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Candidates Still Do the Darndest Things...

Who knew our "Candidates Do the Darndest Things" article would be one of our most popular ever? We were flooded with responses! Thus, we've decided to open another window into some of the more interesting candidate behaviors.

The executive search business is one of the best ways to meet and work with fascinating, high achieving individuals. However, there are also always those candidate interactions that leave you scratching your head and wondering what the—ostensibly highly successful—executive seated in front of you could possibly be thinking. It's always when you believe that you've seen it all, that you then realize you haven't even come close.

  • We previously noted how baffling it is that some candidates use email addresses such as as their professional contact information. This is equally true for voicemail. If the personal cell phone is your primary contact number, take the extra minute to record a professional greeting and message—no novelty answering machine songs, or your three-year-old niece informing people that you will "call right back."
  • Details matter, and how a candidate presents him or herself, and the resulting first impressions, go a long way. We recognize that many employers no longer require regular formal business wear in the office. However, it was a clear sign that a candidate was not ready for primetime when he arrived to interview in a suit out of use for so long that dusty coat hanger creases were permanently etched into the shoulder blades.
  • On that same track, some of our more "memorable" interviews occur when we meet with candidates referred into the search process by (well-meaning) clients. In one such instance, as a courtesy to a member of the client company's board, we were asked to interview a referred candidate. When this otherwise highly qualified Chief Financial Officer rose from the table at the cafe to greet me and begin his interview, his jacket, shirt, and tie all looked in order, but his white cotton socks and Birkenstock sandals said "probably not the right person for this opportunity” —further validated when he conducted the entire discussion wearing his flip-up sunglasses "flipped-up."
  • Different people have different levels of comfort with formality in email communications, but it is never appropriate or at all professional to respond to an email detailing a new executive search with one line—"What does the job pay?"
  • From the candidate's perspective, besides gaining additional insight and detail into the client and the opportunity, the interview process should be about informing the search professional about one's background, record of accomplishment, and suitability for the role. Not—as one colleague suffered through—spending 80 out of 90 minutes on a stream-of-consciousness tirade about how terrible your current employer is, and why you are looking to leave the company as soon as possible ... not surprisingly, that person has yet to find a new home.
  • And finally, when submitting expenses for reimbursement, or even better still, prior to incurring those expenses, most candidates take a moment and think through how it will reflect on them. It is not appropriate to ask the not-for-profit organization with whom you are interviewing to reimburse a $100 dinner (for one) ... or to request a limo to transport you from the airport.
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