Top-Ten Mistakes Candidates make with Search Consultants!

1) Confusing Search Consultants with Career Coaches.

Search Consultants are hired by organizations looking to add specific, strategic, and critical talent to their organizations, and are willing to guarantee compensation to the search firm for providing the process and resources to ensure a successful hire. Search consultants define strategic need, job descriptions, research strategy, conduct candidate outreach, screen prospects, present their top candidate slate, and assist the organization in selection and negotiation for a hire for one position within that one organization.

Career coaches are hired by the candidate, and work for the best interests of the candidate they are coaching in their job search. They assist with identifying the candidate’s mission, passion, life work, writing resumes, defining job search strategy, and coaching through interviews and negotiations.

2) Assuming all Search Consultants are the same.

Search Consultants either work for retained search firms or contingency recruiting firms. Retained search firms provide a process and expertise necessary to find the BEST slate of executive talent for a client’s needs. Contingency recruiters emphasize having a database of candidates already developed and are often called upon to present the FIRST candidate.

Within the retained search world, consultants can have industry and/or functional expertise and specialty. They can also be classified by their geography, executive strata, and type of clients. A Search Consultant may specialize, for example, in recruiting Marketing executives at the VP level into Midwest CPG companies owned by Private Equity firms.

3) Assuming today is the perfect time for the Search Consultant to meet me!

Most search consultants cannot meet with you whenever you want them to. Search consultants are focused on current client needs and search engagements. They remove from their focus any candidates or distractions that don’t immediately benefit their current client projects and their respective targeted candidates.

Yes, they may ultimately want to know of you, but typically don’t want to meet you for coffee this week. Get on their radar, get into their database, stay connected with them, get to know their current friends, clients, and close connections, and in time you will develop a strong working relationship with the best search consultants whom are relevant to your career.


4) If the perfect job comes up,

Search Consultants WILL find me!

No, you are NOT that famous…yet.

You need to make yourself visible to the search industry. How? By working for visible companies in visible roles. By becoming a life member of AESC’s Blue Steps database of executives. By referring good candidates to search consultants who do call you now. Join trade associations, societies, boards, write blogs, and attend trade shows.

Identify and recruit your twelve most trusted professional career-mates. Work to help each other with job references, lead sources, topical resources, etc. Arm your career board with your career objectives/goals/dreams/targeted employers, and then educate them on your current strengths, accomplishments, and a current resume. Do the same for each of them. Chances are good a search consultant will be calling them asking for referrals…and now they will find you!

5) Who needs a resume…I have a LinkedIn profile!

You have a LinkedIn Profile, but it is sparse, incomplete, and doesn’t have a picture! This is not being discreet…it is a missed opportunity! It is also poor branding, and people ARE looking at your profile if you are serious about your career.

LinkedIn profiles do not replace resumes when you are competing for a role. Admittedly, LinkedIn is getting better at reporting out your data in what looks like a resume, but go the extra effort and have multiple versions of your resume ready to represent you when the consultant calls.

6) Photos don’t matter much

to search consultants.

Photos do matter in this age of social media, so don’t just crop yourself out of a group photo, wedding picture, or with your arm around your date. Today,professional head shots are affordable and available…and appreciated!

I suggest to candidates that they at least take a photo on their smart phones, in an outdoor setting, with your body at an angle and your face straight on to the camera. Best is in indirect sunlight with no shadows on your face. Greenery in the background is preferred.

Photos are a reflection of your brand. What is your career worth? Let your photo reflect how seriously you take your brand.


7) It’s okay to shoot the messenger.

Didn’t get the interview or the offer? Don’t shoot the search consultant! Don’t brood, pull back, or go silent because you missed a goal or experienced a gap in expectations with the search consultant.

Instead, communicate, ask for feedback, think on how to use that feedback constructively, and then thank the Consultant.

Ask these three questions:

What could we have done better?

What did we do well?

What didn’t we do, that we should do next time?

You and your search consultant are a team. You select opportunities together, fight for your career options together, and close deals for your career success together. You get strong together and that yields you a stronger career advocate.

8) Branding…Who needs it!

The most valuable tool in enhancing your career and your earning potential…is your Brand.

Take responsibility for arming your search consultant with branding tools, marketing support, references, executive assessments, and specific information that will assist them in understanding who you are, what solutions you bring to their clients, and then arm them to represent you to their client.

Make Time for the Search Firm. Stick to your commitments. Be swift and responsive. Make this part of your brand, too.

9) I can do my own thinking.

Not sharing your thought process with the search consultant, and thus not allowing them to inform you as needed, is short sighted. If you know where you are going and have shared those plans/goals/aspirations with your search consultant, then be confident in communications with your search consultant.

Be open, informative, transparent, and open-minded. No surprises. Be willing to learn together and improve together. You and your search consultant share the goal of creating the best outcome from each search project, both for the client and for you.

Also, be timely in your communications and responses. Time matters in executive search projects and candidate-consultant-client communications.

Strengthen your brand with the search consultant through timely and full communications. You’ll feel the partnership grow.

10) Ghosting is the new normal!

Maybe this is acceptable behavior in today’s dating scene, but not in the work place. Follow through and communicate frequently with your search consultant. Don’t disappear like a ghost.Leaving a Consultant hanging, whether for a phone call, interview, or worse yet, an offer, is unacceptable behavior and grounds for being “blacklisted” by the search consultant and possibly their whole firm. Keep your commitments and your reputation…and your search consultant’s.

Professional executives always follow through on their commitments and can be counted on…they do not become invisible. Behave the way you would on the job, as that is the experience the search consultant will share about you with others. The way you work with your search consultant will reveal and build your Brand, your most valuable career asset.


I hope this list of Top Ten Mistakes when working with a retained search consultant is helpful to you in your career development. We wish you unlimited success and satisfaction!






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