Face to Face With the Executive Recruiter

I can’t count the number of times I have heard candidates say: “I have done all of the things required by your position,” or how many times I get a cover letter that goes into a lengthy explanation about “how perfect” they believe they are for my search.

One question: “If you are so perfect for the position, then why didn’t you get it?”
Skills and experience will only get you so far in the hiring process. At some point, usually much earlier than most candidates realize, these begin to diminish in importance.
What starts to become more important are your qualifications, which encompass a lot more than skills and experience. Otherwise, why go through the interviewing process? If skills and experience were all that mattered, you would be hired just from your résumé.
For example, let’s say that I received your CV and I started reviewing it. At this point, skills and experience are 100% of my screening process. If I like what I read, I will then pick up the phone and conduct a phone screen. I don’t like to call it an interview, because quite frankly I’m in a screening mode more than in interviewing mode.
At this point, your skills and experience may now be only about 75% relevant. During this phone screening, it is true that I’m interviewing you on your skills and experience, but that isn’t all. There is so much more to a phone screen that it took a whole chapter in our candidate job search workbook to cover this topic.
Decision point
If the phone screen goes well, the next step is a face-to-face interview. At this point, your skills and experience will be, at best, 50% relevant. Since I have read your résumé and conducted a phone screen, I already have a really good feel for whether you meet the minimum criteria or not.
The interviewing priorities shift. There are so many issues I will be looking out for to decide if I will send you out to my client. I can’t list them all, but here are a few.  
I’m interested in much more than just your skills and experience. I’m also interviewing for how professional your presentation is, how well you can communicate, whether or not you can withstand probing questions into your background.
Do you have the facts about your accomplishments? Do you answer questions in vague generalities or can you get specific? How strong or weak is the first impression you make? 
As a headhunter, I’m paid to make value judgments regarding how well you will fit with my client company. Are you prepared or will likely be winging it if my client were to interview you? Will you embarrass me once you are in front of my client?
These are really the basic things I’m screening for in our in-person interview. Only about 50% pass this stage. That means half will never meet the hiring authority.Even though they have the experience and skills required, they may not be qualified. 
Of this 50%, some will turn out to not be a good match for the company, and often the candidate himself or herself will agree. Usually, less than 10% of the totalpeople I have interviewed in-person turn out to be not a good match.
Qualifications vs. Skills
I can assure you that this dynamic of skills and experience versus qualifications works about the same when you are interviewing directly with companies. The only major difference is that as the interviewing process progresses, the percentage of reliance on skills and experience decreases even more. For some senior level positions that require more than four or five meetings, the percentage of reliance on skills and experience may dwindle to as little as 10% or less.
What I’m trying to stress in this article is that candidates rely too much on their skills and experience to the detriment of what is important at different points in time during the hiring process. It isn’t always about your experience.
At some point the question becomes: “Are you qualified?” It is more about your personality, behavioral issues, managerial style, communications, professionalism, professional presence, assertiveness, etc. that really matters.
These are the things most candidates take for granted during the recruitment process. I have encountered so few that grasp these at the actionable level. Many reading this article will be thinking to themselves, “I know all of this.” You may know all of this, but what are you doing about it to ensure that you pass?


  • How are you preparing?
  • How are you improving your ability to succinctly communicate your accomplishments?
  • What tangible things have you done to become a salesperson? After all, in a job search you are in sales.
  • Have you ever video recorded yourself in a mock interview?
  • What unique and probing questions do you ask in an interview that demonstrate that you are an insightful person?
  • How do your questions differentiate you from all of the others who focus on the same issues?
  • How do you use your voice to communicate effectively?
The question is: What do you need in your search so that, as the percentage shifts from skills and experience to your personal qualifications, you will continue to excel?
About the Author
Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions in the U.S. and co-author of You’re Not the Person I Hired and This is Not the Position I Accepted. He is an international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent and executive job search.

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