Interim Management for Small Companies

Interim Management for Small Companiesesslide2

The topic for this discussion is “Interim Management for Small Companies”.  First things first; we realize most small companies are well managed by the founders or professional managers.  However, in almost every case, when we asked company leaders about a pet project or a project that can’t seem to be wrapped up, we learn of a need that can be filled by an Interim.

Here are a few we’ve experienced:

  • Budgeting beyond the next cash crisis and banker/investor relationships
  • Sales growth and new product/market development
  • Strategy development and execution implementation beyond running the business day-to-day
  • Competitive analysis and a realistic view of the competition (including market trend impact on the business)
  • Crisis management and the implementation of processes to head-off or control future events
  • Creating an effective Advisory Board for companies without a formal Board of Directors

In most instances the company is trying solve these issues with existing personnel.  Each of these issues, and more, can be resolved by employing an Interim.

While this may seem obvious, the common belief is that a small business can’t afford a professional Interim.  One possibility is to hire an Interim “part-time.”  Perhaps the Interim works a few days per week or month and focuses on a specific issue.  Perhaps the company can hire more than one part-time Interim, if there are multiple specific focus areas.

There are also situations where an “outsider” brings expertise based on experience.  For example, the sale of a small company, transition to a successor, dealing with family members or improving efficiency in a staid, complacent culture.

Other situations to consider using an Interim include:

  • Times of difficulty in banking relationships
  • Facing large competitors entering a regional market
  • Finding ways to compete with customer trends
  • Dealing with outdated internal practices in a digital customer world

One of the best uses of Interims is to help formulate the future for the company.  Fuzzy vision and difficult decisions can demotivate employees and bring the company to a standstill.  Examples include:

  • Decision to sell or keep the company or bring in new management
  • Selling off non-core assets or product lines
  • Is succession planning adequate to fix the problem
  • When a layoff is necessary during turbulent times in the company

Most importantly, an “outsider’s” perspective is a great way for a small company Founder or Professional Manager to sound out ideas without creating a distraction among employees.  Once a direction is decided a message can be crafted to ensure understanding and buy-in for all involved.  The key issue may be to have the “outsider” deliver the message.  There is no company history or politics for the Interim and there will be no legacy distractions since the Interim will leave the company when the project is completed.

To Hire or Not To Hire – Weigh The Options

organization-imgTO HIRE OR NOT TO HIRE

Weigh The Options

When a company has well established procedures with no expected change of direction, the environment is good to hire an employee.  If disruption is an issue or there is a need to manage an anxious staff, or a new direction is needed, it may be an environment best suited for an interim to establish the change, document the process then hire an employee.  The interim can serve as a guide during the new employee orientation.

For the most part, companies don’t have “general” problems.  Most often the problem is specific and immediate.  For example, an unexpected vacancy, a supply chain failure, an inventory fulfilment matter, financial controls procedures, or process improvement, etc.  The company may not have the skills bandwidth or intellectual horsepower internally to address the issue.  Speed to the solution becomes a key driver.

In some cases, it is not appropriate for an internal employee to handle the project, i.e., divestiture of the business, employee layoffs, closing facilities, acquisitions, etc.  Industry experience does not always translate into specific problem solving experience.  Interims not only provide advice, they make problem solving decisions and execute on those decisions.

Hiring an employee is best when the nature of the work is regular and on-going.  When the work has a beginning, middle and end (e.g., project work) an interim is the best choice. Honest evaluation of the company’s situation includes asking the following questions:

  1. Can the company afford to hire an employee at this time?
  2. Does the company have the management structure to take on more employees?
  3. Does the company really have a 40 hour per week position?
  4. Is the need seasonal or cyclical?

Weigh these options when considering to hire or not to hire.

Factor Employee Interim
Immediate availability No Yes
 RESONABLY over-qualified No Yes
Obectivity No Yes
Contingent No Yes
Outside views/hyper focus Maybe Yes
Time to recruit/train Yes No
onboarding costs Yes No
Manage/monitor new Employee Yes No
Benefits/taxes Yes No
Immediate Results No Yes
Full time task Yes No
Added headcount Yes No
career development NECESSARY Yes No

All interims are not created equal.  An interim search firm can help vet and select the interim that is best suited to solve a particular company’s specific challenge.  In general, an interim cost about the same as paying an employee (including benefits).  If the company ends up hiring the interim, the compensation is not wildly above the salary range.  Think of it as on-the-job vetting and weigh the options.


Michael Lanham, COO AutoRealty

“During repositioning and recapitalization of AutoRealty, Claude Smith, Interim CFO
from the ES Interims’ team, helped evaluate various financing alternatives available in
the market. Claude’s thorough understanding of the financial landscape and the needs
of AutoRealty helped us position the financial plans for the company. It was a genuine
pleasure to work with him and the whole ES Interims’ team.”

Rob Miles, President 10C Technologies

“The impact Jim and the ES Interims’ team made was profound! We had an
experienced sales staff, however, our processes and organizational structure
needed fundamental review. After a thorough examination of our business, Jim
helped implement a concise strategy for streamlining our operations and opening up
bottlenecks. Within months, our sales department was on the way forward.”

William K. Snyder, Managing Partner CRP Partners Group LLC.

“CRG has vast internal networks for turnaround and restructuring professionals,
however, occasionally we need a specific industry experience our existing professionals
do not have. When we exhaust our internal resources we frequently turn to Jim Stewart
and his team. ES Interims provides a personal and efficient service, effectively sourcing
quality interims across all functions and levels for our business, often at very short
notice. In one specific situation, Jim found a Pig Farmer with a PhD in Meat Science in
less than a week to assist with an assessment of a large swine farming operation”.

Should Your Next Job be an Interim Excutive Role by Marji McClure

For most executives in transition, the end goal is landing a new full-time position in their industry. But many are starting to find that short-term (or interim) assignments are a viable career option that can provide the salary and work experience they need as they continue their quest for a permanent placement. Still more prominent in Europe, interim posts are increasingly gaining trac- tion in the US with both organizations and executives for a variety of reasons.

Executive search firms, which bring hiring companies and job-seeking execu- tives together, are also benefitting from this interest in interim executive positions. According to data from ExecuNet’s Executive Job Market Intelligence Report (EJMIR), those firms supplemented their recruiting business with a 36 percent increase in interim executive placements in 2009. They are certainly seeing an increase in candidates interested in and available for such placements.

For both companies and executives, interim positions yield many benefits, as they are a viable way in which business operations and careers can move forward without the risks associated with permanent staffing.

“I have seen a significant trend in companies using interim executives and professionals to meet a short-term need,” says Peter Rosen, president of Atlanta- based HR Strategies & Solutions. “There is a very large pool of very talented people who are not working and are willing to do this. There is also a new breed of talent who have chosen this path as their new career.”

In addition, company business plans used to span five years, says Vince Papi, principal of Executive Smarts LLC, while those plans today are much shorter — just one or two years long. By bringing in an interim project manager, companies can more easily change gears after a year or two, if necessary.

Interim assignments are being used in companies to fill director-level and above positions, and they can be used to manage specific projects or even fill needs created by acquisitions. “Some companies are looking at projects that might be a year or two in length, and they need some help on the team,” says Papi. “They realize that after a year or two, they might not have a place for these people. So interim makes sense. You don’t have the cost of recruiting, moving them and a [severance] package if they have to terminate them a year or two down the road.”

Who Accepts Interim Posts? While many executives who seek interim positions today are individuals in transi- tion seeking a new opportunity, some are more financially secure and in the later stages of their career — and are instead only seeking a leadership challenge. “Some executives are doing this because they don’t have other career options, and some are choosing to take this route because they find it stimulating, rewarding and enjoy the flexibility,” says Rosen.

“The typical interim executive is sensibly overqualified,” adds Papi. “They’re coming into a situation where they’re working as an interim at a level below they were in the full-time world. They’ve got a lot of expertise, so they can ramp-up pretty quickly and hit the ground running. Unlike consultants who come in and make recommendations, the interim will also follow through on the recommendations for project completion.”

Yet, one ExecuNet member recognized that changes in the marketplace meant a change in her career strategy was necessary, and she opted for interim work. “The market was terrible, and I was fairly confident that healthcare IT vendors were not going to be investing in marketing and product management executives during such uncertain times,” says ExecuNet member Carrie Bauman, who served as an interim director of new product development. “Since my husband was laid off too, it made business sense for our family for me to take an interim role even though it meant more travel than I was comfortable with.”

For ExecuNet member Mike Wichelns, an interim assignment didn’t represent a major change in career strat- egy, since he was accustomed to project work as a consultant. “My consulting plate was not too ‘full’ at the time, and they were willing to pay me well for my services,” explains Wichelns, who worked as an interim president and general man- ager. “I just viewed the interim position like any other consulting project. So having it last just three to five months did not seem that out of the ordinary for me.”

How Interim Positions Work

The typical interim assignment can last from nine months to a year, but some can even last two or three years. Companies sometimes begin with a short contract to ensure they are pleased with the executive’s work. Once they are, they are more apt to extend that interim contract.

ExecuNet member Jerry Happel says three of his interim posts lasted five years, 10 years and five years, respectively.
“My fourth interim CEO position was supposed to be for three to four months and it lasted 12 months.”

Wichelns’ role was projected to last about three months, but was extended to five months — enough time to meet the objectives of the work. “Toward the end of five months, I recommended shut- ting down that office and moving the functions to another location in the Northeast,” he explains. “That strategy was approved by the owner, and I facili- tated the shut down and move.”

Interim assignments require a formal contract among all parties: between the interim executive and a firm like Papi’s, as well as one between Papi’s company and the client company, which hires the executive. The executive and the company then agree on the deliverables and out- comes the relationship is expected to yield. Salary is discussed at this point. If the interim assignment is not in an executive’s local area, he can usually expect to be compensated for living expenses.

Executives agree that adhering to tight deadlines — typical of interim work— can be challenging, yet rewarding. “A lot of interim managers tell me that an interim assignment is like drinking through a fire hose,” says Papi. “It’s usually extremely fast-paced, long hours.”

While the prospect of a steady (if short-lived) income is enticing, some executives are concerned about how an interim assignment will look on their résumé. “There may be some prospective employers who may look negatively on such a short tenure if they don’t under- stand the interim nature of the assign- ment,” says Wichelns.

But experts say not having a gap in employment history is more important. “Most interims will use that experience to show companies that they’ve been able to learn new skills or give them additional skills to make them much more valuable to the new organization,” says Papi.

Yielding All the Benefits Some of the benefits of an interim position are:

• The ability to continue a search while making income.
• Minimizing your employment gaps.
• Staying connected with current events and people.
• Becoming familiar with a new market- place.
• Having the luxury of previewing a company.

Building their skill set as well as their network through an interim assignment can prove invaluable to executives as they continue their career journey. These assignments may be temporary, but their effects can be long-lasting.

“It filled (what could have been) a large gap in my résumé until the market started to recover and HIT vendors began hiring once again,” says Bauman. “I ended up landing an even better position with a very large HIT vendor, and it was good to expand my skills and network during the transition.”

Transitioning to Full-Time Sometimes, interim positions can lead to full-time work with the employer. But executives shouldn’t expect such an out- come when they accept an interim post.

“Most companies would prefer an interim who is not looking for a full-time job,” says Papi. “There are multiple rea-sons. When an interim comes into an organization, he or she doesn’t have to play the politics of the organization. If an interim starts to look for a job within the corporation, it may cloud their judgment. It’s much cleaner if they’re not looking.”

“The best way to approach these interim roles from the executive’s perspec- tive is to look at it as an interim role and not a path to the offer,” advises Rosen. “It’s easy to take your eye off the ball if you are looking too far out.”

But circumstances can create a full-time post. “There have been assignments where the company didn’t intend to hire the interim, but the chemistry was so great and good things happened with the business,” and the company decided to hire the executive full-time, says Papi, noting that scenario occurs about 10 percent of the time.

Time and Travel Still Main Concerns

Executives need to understand that interim executive positions oftentimes require a temporary relocation (some- times within the US, sometimes across the globe). “If someone wants to do interim work, they’ve got to recognize it could mean they’re going to be away from home,” he says. “They’re probably going to have to travel for some assign- ments. So they’ve got to be prepared for that.” But Happel notes employers will usually pay for executives to visit their homes once or twice a month.

Nonetheless, time management — especially when still seeking a full-time post — can be a true challenge. “It cuts into the time you can spend job hunting,” says Bauman. “This means less family time and/or less sleep if you want to keep looking while you’re in an interim assign- ment. Any travel needed will further diminish your available time to look.”

Still, the benefits of interim employ- ment seem to outweigh the drawbacks, ExecuNet members agree. “If the right opportunity presents itself, definitely consider an interim assignment,” suggests Bauman. “Even if it’s not perfect, it’s not forever. You can do most anything for three to six months.”

“If it was possible to stay steadily employed, I would enjoy doing these types of assignments on a permanent basis in lieu of a regular long-term assignment,” adds Wichelns. “There is a special adrenaline rush that comes from taking on these types of assignments and virtually no opportunity to ever feel stale
or stagnant.”

Job Hunters Should Learn Role Reversal Networking By Tom Englander

Most advice on networking focuses on how you should get your message across in polished formats, such as
the two-minute drill, elevator speech or personal commercial. The aim is to help job hunters provide a very
articulate and catchy rendition of what they can offer, what they’re looking for, and then ask the other
person for assistance in finding a job.

For instance, an executive might call someone he hasn’t talked with in many years and say: “Sam, I know
it’s been a while but I’ve been really busy, what with the job and the family and all. Well, for now, that has
changed — my job has gone away. Do you know of any openings for a [insert the function here]?”

If this is your approach, ask yourself, “Am I really networking or just bothering people?”

This process doesn’t work well, even with an effectively delivered message, because job hunters are totally
focused on what the other person can do for them. They show little or no regard for what this person might
need. They’re concentrating on taking instead of giving, talking instead of listening. Eventually, they become
so frustrated by their lack of results (job leads) that they give up.

But this isn’t networking; it’s a self-interested, one-way conversation. It lacks mutuality and won’t help you
in the short or long run.

Networking isn’t about getting something from somebody. Good networkers know this and seek little from
others. Typically, they have more contacts and friends than they know what to do with. They are fun to chat
with. And if they ever do need help, they get more than they need. Their secret? Being good listeners and
asking open-ended questions.

Their approach, which I have labeled “role-reversal networking,” is occasionally mentioned in sales-training
materials as a way to learn about customers’ needs. It takes as its premise the old saying: “You have two
ears and one mouth and should use them proportionally.” Spending more time listening and less time talking
will yield more of the results you’re seeking: a conversation that helps build rapport and create a connection.

Here’s how it works:

Good listeners are active listeners. You hear not just the words being said but also the feelings and
attitudes behind the words. It requires that you really listen, not prepare for what you’re going to say next;
that you ask follow-up questions to understand what the other person is really saying, not present your
counter-argument; and that you not interrupt. In short, it requires that you respect other people and their
opinions. As Atlanta-based author and leadership expert John Maxwell once said, “People don’t care what
you know, until they know you care.”

Simply stated, open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered by a single word (e.g., “yes,” “no,”
or “seven”); they require thought and engage the answerer’s mind. When questions focus on the other
person’s experience, interests or expertise, both of you will be more comfortable during the conversation,
and the other person will often open up to you about what and whom they know (your objective for
networking). After all, who doesn’t enjoy talking about themselves?

In addition, focusing your networking conversation on the other person takes you out of the spotlight. For
introverts, this makes networking a much more palatable activity. For extroverts, it opens their eyes to a
whole new world beyond themselves.

Here’s an example of what a role-reversal networking conversation might sound like.

Assume Sally has been introduced to Phil by a mutual acquaintance, Mike. All three are software developers.
Sally is unemployed and Mike is an independent contractor working for the company where Phil is a project

Sally: Thanks for seeing me. Mike speaks very highly of you and your ability to lead teams. How did you
develop that ability?

Phil: I’ve always liked working with people. Over the years, I took a lot of courses and successfully
passed my PMI Certificate exam. Those classes really helped!

Phil: Oh, I hardly do any coding at all any more. I really miss it. Most of my time is spent resolving
problems either from my team or from our in-house customers.

Sally: It sounds like you miss the coding part.

Phil: Yes, I do! It’s pretty easy to get programs to work the right way. It’s much tougher with team
members and customers.

Sally: What’s your biggest problem with team members?

Phil: Getting them to look at the situation from the customer’s perspective. They are more into writing
elegant code than solving customers’ problems.

Sally: Do I hear that! A couple of years ago we faced a similar situation.

Phil: Well, how did you handle it? …

By focusing on and listening to understand Phil’s situation and the issues that concerned her, Sally was able
to find an opportunity to display her own expertise at a time when it was of interest to Phil. In addition,
by keying into Phil’s business issues, the focus has shifted from Sally’s need for a job to Phil’s need to
solve some important problems. In this context, Phil is much more likely to picture Sally as a solution to his
problems and to create a job shaped around Sally’s strengths.

By concentrating on the other person’s needs and interests through the use of open-ended questions and
active listening, job hunters can enhance their results and come to appreciate networking. By seeking to
understand and help the other person, you’re ultimately helping yourself.

Not long ago, I worked with a finance and quality management executive who seemed to be networking well
and frequently but wasn’t getting results. As we talked, it became apparent that his approach was turning
people off because it was too self-centered.

Following our discussion, he changed his networking focus from asking for a job to listening to what the
other person was saying. He began to receive referrals to employed professionals in his field. Through these
new discussions, he learned about two companies that were struggling with issues he could resolve. Both of
these opportunities led to job offers, including one closer to his home that he accepted. “Once I closed my
mouth and opened my ears, my progress was exponential!”

Remember, not all networking opportunities will result in a win for you. However, if you do it properly, using
your ears more than your mouth, it will always be a win for the other person. That will be remembered,
appreciated, and many times reciprocated.

— Mr. Englander is a vice president and senior consultant with outplacement firm Right Management
Consultants in Addison, Texas.

What You Should Know About Headhunters by Joseph McCool

Executive recruiters can usher you into the corner office or leave you stranded after the fourth interview. Here’s what to expect.

Executive recruiters—or headhunters as most businesspeople know them—are especially influential agents of executive mobility and management-career opportunity.

They are powerful ambassadors of hiring organizations’ brands and cultures, and their work lubricates the wheels of corporate growth, change management, and leadership like no other external business advisers. Their actions can shape corporate performance, because they hold the keys to most of the world’s highest-paying management jobs by virtue of controlling access to them.

Collectively, executive recruiters network their way to millions of experienced managers around the world each year to identify the most promising candidates. Their judgment determines who deserves to be introduced to client hiring organizations.

The truth is, whether you’re building a company or your own senior management career, you can’t get anywhere in business without the headhunters.

Candidates Shouldn’t Pay to Play

It’s important to understand that not all executive recruiters work from the same sheet of music. Theirs is an entirely unregulated business pursuit with no barrier to entry, and given that there are distinct differences between them and other, unrelated parties like so-called executive agents and coaches who would seek to support your career choices, it’s especially important that you understand what you really need to know about headhunters.

For starters, you should know that no one in the business of executive recruiting should ever ask you for money to facilitate your next management-level career move. If you’ve already held a management position, let your experience, credentials, and references do the talking for you. You don’t need to open your checkbook to get ahead.

Having now addressed what executive recruiters are not, let’s delve deeper into the kinds of executive recruiters who may, if they haven’t already done so, reach out to you.

Executive Recruiters

Two types of executive recruiters work from outside the hiring company to facilitate the recruitment of new executives.
The retained executive search consultant is engaged on an exclusive basis by a hiring company to identify and assess candidates to fill senior management positions typically paying a salary above $150,000. These consultants typically recruit for strategic executive jobs and are paid a fee for the search, usually without regard to its eventual outcome. Executive search consultants recruit most of the chief executives and other C-suite leaders for the world’s largest companies. Given their deep relationships with hiring organizations, they are acutely aware of which companies are growing, the talent those organizations need, and what they are willing to pay to attract top-notch executives.

The contingency headhunter is contracted nonexclusively and often is in competition with other contingency-fee search firms to identify potential candidates for lower-level management positions that usually pay a base salary of $75,000 or more. Only firms that identify candidates who are ultimately hired get paid a fee for their services. The contingency headhunter is much more likely than the retained executive search consultant to distribute your résumé to as many potential clients as possible because it increases his or her chances of making the right introduction and, ultimately, of getting paid. If you haven’t yet landed a job with significant management responsibilities, it’s far more likely you’ll be working with a contingency recruiter.
A small but increasing number of especially large corporations have entrusted the sourcing of executive-level management candidates to their own internal sourcing teams. That means an initial recruitment call may come from a member of a corporate executive staffing team (essentially an in-house management search unit) or perhaps a recruitment-specialist partner of a private equity firm whose portfolio company may need someone with your experience and knowhow.

Running the Interview Gauntlet

Whether you’re initially contacted by an internal staffing coordinator or an external agent, you should expect to answer questions about your background, credentials, and management experience so the recruiter can gauge whether you should be a candidate for the open position.

If the headhunter thinks you’re deserving of a shot at the job and a good fit with the hiring organization, you’ll likely be invited to engage in either a follow-up telephone interview or a face-to-face interview at the headhunter’s office or at a public venue, such as a hotel lobby, club lounge, or private conference facility.

If you pass their litmus test and meet the requirements for the job, you may be invited to interview with the client hiring organization, which represents your first real interaction with your potential employer.

It’s important to remember that the external recruiter is paid by the hiring organization. The recruiter’s interests lie in closing the search assignment to the client’s satisfaction, not yours. Sure, the headhunter wants to orchestrate a mutual engagement process that gets both you and the hiring company to fall head-over-heels in love with one another. But at the end of the day, headhunters represent and are paid by the hiring company. That may explain why far too many management job candidates are left at the altar of the executive search wondering—without a clear answer from even some of the most influential headhunters—why the courtship didn’t result in an offer of employment.

Joseph Daniel McCool is a writer, speaker and advisor on executive recruiting and corporate management succession best practices. He is the author of Deciding Who Leads: How Executive Recruiters Drive, Direct Disrupt the Global Search for Leadership Talent, which has been recognized as “one of the 30 best business books of 2008” by Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

How to Field the Headhunter’s Call by Joseph McCool

It’s smart to give the recruiter a few minutes of your time, even if you’re not actively job hunting. You never know when you might be.

No matter how secure your current job in executive management, you may someday rely on a corporate headhunter to move your career upstream, either by pulling you out of a bad situation or simply by helping you take your leadership skills to the next level.

You could get called by a headhunter (BusinessWeek, 09/30/07) out of the blue, or a change in control of your current organization—whether through a merger or acquisition, the hiring of a new CEO, or some other dramatic event—could alter your perspective and sense of job security in a hurry.

Just consider how a myriad of new corporate pressures, governance issues, and evolving definitions of effective leadership have steadily combined in recent years to drive executive tenure to an all-time low, according to research by ExecuNet, a leading business and recruiting membership network. Issues beyond your control can rapidly morph a contented employee into a “passive” job candidate—one who’s not actively looking but would start listening closely the next time a peer or industry colleague talks about their company’s search for new management talent, or who would return a higher percentage of headhunter calls.

Start by Listening

Regardless of how you’d now rate your own career security and fulfillment index, and given the increasing frequency of management transitions, it’s worth your while to take headhunters’ calls and give them just enough time to see where they might want to lead you. And when the headhunter calls, you’re best advised to listen to what he has to say.

Listening is critical to helping you understand a headhunter’s reason for calling and assessing how best to respond to this potentially life-changing call. (And make no mistake—many great career coups have their genesis in such a phone call.) You need to establish whether the executive recruiter (or the candidate sourcing representative) is calling you as a referral or information source on a search assignment they’re now pursuing, or whether they’re trying to qualify you as a potential candidate.
Since the person who called you will likely only provide his or her name and that of the headhunting firm, exactly why he or she has called may not be instantly apparent. It’s probably worth giving them a few minutes to explain the purpose of the call and perhaps to answer a few questions. And since you’re in a position of influence at this point (the kind of influence that legions of other managers would love to wield) it makes sense, once you’ve established the purpose of their call, to transition into the role of inquisitor and ask a few questions so you can clearly understand what’s going on.

Much of what many executives who’ve been recruited by headhunters over the years have learned about the courtship process boils down to managing their own expectations about the transition possibilities and the sheer odds that a hiring organization will choose them as its next high-impact management hire.

Impart Information Judiciously

It’s important to note that you’re in control whenever the headhunter calls. You can choose not to return the call, you can speak with them long enough to answer their questions and clarify any next steps or reason to connect in the future, and you can try to be helpful by offering a referral or sharing some market perspective, mindful that headhunters rarely forget a favor and always value information providers.

They are, after all, fully immersed in an information business.
If it’s clear that you’re a potential candidate on a search, be honest about your current compensation and straightforward about the kind of compensation you’d expect if you were ever to make a move. If you’re willing to relocate, let the recruiter know. Likewise, if you have any personal circumstances that would make moving across the country unlikely, be up-front about that, too.
But in sharing a piece of what and who you know and where you’ve been and want to go, it’s also smart to be somewhat reserved, courteous, and especially judicious when it comes to sharing any of your company’s critical data, intellectual property, and intelligence about products in development. Just ask yourself, “With whom else besides this headhunter would I even be tempted to share such sensitive information?”

You don’t ever want to reduce yourself to the role of a company mole, lest some recruiters label you as someone who shouldn’t be taken out of such an information-rich position. And likewise, given all that’s on the headhunters’ agenda these days, you don’t want to swamp them with information they didn’t ask for.

Identifying the Client

Also, don’t be surprised if they’re unwilling to identify the hiring company on whose behalf they’ve called. Many headhunters’ clients simply won’t give them permission to identify them as the hiring organization until much later in the search process and then with only a handful of ‘shortlist’ candidates. Besides, you can always do your homework on who the hiring company might be, based on the headhunter’s general description of their client.
If you have the right stuff the headhunters are looking for, you can bet they’ll take you seriously and come back to you in short order if they sense a good match between you and the leadership position they’re trying to fill.

Joseph Daniel McCool is a writer, speaker, and advisor on executive recruiting and management succession best practices. He writes Headhunter Confidential for