Great advice on recruiting the recruiter, executive job search, personal branding, social media, interviewing, and executive resumes.
Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a premier recruiting firm in Dallas-Fort Worth. He has hired engineers, IT and finance professionals, sales reps, technicians, Six Sigma and Lean experts, and managers of many talents.
What brought you to recruiting?
I have always loved the aspect of building strong teams in business. At my last company, I built a consistent process to ensure we recruited the best talent. At the company before that, I was the HR department. I have always centered my work around the people first, then the product/service. When the opportunity came to partner with a very experienced professional to start our own firm, I jumped at the chance.
What sets you and your firm apart from others who work with the same kinds of candidates? What’s your brand?
Many larger firms need to focus on the numbers game. They need a high volume to ensure they meet their overhead expenses. We keep our expenses low by leveraging creative means for marketing and building our network. This allows us to have more in-depth relationships with our clients and our candidates. We like to think we are part of our clients’ team charged with bringing in the best talent by truly understanding their needs for the present and long-term.
What jazzes you most about your work?
The challenge of putting all the right pieces together in the puzzle. When you’ve got the right candidate for the right client, everybody wins and everyone is happy. This is not trivial. You are impacting people’s lives and that is powerful stuff. And I know this is an overused phrase, but I really do like helping people.
What do you feel are the greatest misconceptions job seekers have about recruiters and working with them?
The number one misconception is candidates think if they get a resume into a recruiters hands, he/she will instantly land a new job. The reality is “timing is everything.” If the right job is available and you’re the top candidate, you may get the job. In most cases, it is better to be passively looking and let the recruiter come back to you when the right job surfaces for you.
Another misconception may be that all recruiters are the same in terms of quality and motivation. Just like any occupation, there is a large spectrum of performance in this industry.
You’ve blogged about how job seekers should “recruit a recruiter”. What are the important questions to ask when interviewing recruiters?
Candidates should ask recruiters what type of positions they have filled in the last six months. This is a strong indicator of what jobs they work on most. They can also ask the industries and geographic region. It’s good to ask how long they have been a recruiter, but keep in mind experience over two years is fine (but obviously, the longer the better). Another very direct question to try: When and where did you place a candidate who has a resume similar to mine?
By the way, word of mouth is the best assurance you can have. Start with your network when looking for a recruiter.
What are some of the biggest mistakes job seekers make in working with recruiters that can hurt their chances of landing jobs?
One of the biggest mistakes is not telling the recruiter everything about you (your “real” salary requirements, gaps in employment history, unique requirements for employment). Recruiters hate surprises late in the process. Realize that when they present a candidate, they are putting their reputation on the line. Businesses frown upon getting introduced to candidates who are ultimately not a fit for the job.
Some job seekers don’t listen to the advice the recruiter gives them (how to approach the interview, addressing the personalities at the company). Recruiters make their living by knowing the finer points about their clients. Their advice is usually dead-on-target.
A minor annoyance to recruiters is a lack of response by job seekers. Usually, recruiters are moving very quickly on a project. A candidate who doesn’t respond to emails or calls can be dropped from consideration. Clear and constant communication is essential.
How do you source the candidates you work with? Do you use LinkedIn and other social networks heavily?
I use every networking avenue available to me and this does include all the Social Media networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. However, many times, these tools lead to a person who may know another person who might be a fit. I talk to as many people as I can to extend my network as far as possible. Sometimes, this includes networking with other recruiters. I do leverage job boards, too. The Internet offers many ways to find people with the background required for many jobs.
How important is it for executive job seekers to be on LinkedIn? How about Twitter and Facebook?
It is critical to be on LinkedIn. Most recruiters leverage it. Twitter is good for reaching out to certain networks and being “available” online to recruiters who search those bio’s. It is good to follow recruiters on Twitter as they often tweet their job openings. Facebook is a good tool for presenting your personal side. As long as you keep your content clean and interesting, recruiters/employers can learn more about you before they call you. The same could be said for a personal blog.
What problems can arise when candidates work with more than one recruiter?
The number one issue is being submitted to the same job twice. A job seeker should always ask what company the recruiter plans to submit their resume to. If you’ve been submitted by another recruiter, simply say so. Being submitted twice does not double your chances of being picked. Quite the contrary.
When working with more than one recruiter, try and branch out geographically or by industry. If two recruiters overlap too much in their opportunities, you may start to annoy one of them who is always the second to tell you about the same job.
How does a job seeker OWN the relationship with the recruiter?
The job seeker needs to be the one who touches base once in a while (email is fine) with updates on their search or the job (promotions, new skills or projects) – any new developments that might be useful information for fitting you to a job should be shared.
Recruiters deal with a lot of people. Don’t expect them to remember you right away if it’s been a while since you last talked. Give them a chance to pull up your information in their database and check their notes.
To build a stronger relationship with a recruiter, you should offer them leads on new jobs that you’ve heard of. You can also introduce them to colleagues of yours that may fit their current job searches. You need to “give to get.”
What process do you use to screen resumes? Do you prefer a certain style for executive resumes?
The ideal resume has a concise summary at the top that includes what the job seeker has done including some key accomplishments. This tells the recruiter what kind of job you are looking for. Below that should be the chronological list of jobs where each lists responsibilities and additional accomplishments. The jobs that relate to the job currently sought should have more bullets than lesser roles that no longer are of interest. Focus on the aspects of your career you wish to pursue.
As a recruiter, I look for a match between experiences, accomplishments, and results to the requirements of my client. I also look for a progression over time in responsibility or complexity of assignment (answers the question: has the candidate shown growth in their career?). I also look for signs that the candidate really enjoys their job (do they belong to associations or write blog posts about their expertise).
Knowledge is power. I also evaluate if the candidate knows the industry, vendors, project challenges that come with the role. In other words, how far up the learning curve are they already for the job I’m looking to fill.
What are some of the worst mistakes you see candidates make on their resumes?
A poor quality resume quickly projects the impression that the candidate does shoddy work. There is an expectation that the resume has been written, rewritten, reviewed, perfected and tweaked again. It should be perfect. Signs of poor quality include: poor or inconsistent formatting, spelling errors, irrelevant content, and a weak or too generalized summary. An objective statement is obsolete these days and should be omitted. I would avoid the overused phrases, too: great communicator, motivated, team-player. All this is proven in the accomplishments if you’ve got good ones to share!
Do you sometimes review a candidate’s bio instead of, or before, their resume?
If a bio is written well, it can be the first thing I review. It should be specific enough to convey to me what the candidate does best. Some include specific skill sets that make it even easier to see if there is a potential match. Basically, if I see a chance for a match in the bio, I read the resume.
How important do you feel personal branding is in executive resumes and bios, and job search in general?
Personal branding is becoming a standard for job seekers, but also for those looking to progress in their own company. Doesn’t everyone want the local “rock star” on their team—it is a competitive advantage, right? I know of a recent promotion of a colleague of mine who made it clear he was an expert in his field and the company leveraged his talents by giving him more opportunity to execute on his expertise. For job seekers, you want to be known in your community. You want your name to be synonymous with your specialty. You want recruiters (and opportunities) to find you, and not have to go and find them.
What are some important job search interviewing tips you can share?
The key to interviewing is to prepare and take ownership of the interview. Don’t have the attitude that you should just show up and answer some questions. Preparation conveys interest in the job, which is essential. Have great questions to ask during the interview that shows you did some homework on the company (asking when a decision will be made is a waste of a question—you can ask on the way out of the office, if need be). I offer many more tips in two different guides I wrote highlighted in my recent blog post, Interviewing is Easy…If Done Right!
What words of encouragement do you have for executive job seekers who are overwhelmed by the new rules of job search?
You are not expected to be a job search pro instantaneously. After all, it is not typically your full-time job. Tackle each tool available for job searching one at a time and ask questions of experts. Leverage all your resources.
Expect that the process will take some time and you might come in second once or twice. Keep in mind that as you roll along in the process, you are building momentum towards the goal, even with setbacks. All the effort is cumulative—it will lead to your final result, a new opportunity.
Jeff has worked in many industries developing and marketing a wide spectrum of products and services while leading large-scale corporate initiatives. Jeff has worked at several Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and small OEM.
He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin and University of Illinois-Chicago, respectively. He has a Master’s in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University with a focus in Marketing
Jeff Lipschultz writes on his blog about the challenges of finding the best jobs as candidates and finding the best employees as companies. He also blogs about technology, employment trends, and sometimes quirky observations of society. Jeff is a featured writer for Job-Hunt, a top employment and job search portal, where he provides advice to job seekers on working with recruiters and optimizing their search efforts. He is also an avid road cyclist, die-hard Cubs fan, volunteer teacher, but most of all a hubby and dad of two great kids. Follow Jeff on Twitter at and Link In with Jeff on LinkedIn.