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Candidates Do the Darndest Things...

The executive search business is a great way—perhaps one of the best ways—to meet fascinating high-powered executives at the pinnacle of their professions.

We've met people who, outside of their professional accomplishments, have climbed Mt. Everest, been award-winning musicians, competed in the Olympics, and in other ways achieved amazing successes. We've had fascinating meetings with candidates that we wished would never end.

However, we've also had those occasional candidate interactions of the opposite variety—in which a theoretically wonderful candidate just seemed to lack common sense. In the spirit of learning more from what *didn't* work than what *did*, here is a window into some of the more baffling behaviors we've witnessed:

  • Candidates refusing to spend the extra few minutes to get a professional (non-work) email address, rather than having, or as their primary contact information.
  • People assuming that we have an open-ended amount of time to speak with them...and beginning their career stories with detailed narratives about days in elementary school, obscure ancestors in their family tree, or the worst—honest—Puffy, the family dog.
  • We're all guilty of occasionally forgetting to turn the ringer on the mobile device off, but this mistake can be compounded when—as a colleague described—a candidate spent three minutes searching her purse while everyone in earshot was serenaded with the Macarena ... and it's 2009.
  • While it is definitely appropriate to demonstrate a record of success, it's a mistake to show up for an interview armed with binders containing endless examples of work product. A rule of thumb: if it takes both arms and a roller bag to transport materials, it's probably overkill.
  • Candidates should be experts about themselves (who else knows them better?) ... so it is mystifying when someone recites their experiences verbatim off their resume, or constantly needs to refer to it ... especially when preceded by "borrowing" the resume back from the person they are meeting.
  • Many people, in an attempt to establish credibility, resort to "name-dropping" ... though this may be useful if discussing their former direct reporting relationship to Jack Welch, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, there is a strong inverse correlation between repetition and the effectiveness of this very bad technique.

A parting piece of advice, again from bewilderingly personal experience: when meeting in a lounge or restaurant setting, follow my lead in ordering. Don't order a Denver omelet with a side of pancakes if I am only having coffee. This is a business meeting, not a 5-star dining experience.

And, please, hold off from ordering the Bordeaux at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

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