Executive Search Tips
Samuel Dergel, Executive Recruiter

Published on April 2, 2019

When you screen potential candidates to recommend to a client (i.e., company), what are the most common mistakes executives make that take them out of the running for a position?

Executive level job seekers that are actively looking for their next role need to understand that they are now in sales and they are the product. Too often, active executive level job seekers come off as desperate – they need that next job and will apply for any job that they might be able to do. Executive level job search is hard – no doubt about it – and can take time, longer than they want it to. When someone at this level comes across that they need a job, any job, this can easily take them out of the running for a recommendation to a client.

Executive search is a significant commitment for a company, financially and time-wise. A company makes a decision to go to a search firm because they want the right person for the role and want to consider different options and potential candidates that meet the need they are looking to fill. They also want to meet a limited number of candidates that meet these criteria. They don’t want to hire someone who can just do the job. They want someone who will not only do the job, but also has the right knowledge, skills and experience to get the job done, and fits well into the culture of the organization and its leadership team.

Successful salespeople work to understand their potential client’s needs before coming up with a solution to their challenges. The same applies to an executive level job candidate. The candidate needs to learn as much as possible about the who, what, where, when, why and how that led to the company hiring for this role. Only then can they be sure that they are the right solution and sell themselves as the right person for the role.


Once someone is under consideration for an opportunity, what are 3 things they can do to stand out from other candidates during the recruiting process?

My number one rule for success in an executive level job search is, “Stop talking about yourself and start helping them.” Spend less time touting your accomplishments and more time working to understand their challenges and needs. Once you understand their needs, you can provide yourself as a solution to their problems. A consultative approach to executive level job search is more effective than selling yourself based on your laurels.

Another important dynamic for an executive level candidate to work on is to get across that they only want the role if the fit is right for them and the company. The more a candidate can communicate this, the more the people hiring at the company appreciate the potential candidate.

Also, always follow up after every meeting with every individual. An email can be fine, but if you want to stand out and be remembered, I highly recommend a written card sent by mail. Everyone gets emails. No one gets a piece of mail. Stand out and be remembered.


Upon receiving a job offer, what advice do you give an executive when negotiating their compensation package?

If you have an executive search consultant involved in the process, you are much better off. Addressing any concerns with an intermediary allows you to get feedback as to which of your potential requests are reasonable and which are not. The search consultant will be able to help you through the process and make it smooth.

I have found that this can be a very emotional part of the process. The candidate can feel that they may not be appreciated for the value they feel that they are bringing to the table. Company leaders are, in my experience, always putting their best foot forward when making an offer and can be disappointed when the best offer they put on the table for a candidate that they value and want is not good enough for them. I have seen many deals go sideways at this point, mostly because of emotions on both sides.

I have also seen candidates walk away once they receive an offer. The answer they give is that they have thought about it, and they feel that it is not the right role for them. When a candidate takes a job search to the end without really wanting the role, they are seen as players, both by the search firm and by the company leaders. This is not a reputation an executive should have – it may harm them in the future.

Samuel Dergel, Founder & Principal of Dergel Executive Search, is an expert executive recruiter, consultant and executive coach. An active CPA in the United States & Canada, Samuel is also a blogger (tracking CFO & CHRO moves across the country), social media leader and speaker on the roles of the CFO & CHRO.

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