This is the second post in this series which is designed to help you get a little insight in to the world of executive recruiters and “headhunters”.  The more know the better off you will be when it comes time to sit down with one of these staffing professionals.  Click here for part 1.

How tough is it to attract passive candidates today compared to the recent past?

I have to admit it’s not easier.  The best people with good jobs and prospects have become somewhat more cautious, just as companies are managing their businesses in a more careful and conservative way.  Employers and candidates alike feel that present circumstances are somewhat beyond their control.

What kind of job-loss situations are you seeing in the real world?  Is this economic downturn really different from the past?

At a community breakfast recently, I was seated-it could well have been by design-between two managers from different companies.  Both had recently been “reorg’ed” out of a job.

The guy on my left was caught in a situation that deserves comment.  He was an IT director who reported to the chief financial officer in the company’s C-suite.  The CFO had significant experience in information technology.  As the economy got tighter and a budget pressure grew, the more the two positions seemed to duplicate each other.  Day by day, they looked more and more the same to the top team doing the expense reviews.  Naturally the IT guy got squeezed out.

I think that’s an important example for your readers: If your skill mix is a lot like that of the person directly above you or below you and the economy tanks, watch out.  Somebody’s job is in peril.  The difference from past downturns is that we’re seeing many more of these situations today.

your breakfast encounter, what was the other guy’s story?  And what did you learn about how they were taking their personal situations in both cases?

The one on the right was shaken to the core.  His situation was a little different, but he had still been re-engineered out the door.  This fellow was reeling in disbelief that he could have been whisked out of a job after decades in his profession and eight years with that particular company.

The guy on the left-the one who was caught in the duplication squeeze play was about the same age.  He was exuberant, enthusiastic and ready to do new things.  “My wife and I were talking last night. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘maybe we really should go and open up that bed and breakfast on Nantucket.’”  But if the right IT opening came along, I’m sure he would equally well consider that.

Two different attitudes.  Night and day.  Glass half full or glass half empty.  Now, which of these guys do you think is going to land on his feet?

A question about the kinds of questions a recruiter asks:  When I read interview reports about candidates, they will often elaborate on the reasons people made job changes years and sometimes even decades ago.  Why is this important?

We look for the motivating factors people use in making career decisions.  What were the reasons behind their choices?  It tells us about their decision-making abilities, and how and what interests them…ultimately, are they a good match for your client?

In your business, your radar about human beings has to be pretty sharp, doesn’t it?

Good recruiters rely heavily on a well-tested selection program.  It has a three letter ID code: G-U-T.  Good companies want to attract what I call impact players.  Every candidate is a mystery, and someone like me is out there using educated gut instinct to peel the onion.  That’s how you judge if that person has the right stuff.

Stay tuned for more Q&A that will give you a heads up on your next recruiting experience.

For more tips on how to find a job and how to get a job check out my book “Use Your Head To Get Your Foot In The Door“.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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