A Common Mistake Junior Executives Make When Talking To Executive Recruiters

A critical turning point in a career is when you begin to get calls from executive recruiters. MBA students often don’t realize that once they land at their post-MBA firms, their next placement will likely occur through an executive recruiter (especially if they go to a blue-chip company perceived as having skill identifying and developing talent). Executive recruiters are hired by companies to identify and place top talent, becoming the primary conduit through which many executive roles are accessed.

Consequently, how young executives develop and manage these relationships can influence future career options. To better understand the key mistakes junior executives make when engaging with executive recruiters, I turned to Umesh Ramakrishnan, a Co-CEO at Kingsley Gate Partners who has placed members of the boards of directors, CEOs, CFOs and other senior management positions in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Below is his insight.

Kimberly Whitler: What are the key mistakes that junior executives make when talking to ERs for the first time?

Umesh Ramakrishnan: Junior executives tend to be more cagey with information and say things like “at the appropriate time I can disclose that,” which means they haven’t yet built robust relationships with executive search firms. That is a big “tell” for an executive search consultant. The moment someone says something like that when asked about either their compensation, personal situation in terms of relocating, or achievements, the recruiter instantly knows that the candidate does not get approached often by a retained search consultant. This sends an unfortunate signal that the candidate may not yet be ready to work with executive recruiters. So, the junior executive unwittingly disqualifies him/herself by being restrictive with information that more experienced executives know is kept in confidence by a consultant.

Whitler: Is there any way that junior executives can get around this?

Ramakrishnan: First, ensure that you are speaking to a member of an established global firm. Don’t hold back and be open and transparent when disclosing your achievements and failures. Also, if you’re in a state that says you shouldn’t disclose compensation, it’s okay to say that. But offer a compensation range that you would like your expectation to lie within. Also, don’t try to double your income. If you’re making $250k, don’t say you want to make $500k. This will price you out of the market after thorough checks and referencing. Executive recruiters do their due diligence and so lying to them can be quite offputting. Be reasonable and understand that the market generally looks to offer a 10-15% compensation increase, maybe 20%. Once you state that as the expectation, you’ll be fine.

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