9 Things Executive Search Consultants Say Not To Do

Looking for a new position? Russ Riendeau of New Frontier Search Company recently joined Hunt Scanlon Media to offer the top reasons candidates either lose out on securing a first or even second interview or are not able to secure the best offer if they go to the final interview.

April 30, 2024 – Over the decades, executive search professionals have gathered much intelligence about critical aspects of how candidates need to present themselves when represented by their search practice. Recruiters are retained by the hiring company, so they know the firm, know the pay range, know the benefits plan, know the hiring manager requirements, know the culture, know what the key deliverables are for the role, and they know how to best describe you as a candidate and your value proposition, according to Russ Riendeau, Ph.D., senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company. “If a search consultant, after an interview, determines it make sense to put you in front of their client, they have a better chance to secure a second interview…if they follow the advice of the headhunter,” he said.

So, why do so many candidates that desire to secure a better job, a better culture, a better compensation package, a better introduction into an industry, continue to disregard the professional advice and coaching of their respective search professional when preparing for and during the actual interview? “Human nature is what it is, I get that,” Dr. Riendeau said. “Mistakes happen. Nerves happen. Yet why, time after time, a business professional is not willing or able to take counsel from an experienced search professional that knows the inside story to help candidates do their best in the interview?”

Dr. Riendeau explains that if you are employed and argue that you don’t have the time to prepare and commit to a job search, this is not an excuse. “It’s a sign that a candidate is not ready to change, not sure what they want to do or are not qualified enough to secure that next job they think they may fit,” he said. “Take your time to dial-in your goals. Recruiters are capitalists, not counselors and are good at weeding out the serious from the mere curious, the uncertain and the bored. Researching this topic, here are the top reasons candidates either lose out on securing a first or even second interview or are not able to secure the best offer if they go to the final interview.”

1. Non-Committal to Your Job Search Motives. Candidates have said: “I’m starting to test the waters…seeing what’s out their…kicking tires…doing some initial research…building my network…just wanted to pick your brain on what’s happening in the marketplace…thinking about making a change to a new industry…I’m bored…underpaid…pigeon-holed.” A executive search professional won’t be able to get candidates off the phone fast enough if they are unable to describe what they are looking for in a new job, according to Dr. Riendeau. “If candidates dance around the topic and can’t truly commit to a strong motive, the call will be friendly, but it will be over soon,” he says.

2. No Compelling Reason to Change Jobs. Dr. Riendeau notes that if candidates don’t have a compelling reason to really commit to a new job, we have a few problems. “They put themselves self at risk of getting caught looking for a new job and appearing unhappy,” he said. “Next, your inability to define a genuine, legitimate and defendable reason to change jobs will alienate them from any search person because they have not been truthful in their commitment. This reality means you won’t get a call the next time a search could fit you.”

6 Critical Factors for Selecting the Right Executive Search Firm 

“Candidates also risk their friends, business associates and references, not believing that they are able to decide what they really want to do, thus not building their trust and willingness to refer you to potential job leads,” Dr. Riendeau says. “Also, lack of research and deeper work to really understand where your skill levels and path is for the next three to six years of your work will show in how you interview. No compelling reason or understanding to what you want to do is a sign of indecision, confusion, lethargy, boredom, etc. Lastly, if candidates don’t have a compelling reason they probably will not have the courage or commitment needed to go through the interview process and chances are you won’t take any offer you get. Take time to sort this all out before calling a headhunter.”


Russ Riendeau, Ph.D., is senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, a retained search practice specializing in senior leadership, sales and sales management. He has been involved in over 6,000 searches with 1,000s of companies and verticals placing senior talent. The author/co-author of 11 books, numerous TEDx Talks, and a highly regarded keynote speaker, he also consults and writes about behavioral science topics and peak performance.


3. Lack of Research and Overall Preparation. Recruiters are trained interviewers and will know very quickly what is a wish, a lie or indecision, according to Dr. Riendeau. “They place the top 10 percent in a specific industry and are not paid to help candidates leave one industry to go into another,” he said. “The job of the candidate is to demonstrate they have researched the target industry, done their homework, prepared, studied, analyzed and vetted themselves against the competition, if they want to change industries.”

4. Looking at a Company Website is Not Research–It’s a Curious Activity. Dr. Riendeau also explains to do more to prove that you are motivated to change. He says that your search consultant has more candidates in the mix than you and is watching very carefully who is doing the hard work to learn about the job and will champion the horse they see that is the strongest.

5. Stop Asking About Benefits in the First Interview. Your search professional told you about the general benefits package, yet you still can’t resist asking this question to the hiring manager in the first 40 minutes. “Asking these questions is too assumptive and immediately puts you at risk of being seen as a stronger candidate because you are not demonstrating you can do the job yet, have evidence you can do the job yet, have engaged in fact-finding to understand the job before you ask about benefits yet,” Dr. Riendeau says. “Patience is critical in this area and thwarts your chances of having leverage to negotiate the best offer even if one is extended. Be prepared with questions to demonstrate your ability, not your inability to delay gratification of non-critical information in the first interview.”

6. Not Following Up With the Hiring Manager After the Interview. It’s important to send thank you notes to people who helped or have given their time. So why do over 75 percent of adult candidates that interview for a job in today’s world not send a follow-up email or note? “I don’t know, but I do know it could cost a second interview or will damage your chances of securing a second interview and negotiating an offer,” Dr. Riendeau said. “Everything a candidate does in the eyes of a recruiter and hiring manager are magnified in that time span. Every action/inaction/vocabulary choice candidates use are watched. How long it takes to follow-up, what questions are asked, what income you’re earning and is it competitive in the marketplace, now all are evaluated to determine your value and potential for the job you are interviewing. If the headhunter or outplacement coach or family member have to remind you to send a follow-up note to the employer, it’s a signal that a candidate is not committed.”

7. You Rarely Update Your Resume. A one size fits all resume sent out to every job lead, in hopes that a recruiter or hiring manager will see a fit gives the impression of a lazy job seeker, a desperate job seeker or a uncertain job seeker. Dr. Riendeau explains that “not changing the content of your resume to directly reflect how your skills, experience, professional development and research fit the company you’re applying to will not give candidates any leverage or credibility to secure the best offer. Do the deeper work of research and stop trying to convince yourself and others that you can do the job when you’ve not researched what the job really is about.”

Related: 10 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Boost Your Career

8. You’re LinkedIn Profile is Uninhabited. If you are earning over 90K a year and your LinkedIn profile is not current, candidates will be challenged to persuade any hiring manager they have the contemporary business skills to know how to use this great, free tool, according to Dr. Riendeau. If candidates don’t know how to leverage LinkedIn, how will they understand how to use AI? Or other business intelligence tools, software, database management or even upgraded sales, marketing, purchasing tools in the market today? “Candidate’s LinkedIn profile are available for everyone to see,” Dr. Riendeau said. “If candidates want to be seen as unprepared, unwilling to learn and leverage a powerful business instrument and unwilling to showcase their skills, testimonials of your success and your on-going professional development, then let your LinkedIn sit in a closet with dust and stay in your current job. You will be seen as a dinosaur and even the best headhunters will not be able to defend your decision to a viable client you could have gotten an interview from.”

9. A Candidate Lies. We all have had challenges, struggles and events in our lives we’re not proud of or have to live with. But, if a candidate is being represented by a search professional and being presented to a company, Dr. Riendeau notes that candidates will be vetted, reference-checked, background checked, drug-tested to reduce corporate risk. They will be discovered if they lied. He says that telling the truth to your recruiter is your only way to have a chance to work through sensitive issues that will arise sooner or later.

“If this list reads as pretty blunt, it’s because it’s meant to be,” Dr. Riendeau said. “Face the reality and logistics of competing for top jobs in a tight job marketplace. Prepare yourself to deliver evidence of success and smart business acumen. If a candidate doesn’t have facts, truth, data, and resources to demonstrate you are in the top 10 percent of your field, how do you expect an experienced, professional recruiter—under contract by an employer—to represent you? Why take the risk? There are millions of business professionals, so why would a recruiter invest time and risk if he/she believes there are inaccuracies in your background? Be prepared to defend your success with evidence, not promises that hold no value.”

Dr. Riendeau also notes that the intention of this article is to help any professional who is truly interested in finding a new job, changing industries or expecting to earn more money. “If candidates are doing the research before hitting click/apply to every interesting job title they see, they are risking your current employment,” he says. “And if a candidate is unemployed this shotgun approach can make them appear desperate. Decide on a plan of action, invest in research first. Finally, if you are a hiring manager reading this piece, now you have a tool box of questions and benchmarks to utilize when vetting candidates you interview—regardless of whether they are introduced by a search firm or not.”

Related: Reasons Candidates Don’t Get Calls or Great Offers

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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