After interviewing a string of unprepared senior level executives for various jobs, I started wondering what was going on. In one such case, I was interviewing candidates for an officer position, which required a minimum of 15+ years of prior experience. After several interviews in a row where the candidates had not even looked at the website and had very few questions, I realized the lack of preparedness was more than an aberration. Why were candidates, all of whom having achieved significant levels of career success, showing up without having done the fundamental work required to successfully navigate an interview?

To better understand this phenomenon, I turned to Henry Flores, Partner of Radius Partners, a C-Level executive recruiting firm that specializes in recruiting  executive management for companies across technology & business services, internet & digital media, and consumer goods & services. I asked him to provide his decades-long experience regarding the key mistakes C-level executives make during the search process and provide advice on how to overcome this.

C-level Mismanagement of the Search Process 

Flores indicates that while there is variance across executives in terms of their ability to effectively manage the search process, there is a substantial group that is unprepared to navigate it successfully. The less frequently an individual has proactively sought out a new position during their career, the more likely they are to be rusty and mismanage the process. Further, there tends to be a subset that approaches the process incorrectly, thinking they are unique and therefore above needing to sell themselves. In today’s more competitive environment, that perspective is just wrong.

Biggest Mistakes C-Level Executives Make When Working With Recruiters 

Flores suggests that there are many, but below are the top 4 mistakes C-level executives make when searching for a job.

Transaction versus relationship oriented: The biggest mistake candidates can make is believing that working with executive recruiters is a discrete transaction and doesn’t require relationship development. Some candidates  don’t respond when a recruiter calls or emails because they “don’t need them at that moment”. The problem is that recruiters have a long memory (and a database). With the days of “life-time employment” far behind us, everyone will be in a job search at some point in their career. That same candidate will need help and when they call that same recruiter, s/he won’t have a compelling reason to help. Prior rudeness or lack of courtesy will also likely result in unanswered phone calls. Flores shared a situation he was aware of where a candidate had treated another recruiter’s staff poorly. Five years later, another recruiter contacted the original recruiter to get insight on the candidate. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a glowing review. Flores indicates that candidates should think about treating executive recruiters (and their associates) like insurance – you regularly invest (in developing the relationship) so that when you actually need it, you will get the help you need.

All tactics and no strategy: While it may be surprising that some senior level candidates think they can rely on LinkedIn to find a job, this is a typically fruitless plan. Rather, Flores indicates that senior level executives often forget to do the basics: 1) what companies are you targeting, 2) what’s your unique positioning, and 3) what’s your strategy for creating “warm” introductions? Many executives immediately start calling people because they’ve been told they need to network. However, they need to first understand what they want. As Flores indicates: “Never forget that it is your job to make it easy for other people to help you." This means being prepared before you contact anyone and includes making sure that there is a seamless story that connects the verbal story (personal elevator pitch – where you’ve been and what you, specifically, would like to do next) with your LinkedIn profile (career summary) with your resume (detailed business accomplishments). If your resume indicates you have had a string of CMO positions and yet you verbally indicate you want a GM role, it’s confusing.