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Headhunters Ask The Deal-Killer Interview Question
by Rita Ashley

You already know headhunters are gatekeepers and should be treated as you would the President of the company for which you want to work. Anything less will greatly reduce any chance the individual Recruiter will represent you.

But did you know they typically ask the first questions to rule you in or out of consideration? Be prepared for the biggest deal-killer question. It usually comes right after the formalities.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH YOUR MOST RECENT EMPLOYER? The mission of a Recruiter is to find candidates who meet their client's specific list of requirements. Many companies don't consider candidates with a pattern of less than three years tenure with former employers. They do it because they need to know you experienced the consequences of the decisions you made and that you were able (or not) to forge intradepartmental cooperation. Most employers look to hire for the long term so they need assurance you know what it looks like when it is finished. That takes a minimum of three years.

If you have less than three years with your most recent employer, Recruiters will inquire about previous jobs. If you don't have the requisite time-in-service, you can't sell around it.

Urban legend has it that the fast pace of high tech changes the rules and a lot of job movement is typical even expected. But employers hoping to find the right candidate don't want a typical employee. If they did, they wouldn't pay the high fees of a Headhunter. Tempting as it is to explain, "The company was acquired," or "the company folded," or "funding was cut," all legitimate reasons to hop jobs, employers don't care. They instinctively hold you responsible for part of the failure regardless of the truth. Or worse, if you have several such incidents on your resume, they jump to the conclusion you make very poor business decisions.

Bottom line is, unless you have long term employment, five years being ideal, top notch recruiters will move on to other candidates. Don't argue, find another recruiter or better yet, don't use one.

You are your best sales agent to get around the objection the dates on your resume produce.

•Target employers most closely aligned to the market of your most recent employer.

•Know what distinguishes you from other candidates and leverage it.

•Work through HR where possible. You need a champion and HR is often up to the task if they feel you fit the corporate culture.

•Network to locate current employees in your target companies. In-house referrals are highly regarded and often trump tenure concerns.

•Get to know the employee before you ask if they will refer you. Tell them you want to learn about the company prior to submitting a resume and ask if they can meet for coffee. Never use email for this connection. You need a real bond.

•Use introductions rather than referrals. Even if you have to write the introduction for the individual who is introducing you, it is better than just using their name.

•Use your network to get to the highest level employee or Board Member you can find. Once you have selected the target company, examine the Board Members and "C" executives for other company association. You can often use employees of their previous companies for introductions.

Once through the door have a compelling message and know their mission. Speak to your credentials and experience only in terms of their needs. NEVER bring up the tenure issue unless they do. They saw your resume before they decided to interview you and chose to spend time with you in spite of the deficit. They clearly saw something of value and it is up to you to sell them on whatever that is. And you got in the door without using a headhunter.

About the Author

Rita Ashley's passion is helping Executives and Technology Professionals get control over their job search. Go to for "Job Search Debugged, Insider's Guide to Job Search for Executives and Technology Professionals." Better Control, Faster Results.


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