Basic mistakes

Attention to detail is critical for candidates exploring executive roles

Smart Business
Brad Westveld + Danny Bolger interviewed by Adam Burroughs

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The hiring market for executives is robust in select industries. There seems to be more opportunities than there are candidates to fill them, which has led many candidates to make rudimentary mistakes that eliminate them from consideration.

“Don’t be a ‘lazy’ executive candidate,” says Brad Westveld, a partner at ON Partners. “The job market is strong, but don’t take that for granted. The candidates who are the most prepared and come to interviews with ‘original thoughts’ will have no trouble standing out from the pack.”

“While it’s not necessary to study the company’s most recent 10-K line by line, candidates must understand the business before meeting with a hiring manager,” says Daniel Bolger, a director at ON Partners.

Smart Business spoke with Westveld and Bolger about common mistakes executive candidates make when applying for a position, and the advantages of working with a recruiting firm.

What must executive candidates do to properly prepare for an interview?
Do some basic research. Review the company’s website to understand its products, the markets where it has a presence, basic financials and stock performance, and some of its most recent press releases.

Know who you are meeting. Review executive bios and LinkedIn profiles, particularly the leader making the hire, and get to know their background and experience.

Know the analysts covering the industry and the company. What are they forecasting? What challenges are present in the market at large?

Show genuine interest in the role, even if you are lukewarm on the company or the opportunity. Candidates risk being knocked out of the process when the hiring manager feels that they’re not interested.

Be prepared with a handful of well-thought-out, open-ended questions. Explore the vision of the company and demonstrate some level of relevant and real-time knowledge.

What should candidates understand about recruiters?
Candidates should first understand the recruiter’s business model. Executive search firms represent the company. This is their first priority. They are headhunters, plain and simple. They work a strategy that their clients dictate.

Recruiters have specific markets that they service. Know your recruiter. Don’t call or blindly send a resume to a health care recruiter if you are looking for a semiconductor role.

Understand that each executive recruiter is focused on their current clients and relative assignments. Stay close with appropriate and relevant recruiters and trust they will call when the right role comes up.

Those in the market for a new job should, however, always be open to talking with recruiters when they call.

What’s the advantage for executive candidates of taking a call from a search firm that’s looking to fill open positions?
A search firm can help set candidates apart. Client companies rely on search firms to sort through the minutia of candidates and offer an opinion on which are the best.

Recruiters have personal and targeted conversations with candidates that are specific to the position they’re being asked to fill, so having that detailed conversation with the executive recruiter helps candidates prepare.

The recruiters are also talking with the client hiring manager, and are able to convey what they know about the company and the position back to the candidate, giving them an advantage over those candidates working from the outside.

When in doubt, remember the basic rule of applying for a job: Be prepared. Just 30 minutes of preparation will improve your opportunity to stand out among the crowd. ●

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Resources: Smart Business Online

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