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Candidates Continue to Do the Darndest Things…

Yes, the executive search business is one of the surest ways to meet the best and brightest professionals on the top of their game. But, as the law of averages suggests, there’s never a shortage of counter-balancing examples that leave us questioning the basic intelligence of humanity. Here are a few recent encounters that left us shaking our heads:

  • Everyone has their own unique story, and part of that story is one’s family—the people who helped shape their early years, helped inform their choices, and continue to influence who they are today. We got a bit too much of the family picture, however, when my colleague—while on an interview trip through Germany—had a candidate arrive for his initial interview, arm-in-arm with spouse! Both proceeded to join my colleague at his table in the lobby, presumably for a “family meeting.” Taken aback, my colleague first chalked it up to a cultural misunderstanding, but took decisive action to cut things short when the spouse flagged down a hotel employee and ordered appetizers…
  • Speaking of food, it’s understandable when candidates submit modest meal expenses in addition to flights, taxi and hotel, for an international or cross-country interview trip…but I’m still not sure why one candidate thought he should submit a receipt for a post-interview lunch when meeting with a company five miles down the road from his office.
  • Referring to yourself in the third person when writing is occasionally acceptable, with the risk of coming off as pretentious, but during an in-person meeting? Picture “turnaround expert” candidate staring me straight in the eyes and pointing to himself, saying “When the impossible needs to happen, they call Steve!” That’s downright crazy.
  • While it’s understandable to have a mint or a stick of gum prior to an interview, the first mistake one candidate made was introducing himself to my colleague while still chomping on a whole pack of Trident; the second was when he then offered her a piece as well!
  • Passion and enthusiasm for one’s work is a key trait that most top-notch executives naturally exude. However, if your “enthusiasm” (after being asked: what do you think of your competitor’s contrary view) causes you to stand up, wave your arms, and literally begin screaming at the executive search consultant meeting with you, it may be to your detriment. My colleague thought better of making a “switch to decaf” joke, and instead focused on finding the nearest emergency exit.
  • I enjoy reading when I have the time—and can sympathize with others who find that they just don’t have enough hours in the day to do so. I thought it was a bit much, however, when I came back to the table with my Starbucks coffee, and found the candidate I had just introduced myself to, head down, engrossed in the latest best-seller, as he waited for me to return.
  • And on that note, to my colleague—after we were escorted to the boardroom and told our CEO client was running a few minutes behind—a belated apology for suggesting you not take out the iPad, and that Scrabble would “always be there.” Clearly, during those precious few minutes, you needed to take advantage—as you did—of that game’s fleeting, meteoric existence in our world. Yes, occasionally search consultants do the darndest things as well.
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