Working with an Executive Recruiter (for Candidates)
Working with an Executive Recruiter
Working with an Executive Recruiter
What you should expect – What is expected of you
For additional information: I highly recommend a book called: Knock em Dead in 2000 and Knock em Dead Resumes, written by Martin Yate.
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Over the years, I’ve learned that many candidates, regardless of education, experience, or salary range don’t often understand what to expect from their relationship with an executive recruiter or what is expected of you as the candidate, should we find mutual parameters to proceed with a candidate/recruiter relationship.
In an effort to help you have the most rewarding, trouble-free relationship while you conduct job interviews through the representation of an executive search firm, the following guidelines may prove to be invaluable to you. These guidelines have been written by a certified personnel consultant with nearly two decades of executive recruiting experience including hands – on recruiting and management of a staff of recruiters.
Feel free to keep this handy guide on file for future use.
Ten steps to a happy working relationship with your recruiter
- Honest, two-way communication
- Your resume is your property
- How Many Recruiters?
- Evaluating the offer
- Upcoming Vacations and other contingencies
- What if the new job doesn’t work out?
- Little things that aren’t little
- Referral Reward
- HONEST, OPEN TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION. The number one most frequent cause of problems with the interviewing process being conducted through the services of a professional recruiter almost always stems from miscommunication. Usually, a candidate withholding information about other jobs, or companies you may be interviewing with or other recruiters you may be using at the same time will be the source of great frustration later.
Dealing with a recruiter is like dealing with an attorney you choose to represent you. You either trust that attorney one hundred percent and divulge everything so that he/she may help you best, or if you have any doubts, find another attorney. We will do our best to disclose to you our plans and intentions of which companies we will approach on your behalf.
In the meanwhile, if you know you are pursuing another job at the same time TELL US SO THAT WE WILL NOT DUPLICATE OTHER EFFORTS. Not only that, but revealing such information to our client may help expedite or even increase your offer! Nothing can be more frustrating than having a recruiter working for three weeks on a particular company/project thinking you will be pleasantly surprised with our efforts once we get permission to set you up for an interview, and then be told you already met with or had your resume there. It is equally important for you to disclose to your recruiter any and all other efforts you are focusing on or pursuing so as to ensure we approach fresh company prospects for you.
- YOUR RESUME IS YOUR PROPERTY. Any good recruiter will do their utmost to treat it with the most discretion and confidentiality possible. However when you turn it over to a recruiting firm you are allowing us permission to manage your search in a way we as experts in your field see fit. Recruiters must be allowed some flexibility when it comes to our usage of your resume. In most cases, your recruiter will tell you BEFOREHAND of any company he/she is planning to send your resume. However, company hiring managers can change their mind overnight and over a weekend. In some cases, a good search firm will be able to influence the creation of a job, or even accelerate the beginning of a search which, without our prodding, would have begun months later.
It is this ability to accelerate the process through assertive, careful, expert marketing techniques that makes it important to have leeway. The job market and search process is a dynamic, rapidly changing one. IN CERTAIN RARE CASES, IT MAY NOT BE POSSIBLE TO NOTIFY YOU IN ADVANCE AS TO WHERE YOUR RESUME IS GOING.
Depending on how quickly you can be reached or how easily you make your self available, we sometimes may have to send your resume first, then notify you. In those cases, where we feel we must act quickly on our candidate’s behalf in order to secure you an interview in the midst of competition, and where you may not be reached in time, we will make certain your resume has not already been submitted by any other recruiter to avoid duplication of recruiting efforts prior to submitting it on your behalf. IF THE LATTER BECOMES NECESSARY, WE WILL ALWAYS CONTACT YOU WITHIN 24 HOURS TO NOTIFY YOU WE HAVE SUBMITTED YOUR RESUME TO A COMPANY ON YOUR BEHALF.
- HOW MANY RECRUITERS? This is the second most common cause for conflicts and interviewing problems: too many recruiters.
Think about this for a moment: Your recruiter and you have been working for a few weeks. You have developed a trusting relationship and have obtained a few interviews as a result of the recruiter’s efforts. How would you feel, after two, three interviews over a four week span of time, if you received no offers? How would you react if when you asked the recruiter why, the recruiter replied to you “I sent five other candidates out on those same interviews Jim. You were just one of five. Sorry but one of the other candidates got hired in both of the last interviews!”
YOU WOULD BE UPSET, IF NOT ANGRY. You’d want to know why you weren’t told several others were being represented by the same recruiter wouldn’t you? All the time wasted, risk of job loss, taking time off, etc.–just to have a one in five chance of ever being hired.
YET, CANDIDATES DO JUST THIS TO RECRUITERS regularly when after weeks of hard, laborious, sensitive work we are told “Sorry, you were just one of five recruiters. I had three other interviews from four other recruiters and this was just one offer of three during the last two weeks. Now put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes? How would you feel having kept the offices open, paid rent, a recruiting assistant forty some odd thousand dollars a year plus a recruiter representing you for maybe one, two or often three months to be told the same? Not only would you not be pleased, but the financial loss would run into the tens of thousands of dollars of wasted search time. We work hard and diligently for the candidates we represent. We do our best to make certain our candidates have an advantage over all others.
WHAT TO EXPECT OF US – Most good recruiters will represent ONE, AND ONLY ONE candidate per job at a time. This avoids the creation of internal competition. This helps you and us. More candidates submitted at the same time means longer a company will take to see them and to make a hiring decision, which means the longer the decision will be for ALL involved and for us to collect any remaining portion of our fee which is usually predicated on successfully completing the hire. Only after giving you 100% attention and service, and doing our best to see the process develop through to the offer stage, will we then introduce another candidate. We ask for the same professional courtesy by candidates we represent. GIVE US A FEW WEEKS. See how things are developing. The typical search process can take four weeks to three months. If after giving us a few weeks of your time you are then not finding things moving as quickly as you like, LET YOUR RECRUITER KNOW you will be registering of applying with other recruiters. As a general rule, if your are employed, you should not use more than one recruiter at one time. Once unemployed, you may cautiously step up your efforts.
WHAT WE EXPECT OF YOU – AS A RULE, YOU SHOULD BE WORKING WITH NO MORE THAN ONE RECRUITER AT ONE TIME. Any more than that is a recipe for trouble especially in niche industries such as Telecom and electronic engineering. In many of these niche disciplines, it is a common scenario to have no more than one or two dozen opportunities open within a wide geographic area. A search process that one competent recruiter could handle in just one afternoon of calls (at least begin the process in one afternoon, the follow-up and scheduling would then take weeks).
There would be no reason to use five search firms if the industry barely presents more than two opportunities. SPEAK WITH YOUR RECRUITER FIRST! If you feel you want to use more than one, ask for an honest evaluation. A good recruiter will tell you if you should use others. At times, when we feel we can do little to help, we may even encourage it … but you both need to know where you stand BEFORE work is begun.
Always send “Thank You” cards to the company managers you meet with. If you are rusty or need help (this is suggested even for seasoned executives) send a copy of the thank you letter past your recruiter. He/she will be glad to proof it for any key words or issues they know will get the manager’s attention. We always encourage you fax or email a thank you letter by us so we can give it a “once over” before your mailing it to the company.
- EVALUATING THE OFFER. Most individuals interview for a new job an average of once every four years or so at best. Because of the infrequency the typical person interviews, many don’t know how to determine what a good salary offer is. I’ve taken statistics on each placement from hundreds of interviews conducted annually, and arrived at a formula you can always use.
Regardless of your current salary, whether it is $44,000 or $444,000, you know you have a good offer on your hands if that offer is at least ten percent ABOVE your current compensation – which could be in the form of base salary, stock options and benefits. However, you may do even better. Any offer falling between 12 – 15% ABOVE what you are currently earning is excellent. Occasionally we may see an individual secure an offer that is 16 to 20% above their current income. In rarer cases yet, an offer may exceed this percentage. KEEP IN MIND this is a rare occurrence. Here is the formula you can use:
Offer is 10% above current salary – GOOD
12 – 15% above – VERY GOOD
16 – 20% above – EXCELLENT
Above 20% above – BEYOND EXCELLENT
Your recruiter will try to determine if you have exhausted any possibility of remaining with your current company in another position. If you think you may be able to negotiate an increase, a promotion, or departmental move, the time to do it is BEFORE YOU HAVE REVEALED securing an offer from another company! The professional way, to handle an offer, is to give it one to three days maximum (most offers are accepted or declined within 24 hours since by the time we have reached this point the candidate has generally had ample time to study the position, research the company, and get comfortable with the people he/she would be reporting to).
If you accept, do so with appreciation and gratitude toward your new employer. If you decline, do so decisively, take no more than two or three days. It is best for future relationship building if you tell your recruiter specifically why so that she/he may help avoid the reason which made you turn the offer down going forward as you are presented to other companies. YOUR recruiter will appreciate being recognized for their hard work, whether you accept or decline. Do so with professionalism and thank him/her. You are most likely to encourage them to work with you again in the future if you leave your bridges unburned.
In one case, a promotion took place in the midst of the search, we believe as a result of his current company suspecting he had interviewed with us. We were able to obtain an offer in exceeding the candidate’s NEW higher salary by still another 10% … yet were turned down only after asking for a week to think about it. It’s a sure bet to blemish your credibility and professionalism, and portray yourself as someone other recruiters may not want to ever approach again once word gets out (recruiters do regularly meet at association meetings…word will inevitably get out) that you may be an indecisive candidate to work with. Not to mention, this could annoy some more aggressive recruiters into raiding the department or staff of the manager engaging in such behavior. No professional recruiter would want any candidate to accept any offer you feel is not right. What IS expected is to make such a declining of an offer with empathy, courtesy, gratitude, appreciation and professionalism. Doing so ensures you will have a business contact to speak to in the future. Its a matter of simple respect, the same you would like to be granted toward yourself.
OTHER OFFERS/ MULTIPLE OFFERS: If you accept or are about to accept an offer with another firm, call your recruiter and let him/her know. Not only will this flag us to stop further efforts, but in case we can accelerate something we’ve already invested time in, now’s our last chance to see if we can bring something to the offer stage in case it has been stalled.
- COUNTEROFFER. According to a recent article in the National Business Employment Weekly, 82% of individuals which negotiate or accept counter offers with their original employer, are fired within nine months. Accepting a counter offer is UNPROFESSIONAL. You should always explore internal opportunities first with your current employer. If your current employer requires you “blackmail” them with another offer in order to obtain a promotion or increase, why would you want to remain with such a company in the first place? Accepting a counter offer may also blemish your professionalism in the marketplace. In certain industries and niche disciplines, word will get out, and may without your even knowing it, adversely effect your chances of getting other offers if you decide on interviewing again months later. I’ve personally seen cases where this happened!
A professional candidate thinks carefully about the offer, makes inquiries as to possible “wiggle” room for upgrading the offer or throwing in perks, and then accepts or declines with conviction in two to three days. Once you have made your decision stick to your guns. Tell you employer, “I’ve thought about this carefully, and I’m sticking to my decision … thank you for your counter offer … I’m flattered…but my decision is final.” In the end, everyone will respect your more for not waffling and being decisive. Stick to your guns.
Always have a type written (better yet PC wordprocessor-printed) resignation letter in an envelope to add formality to your resignation meeting. We’ve seen cases where candidate will sit on an offer for nearly an entire week or more (only where the company hiring manager generously allows this will a recruiter even let an offer go so long), then go from manager to manager of their current employer mentioning the offer without ever formally resigning, as if to ask for advice suggestions, etc. regarding the new opportunity. This could be interpreted as veiled blackmail, or searching for a counter offer – in sum, most unprofessional.
The correct way is to make your decision on your own first, then resign in person through a face to face meeting and BACK IT UP with a written resignation letter. Period. There is no other correct way. All the career books such as Adam’s Job Bank, Executive Recruiter Directory will echo the same advice. Unfortunately, the people who need this advice most never read those books.
- RESIGNATION. Even six figure financial directors and CEO’s can be horribly sloppy when it comes to a clean resignation. Again, face to face meeting, and back it up with a resignation letter. Resignation letters should be brief but courteous.
Mr Jones, CFO,
Dear Mr. Jones,
I wish to thank you and MCX for all the wonderful years I have enjoyed as controller of this company. Because of MCX, my career began as an auditor, and advanced several times to Director during the last ten years. However, the time has come to move on. As of today I submit my resignation which will be effective (some future date two or three weeks maximum). I wish to express I will miss working with you all, but have thought about this decision carefully and feel it is time to meet a new challenge and opportunity. I hope we can maintain a friendly, professional relationship in the upcoming years.
- UPCOMING VACATIONS. If you are interviewing during early summer months (which is when most people have vacations already planned), here’s the right way of mentioning pre-paid vacations before you accept: Never mention pre-paid vacations, honeymoons, or other plans during the first or second interviews. Once you have received an offer, your recruiter will suggest that the offer is accepted “contingent upon the following issue” (the issue being disclosed is the weeks you need off). At this time, a company will rarely rescind an offer just because you need one or two weeks off in upcoming months … especially if its mid summer and these type of plans are a normal part of the interviewing process this time of year.
- WHAT IF YOUR NEW JOB DOES NOT WORK OUT? Since so much preparatory, pre-screening, time goes into each interview, it is very rare a candidate has a problem with his/her new job. However, once every other year or so, a problem will occur. In the rare event your new position through an executive recruiter does NOT work out…what should you do? Quit? Not show up?
First call your recruiter and ask to speak with him/her “off the record” regarding the problem. In more than 60% of the cases where a problem occurs, it can usually be resolved right then and there by the recruiter discreetly intervening in whatever way is most appropriate.
If the problem can not be resolved, you owe it to your recruiter to at least work out a mutually acceptable “resignation process.” This is important since your recruiting firm, depending on their contractual obligations with the client, could stand to refund tens of thousands of dollars, should you resign within a designated “guarantee period.” These periods generally range from zero to 90 days. Financial damage to your recruiter can be prevented through proper resignation planning. You maintain a valuable industry contact, your professionalism remains intact by resigning with dignity, and the process becomes smoother by opening a conversation with your recruiter.
Not only are you working a proper exit out to help your recruiter, but this also works to your favor in reverse since your recruiter will now have every incentive to place you as a priority candidate and may be in the best position to help you again. Even if not directly, a good recruiter will be happy to help even indirectly by giving you more names, contacts of other recruiters.
- LITTLE THINGS ARE NOT LITTLE. Some of the following quick tips provided through the courtesy of “A funny thing Happened at the Interview” published by Edin Books, N.J.
A.) Send thank you letters post marked the same day….make certain they are brief and well written. Some companies have been known to make hiring decisions based on how someone sent the thank you letter postmarked on the same day.
B.) Always call your recruiter back the same day your interview takes place as soon as possible afterwards.
C.) Dress appropriately…find out corporate culture.
D.) Make certain answering machines are working properly during your search so you may retrieve message promptly. Try to clean your message tape as often as possible.
E.) Take advantage of the Internet to find out MORE about the company you are interviewing with or industry. With the internet, and most companies having web sites, it is now much easier than ever to obtain information even on small privately held companies than ever before
- REFERRAL REWARD PROGRAM. Got the offer? Accepted it? Happy with your new job?? The best way to let your recruiter know is to refer other friends, family, or business buddies to the person that helped. Some recruiting firms have a formal referral reward program. Others may not have a formal one in place, but will nevertheless highly appreciate your gratitude being returned in the form of referrals of friends, family, or other business associates. The author of this guide is Frank G. Risalvato
Gary Perman is President of Perman Technical Search Group, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting Executives to Engineers in the technology industry since 1996.
If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact him at email@example.com
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