Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Adventures In Recruiting; The Candidate Who Wouldn't Meet Me

I am aware that I have reached the top of my profession.  I am well known.  My blog is read by thousands of advertising, marketing and recruiting professionals each week. I am passionate about the business and get wonderful assignments at all levels of the business and from all over the country.  And yet every once in a while, I come across a candidate who makes me question myself because he or she makes me feel small and, to some extent, inadequate. 

A few weeks ago a gentleman heard about an EVP job I was handling.  I did not previously know him.  He emailed me and then sent me a résumé.  I contacted him and asked him to come in, as I do with all local candidates.  I couldn’t tell from his résumé if he was appropriate for this particular job and wanted to meet him for it or other jobs.  Surprisingly, he refused to come in unless I gave him complete information about the job, despite the fact that he had heard about it and called me.

He emailed me with the detail that he wanted.  He wanted everything – company name and organization, job specs, expected salary, reporting structure with names, issues, etc.  I told him that much of this information was proprietary but that after we had met, if appropriate, I would share much of it with him.  I had have a meeting to insure that it was a mutual fit.  His background and experience had to meet my client's specifications and his interests and needs had to be aligned with the job.  If there was a match, I would be happy to share as much with him as would be appropriate and professional.  I asked him to look at my website, read my blog posts and see who I am.  I told him that before any candidate of mine goes on an interview, they are fully briefed.  He ignored me and refused to come in unless I did full disclosure before meeting him.

I refused.  It was the first time in years that a possibly appropriate candidate refused to meet me, especially at a senior level (it is much harder to get juniors to come in). According to this person's résumé he lived and worked nearby.  His excuse was that he had had bad experiences both with recruiters and with inappropriate jobs.  After an exchange of a number of emails, I never heard from him again.

Of course this exchange forced me to check him out. I discovered he was probably not the right candidate for this very good job.  Among other things I determined that he is a loner, not a great team player and too headstrong to be an effective department head.  All this made sense and was reflected in his emails. So there was nothing lost.

Yet when things happen like this (fortunately, not very often), I sometimes feel as if I have somehow failed.  I have to remind myself that I am only a recruiter, nothing more.  Despite my good reputation, I am not right for everyone.  There are all kinds of people.  In retrospect, despite this person’s stellar résumé credentials, on a bell-shaped curve, he falls well on the left side.  My guess is that someone will hire him based on his résumé and, like most of his other jobs, he will be gone within a year or two.

I still wanted to meet him.  But his arrogance precluded it.    My experience has taught me that I cannot connect with everyone I meet. I cannot be the right recruiter for every candidate. 


  1. What a putz. Any smart senior person knows that top recruiters are their friend. His loss.

  2. What a putz. Any smart senior person knows that top recruiters are their friend. His loss.

  3. We had a similar experience once. Likewise, I wouldn't divulge extra information and also told the candidate that I couldn't put him forward to the client without meeting him. He may, or may not have been a good fit, but my reputation (and yours Paul) is based on knowing our candidates.
    I would guess your guy had had bad experiences with recruiters because he wasn't prepared to work with them 'properly'!
    Simon Mellor

    1. Simon, you are absolutely right. There has to be a degree of mutual respect and trust.

    2. The right call entirely. Candidates don't often understand that ER's are representing the hiring agent in these situations.

    3. Thanks, Kieran. That is always true. It is clients who pay us, but we can only do a good job for our clients if we do a good job for our candidates. For sure, this guy is off my list permanently.

  4. It’s an interesting conundrum in this case. On one hand, a top-notch recruiter won’t meet with a candidate without him sending a resume or CV in advance. On the other, the candidate won’t meet with the recruiter unless he knows more specifics about the opportunity. Question being: Who’s right? Sounds like some law school hypothetical to me.

    Of course a candidate’s resume is required in advance, for a lot of good and practical reasons. Like all professionals, a recruiter’s time is always at a premium. And, quite frankly, it’s no big effort for the candidate and standard procedure in any business.

    Then again (arguing the other side of the case) and with so many bad recruiters out there just looking to produce “warm bodies” for their clients, the candidate has every right to at least know in advance what agency or company they might be working for; where; what base salary range; and job description.

    If I were a judge hearing this case, first thing I would do is ask the recruiter why he couldn’t share more detail with the candidate in advance. And if answering honestly under sworn testimony, the recruiter would have to say one of three things: 1) “Because my client wishes to remain anonymous”; 2) “Because I can never share proprietary information or represent a candidate without meeting him first”; or 3) “Because I can’t afford to risk having this candidate go around me if I don’t pass him on.”

    And then, as judge, I would ask the candidate, “Why wouldn’t you at least take an introductory meeting with one of NYC’s top agency headhunters? If not for this particular job, then for future opportunities? C-level jobs don’t exactly grow on trees.” And then the candidate, if also answering honestly, would say something like, “Well your honor, because my time is just as valuable as the recruiter’s and, while that may sound bit arrogant, I can’t afford to risk having my current employer hear or see that ‘I’m looking’. Word always gets out and then you’re fired.”

    I think this particular candidate, in this particular case, made a huge mistake by not at least meeting for introductions with this top-shelf agency recruiter (who I know very well.) But it’s still a free country. And as I often say to friends and acquaintances in the business, “It’s your funeral and you’re certainly entitled to make your own arrangements.” LOL, Bill Crandall

  5. I assume this gentleman was at a fairly high level/rank in the business. This begs the question how do these types advance?
    As a client or a candidate I would expect the recruiter to meet face to face before any "next step." Unfortunately, the business is ls seeded with pompous phonies. In fact, I knew some who prized arrogance as a desired trait at the executive level.
    I also know of people who advanced, somehow, to positions of importance on the basis of padded and sometimes heavily embellished resumes.
    Occasionally, recruiters cross the line and become personal agents for some. (at the expense of the client).
    I think you acted professionally. This person obviously had little grasp of the hiring process--accommodating his request for a "dump" of mostly proprietary information would have been, IMOP, unethical.
    enjoy the "blog" (you may be the Lefsetz of the ad game!).

  6. I remember Phil Guarascio telling a story where he refused a lunch with a recruiter unless he was told what the job was. He said "You get there and they tell you its at Chester Gore and you are stuck for an hour listening to a recruiter telling you why its a great job"

    1. Funny. Remember, this guy called me because he heard I had the job.

  7. Creepy people look at the world in terms of who is above the ladder, who below the ladder, and who on the same rung. It requires a moral lesson one should learn in childhood. And certainly not a person one would want to spend time with in any capacity. That in this case he got the ladder directions all wrong is not even the point. Anyone who thinks that way will not succeed in this business, or the business called life for that matter.


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