5 gaffes candidates make while working with executive recruiters

At some point in your career, whether you’re “in the market” or not, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up working with an executive search firm. Executive recruiters love to delight clients and candidates.  As a candidate you want to make sure that you present yourself in the best possible light during all communication with the firm, from email to phone calls to in-person meetings. Here are several common, easily avoided mistakes that candidates make during their job search.

Having a resume that doesn’t tell your story

Executive recruiters may screen 100 resumes to find the 50 they want to review in detail. These 50 are further culled to the top 10 through phone screen and then the top 10 are culled to the top three who actually get to meet the client. On the first read, recruiters want to know what you’ve done, where you’ve done it (and when), and what you accomplished while you were there. On the second pass they will want to know scale and scope; both of these are likely discovery items on the initial call. On the third pass, or in the interview, they will likely want to know the challenges you faced and how you handled them. They will want to know what “you” did and how “you” did it; specifically.  Don’t try to keep it to two pages and don’t use a cover letter; rather send a tightly focused email that is relevant.

Allowing typos to slip through the cracks

It may go without saying, but your cover letter and resume should be absolutely pristine. Professionals who are concerned about spelling or grammar errors in their documents may want to have a friend or trusted colleague review them. But it’s not enough to just worry about your resume and cover letter – make sure all emails and written communication with the recruitment agency are free from errors. Any misspelling can demonstrate carelessness, showing that you don’t have an eye for detail.

Not being responsive or polite

When you are in a search process, keep your recruiting team appraised of your availability and the best way to communicate with you. These days, it is not uncommon to communicate via SMS, Twitter, or personal email. Calendars drive the process, so your answers will keep things moving. Don’t ignore the executive assistants or project coordinators. Many search consultants rely on their “voice of the firm” to find out what candidates are really like; please treat them with respect.

Not listening to questions during the phone screener

Candidates should avoid over-preparing or launching into a lengthy monologue about themselves during a preliminary interview. There are probably certain skills and career highs that you want to point out during your phone conversation with the firm, but make sure to work these in naturally. Recruiters like to know why you made the choices you made when you made them, so please be crisp when describing your transitions and motivations.

Ignoring the position’s specifications

Recruiters like to understand your skills, knowledge and experience, and how they apply to their client’s needs. You know yourself better than anyone, so provide truthful answers and highlight the correlations as well as the gaps. Perfect candidates are rare, and most clients are willing to make exceptions for gaps when strength lies in other congruent areas. Help the recruiter to find the fit.

About Caldwell Partners

Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 40 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America and in London, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Back to Insights

Stay on top of the latest intel across multiple industries and continents.