(Excerpts derived from the BlueSteps webinar, “How to Ace your Next Executive Search Interview” on February 28, 2018 The target audience was C level professionals preparing to meet with a retained executive search recruiter)
About the Retained 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.
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 on 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 in 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 for 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!
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.