Working on a number of searches at the moment, I’m juggling about 12 candidates that have been submitted to my clients, and are still “in the process”. The reality is, when we submit candidates to a client, our objective is that everyone can do the job, but 1 or 2 might be better fits than others. Generally, our client will tell us early on who is not a fit and we can let them go so they no longer consider the opportunity open to them. However, for the short list of viable candidates, the waiting game begins.

Some candidates handle this part well, while others get too antsy or don’t follow up at all, and end up hurting their brands with us and our client. So, what’s the right formula?

A candidate in process on a search has the opportunity to build a relationship with us. Calling often to check in on the opportunity just drives people crazy, however calling to offer help on other assignments we might have, or information on the industry that our client might appreciate, can be helpful to your candidacy.

In the last two searches I conducted, we put forward about 6 candidates to each client, and all of them were viable. In both cases, we were able to whittle the list down to three, however it got difficult from that point forward. My clients had a hard time making a decision as the candidates were all great. I do have some ideas about how a candidate can differentiate themselves once they’re in the process, and unfortunately, almost no candidates go to this length, even when they really want the job.

  1. Send a follow up note to the client and our firm, and make sure to include the Recruiter and not just the senior Search Consultant. The note to the client can be private to them, however make sure you send a note even to us after you’ve interviewed with the client. An email is fine, but make sure you do this after each and every meeting with the client. Keeping us in the loop is valuable as our clients often ask our opinions on each candidate during the process so don’t forget about the Recruiter and the Search Consultant.
  2. After meeting with the client, conceivably you know more about the job requirements than you did before the meeting, so following up with a Special Report after that first interview but giving yourself some “wiggle room” would be a great move. I’ll discuss this more fully in a future blog.
  3. Don’t call the Search Consultant and Recruiter all the time to say “I haven’t heard anything.” That doesn’t create a good relationship, and if we had any news on next steps, we’d give that to you. However, this doesn’t mean go dark on us. Just figure out another way to reach out and make contact, and while you’re talking, you can slip in the question, “Any update on the search?” In our business, this would be like us calling a prospect and saying, “Do you have any search for us today?” We have to stay in close touch, but we try to add value to the prospective client, not just checking in on our own agenda. Feel free to make one of these calls every few weeks or so.

There are more good ideas, but this is a start. Also, since your chances are probably less than 20% once you’re submitted to the client (1 out of 5 or 6), don’t miss the opportunity to build a relationship with the search firm that transcends just this particular opportunity. Who knows, we might place you at another client down the road that’s an even better fit.

On one of these recent searches, I had one candidate that met with me and I said I would likely submit them to the client, and another that actually met with the client. In the first case, I decided not to submit until the end of the process because we found candidates that had better experience and were a great fit with the client. However, this candidate never called me after our initial meeting and they could have convinced me better to take a risk at submitting them by going above and beyond. I’ve done it before to win business and I think candidates should be willing to do it too.

In the second case, that candidate met the client, but never followed up with either me or the client during the process, even though they did send a note thanking the client for the meeting and expressing their interest. This candidate could have done a much better job of keeping in touch, without being too bothersome, and might have had a better chance making it into the final round.

With the job market so competitive, I often say that people need to have their “A” games on. However, very few ever go above and beyond the normal interview, follow up email, follow up note, and call to us to check in. Go farther, do a special report, build a relationship with the Search Consultant, and make this experience great, even if you don’t get the job. You never want to look back and say, “I could have done more to land that job.”

Whether you agree or disagree, or have had an experience from either side, please share your thoughts.