Kimberly C. Kisner

How to Work with Executive Recruiters

A step-by-step guide on how job seekers can work effectively with executive recruiters

By Elizabeth Bennett-Freelance Journalist
You met with a recruiter, but now she’s not responding to your e-mails. Maybe your background is perfect but you don’t make it past the phone screen. How could it be that you’re “not a good fit” when you’re so clearly made for the position?

TheLadders spoke with several current and former third-party recruiters, as well as job seekers, to learn more about the nuts and bolts of the process of working with a recruiter.

Job hunters tend to view recruiters as an unfortunate necessity in the search process, regarding them as the people who don’t respond and don’t really know what the hiring company is looking for.

It turns out that many job seekers have misconceptions about the most basic role of a recruiter. “They don’t understand that we don’t work for them,” said Greg Bennett, a headhunter at the Mergis Group in Cary, N.C. “We work for the client” — the hiring company.

Below are some typical scenarios in which job seekers may find themselves. We asked the recruiters what’s happening at their end:

Scenario One: You think you’re a perfect fit for the position, yet the recruiter isn’t responding to your application or your follow-up calls and e-mails. Potential red flags may include:

You’re not qualified for the job.

  • Like it or not, your work experience may not fit the bill. It could be that the hiring company is looking for 10 years of sales experience and that your 15 years in sales is not attractive. It’s also possible that you didn’t read the posting closely, or at all. “When a job seeker ignores certain stipulations such as a listing that requests local candidates only or has degree requirements that don’t match, it becomes evident that they are answering postings without reading them,” said Sherry Brickman, a partner at Martin Partners, a retained search firm in Chicago. “This is a waste of time for everyone involved as well as frustrating for a recruiter.”

You’re a good fit but not an ideal fit.

  • “[Third-party recruiting] agencies get paid a lot of money to find people that a corporation in need of staff can’t,” according to Michael Rosenberg, manager of sales, productivity and performance at TheLadders. “And with a 15 to 25 percent fee going to the recruiter, corporations want to make sure they hire the exact right person.” In plenty of cases, almost isn’t good enough, especially now that recruiters are pulling from a larger applicant pool.

Your recruiter — or the hiring company — isn’t effectively communicating the job specifications.

  • Sometimes recruiters aren’t able effectively to express what their client is looking for, a result of their own limitations or their client’s lack of specificity. The larger the organization, the more red tape there is, according to Rosenberg.

Your e-mail subject line could be slowing down the process.

  • Effective subject lines in e-mails should reference the position you’re applying for, rather than “Hello” or “Intro,” Rosenberg said. If a recruiter is sorting through hundreds of e-mails a day, it makes her life easier if she receives a cue about the contents of the e-mail.

Your resume may not be conveying your story at a glance.

  • With so little time to devote to each resume, make it easy for recruiters to find what they’re looking for: your last employer and position, your tenure there, and the three most relevant bullet points based on the job you’re applying for. If a quick scan doesn’t yield a compelling career narrative, Rosenberg said it’s possible that your application will never make it beyond the inbox.

Misspellings of any kind turn off some recruiters.

  • Typos may leave the impression that you don’t pay attention to details. Double- and triple-check your cover letter and resume. Better still, have someone with an eye for detail proof it.

A generic cover letter could be your undoing.

  • Recruiters may read the lack of specificity as lazy and/or uncaring, Rosenberg said. Tailor each letter to the particular company, industry and position to which you’re applying.

Superlatives may be getting in your way.

  • For instance, calling yourself the “best” or “greatest” CPA without supporting evidence can be perceived as cocky. “It suggests the job seeker is way too sure of himself and may be tough to work for,” Rosenberg observed. “A recruiter could build a story in their head before they even get you on the phone.”

What can you do? Not much if you’re not qualified, but applying for a specific job and making sure that you’ve dotted all your “I’s” and customized your cover letter will at least ensure you’re getting the attention you deserve.
Scenario Two: You didn’t make it past the recruiter’s phone screener.

Your general attitude could be a mismatch with the hiring company.

  • For instance, your professional-yet-serious demeanor may not work in a setting where a sense of lightness and humor is considered a priority for managers, said Harold Laslo, a staffing specialist at the Aldan Troy Group in New York. Don’t take it personally. The longer a recruiter has worked with the hiring company, the better he’s able to evaluate your candidacy.

You didn’t listen to the questions.

  • During phone screens and interviews, less is often more. Whether the cause is nervousness, self-absorption or other limitations, candidates sometimes provide far more information than a question warrants, according to Marian Rich, a recruiter with Bonell Ryan, a retained search firm in New York. Rich said she often asks candidates to give a quick overview of their careers, probing for details later in the process. “I’m always dismayed at how many candidates launch into an in-depth and very lengthy response,” Rich said. “It can put me off and will certainly raise the question of whether or not this candidate will interview well with a client.”

What can you do? Follow up with the recruiter to ask her why you’re not a good fit. She should be able to provide a concrete reason. If she can do that — and you trust her assessment — let her know you’d like to be considered for future positions.

Scenario Three: You met the recruiter in person, but now he doesn’t think you’re right for the job.

Your work style may not be suited to the position.

  • For example, the recruiter may determine that you thrive in structured work settings, but the hiring company is looking for someone who functions best in an unstructured environment. Once again, recruiters who have placed candidates with the hiring company have a good sense of who would succeed there. It is well within a job seeker’s rights to ask how long the recruiter has worked with a certain company, said Laslo of Aldan Troy.

Your personality may not be a match for certain company or department cultures.

  • For instance, you may think your ambition and assertive personality could only be an asset, but it could signal potential challenges at some firms. “If a candidate has career aspirations and I pick up that they may not have patience before they see advancement or will be badgering HR in regards to advancement, they may not be right for certain companies,” Laslo said, adding that small companies tend to be more focused on personality than large ones.

What can you do? Talk to your recruiter and find out exactly why you’re no longer in the running. Gather as much information as you can and ask if there’s anything about your personal performance that you could improve.

Scenario Four: The recruiter is being vague about why the hiring company doesn’t want to proceed with your application.

She may not have all the information.

  • Recruiters agree that at each point in the application process your recruiter should be able to cite specific reasons why she (or the hiring company) doesn’t think you’re a suitable candidate for the job. But recruiters don’t always have that information if the hiring company is reticent to disclose it for legal or other reasons, said Rosenberg.

She may be reluctant to talk about personal quirks.

  • If the hiring company is troubled by your lack of personal hygiene, for example, the recruiter may withhold the information if she thinks it’s not constructive.

What can you do? Strike a friendly tone when probing for details. Help the recruiter understand that you value his feedback and would appreciate any information he’s able to supply.



Overcoming Perfectionism

Strong attention to detail is something employers value in the people that work for them. But when your tendency to check, and recheck, and recheck again gets in the way of your productivity, it’s time to pause and determine if perfectionism is getting in the way of your ability to do your job effectively. If you find yourself spending too much time and energy trying to achieve the perfect result, consider these pointers.

Weigh the Costs

If you spend countless hours going over your work until it reaches perfection, you’re likely doing this at the expense of other activities or projects. So make a list of all of the things – both personal and professional – that you aren’t able to focus on because you are caught up with one particular task. When you start to see what you are missing out on, you’re more likely to want to change your behavior. You may also find that the quality of one “perfect” project doesn’t outweigh the numerous assignments you failed to get to on time.

Set Limits

If you struggle with knowing when to cut yourself off, set limits for yourself ahead of time. Allocate a certain number of hours to completing a task, or allow yourself to review a certain project a set number of times. It’s also important to set deadlines for yourself and to work to meet them.

Embrace Criticism

Many perfectionists fail to see constructive criticism as something that is positive, but rather, as an attack. As a result, they work to create a product that others will be unable to criticize because it is flawless. The fact is, criticism can be healthy and help you to see weaknesses in your work that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own. Criticism can help you to perform better on future projects, and is a healthy exercise in helping you to see your work in another light.

Learn from Your Mistakes

On that note, it’s okay to make mistakes – everyone does – and it’s important to learn from them. No one will fault you for being less than perfect, so you shouldn’t dwell on it, but take it for the character building experience that it is.

Give Yourself a Break

Force yourself to unplug from your work when you go home at the end of the day. Your evenings should be reserved for relaxing and indulging in activities that you enjoy – not spending more time on projects that can wait for the morning.

The fact that there is always something you can improve upon should be heartening, as you can constantly work to better yourself. That said, perfection is difficult, if not impossible to come by, so ease up on yourself and just focus on doing your best.

The Doostang Web site

Reduced Income? No Worries…You Can Still Enjoy Life!

In my book, Chapter 18 “The Layoff Tool Kit,” I discuss ways on how to still enjoy your life, but on a budget. No one likes to have a reduced income, especially if they are accustom to making a certain amount of money. I know, because I have been there more times than most. A reduction in income may be due to a layoff or a decrease in pay for a number of reasons. At any rate, just because you are faced with a reduction in income doesn’t mean you can’t take control of how to handle your income-challenged situation. One of the difficult aspects of having a reduced income is accepting the realization that you can’t spend as much as you are used to spending. No more weekly manicures and pedicures, no more exotic trips at the drop of a dime and no more eating lunch out several times a week. All of that has to stop! No for real…it has to stop. With a reduction in income, you can’t be in a state of denial and pretend that nothing in your pocket has changed. You have to be financially mature enough to realize that you have to find innovative, cost-effective ways that aid you in reducing your spending while still leaving money in your pocket. (If you purchase my book either from this site or by going to and download a Kindle copy-you can read about the “Layoff Tool Kit”-it will provide you with the steps to help you stay on track with your spending while adjusting to your new income.)


Well thank God you all have me to help you out. Now, your probably saying, “Kim I don’t make a lot of money or I’m collecting unemployment and I want to still be able to enjoy some of the finer things in life.” Don’t worry,  I got you. I have come across some wonderful Web sites that have awesome deals for restaurants; fitness classes like boot camp and yoga; relaxing spa services; shopping; trips and even coupons for groceries. Take a look below at some of these Web sites. I’ve used most of them and have gotten some great deals. Who said that you can have fun on a “dime” budget? Not me!


Half Off Depot


Sugga’s Thrift Boutique


Grocery Coupon Network


Shoe Dazzle




My Life Deals