
Second, along this line of building trust, present your qualifications honestly. There’s a hidden value of doing this. If you don’t have the necessary experience, but the search consultant likes other qualities about you, they may still present you as a person of interest to the client regardless. But, if you lie about your experience, it will be discovered sooner or later in the process, you will have lost the trust of the outside search person, his/her firm and potentially the client.
Third, along the trust continuum, answer the questions that are asked of you (provided they are not discriminatory in any way regarding race, religion, political views, sex or age). You will not be viewed as a potential candidate unless the search professional can gather the necessary information about you to present to the client company. Those questions often include compensation (a sensitive subject to some who are being paid too much or too little at their current role, but it may be used to determine fit, potential contribution to the company, and if the client company can afford to hire you; you don’t want to go through the entire hiring process only to find the company cannot afford your salary). Mind you, if the search professional asks for your compensation, they should be prepared to tell you the expected compensation for this position.
The other criteria, besides the trust criteria that Amy Cuddy refers to, in a person’s quick assessment of another is “Do I respect this person?” To present your best self then, be respectful as you would want someone to be respectful of you. Be considerate of someone else’s time and professionalism. Adhere to the arrangements for phone appointments and in person meetings, and be on time. You’ve gone through the trouble of scheduling times that are mutually beneficial for you and the search consultant, so keep to them and don’t be more than a few minutes late without contacting them to explain the reason why. Do not cancel a few minutes or hours before you are supposed to meet, unless it is an emergency and be prepared to make up the time, if that Is the case. Rude behavior is a deal killer because it is a direct indication of your true colors and how it would be to work with you.
Another facet of the respect equation is to respect the search professional’s position as the only gatekeeper to the client unless that professional has communicated to you that it is advisable for you to be in touch with the client directly. The purpose of the client company hiring an outside search firm is so they don’t have to deal with candidates directly; they want to be able to focus on other pressing issues at the business, therefore they hired a “gatekeeper and decision maker”. Don’t jeopardize your good standing as a candidate with the search professional and the client then by going around the search person and calling the client directly. If the client likes you, they will refer you back to the search person anyway (again because they don’t want to handle the hiring and interviewing). If they don’t, you could be dismissed as a potential candidate all together as someone who is disrespectful.
The last point to mention is about self-respect and how to move ahead in the ranking of candidates: preparation - which is just as much for your benefit as for those who will be interviewing you. Asking informed questions which come from conducting the necessary research beforehand shows your true interest and sets you apart from others who might be more lazy. Asking thoughtful questions could make a huge difference in your becoming a favorite candidate. Also, an interview is a chance for you to gather the information you need to make a further decision if the company and position are the right move for you. Without asking questions, you may not be able to learn about the things you most need to know.
To pull it all together, as a true candidate for a position, you will be judged by both the person doing the recruiting (the search professional) and the end client who will be employing the open position, by two criteria: trust and respect. It only helps you as a candidate to be polished, informed and above all gracious with everyone. You will be thought of as a winner, regardless of the outcome of the hiring process, and that image stays with the decision makers (as does the opposite) far more than your resume will.
For more on this topic, register for the upcoming BlueSteps webinar, "How to Network With Executive Search Consultants".