Ah, the joys of being an Executive Recruiter. Part of a profession with no credentialing process, low barriers to entry and nicknamed “Headhunter” which is otherwise associated with shrunken heads and decapitation!

But, do not mistake the indefinite nature of this profession with a lack of rules, guidelines and very precise conventions of behavior. Just because there is no universal code of ethics does not mean that we, who consider ourselves experts, do not subscribe to the highest standards as well as regular and rigorous training to hone our skills.

On the other hand, there are some who enter the field thinking that it is straightforward, uncomplicated, not to mention financially lucrative!
It is hard to say who is guilty of them, but there are a variety of mistakes that Executive Recruiters make that not only disservice their clients and candidates but degenerate the field for the rest of us. Here are some examples:

Smile and Dial

As we are all juggling too much and managing a frenetic pace, it can be very burdensome to receive recruiter calls for positions that are completely unsuitable. Prior to getting on the phone, any Executive Recruiter worthy of your time will not only know his/her job specification inside and out but be quite familiar with your background and how it may be relevant to the opportunity in question. The call will have a specific agenda and the Recruiter should be crisp and to the point. The old “smile and dial” habits have no place in a professional recruiting environment.


Confidentiality is the bedrock of everything an Executive Recruiter does. We must always be mindful of what we are saying and to whom, as careers are at stake and as such can be jeopardized. Nothing causes fear and resistance amongst candidates as the idea that their classified, private, off-the-record (are there any other adjectives I can use to drive the point home!?) information will be not be kept as such.


In my earliest Executive Recruiter training it was made crystal clear that rusing of any kind was not only incorrect but would not be tolerated under any circumstances. Rusing, in the world of recruiting refers to, for lack of a better word, shenanigans and deceit that is sometimes used to get a desired person on the phone. In the recruiting world that I come from, if you do not have the skills and finesse to get to a person honestly then you simply stayed off the phone. Be wary when the Executive Recruiter on the other end of the line has used some pretense in order to speak with you.

Biases and Assumptions

As an Executive Recruiter it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming you know where a candidate’s interests lie. They are currently a CFO so their next step and the one after that must be a CFO. Or they are in the consumer products industry and that is where they need to work until their retirement. But this was never the case and is becoming even less so. Humans are a fickle and unpredictable bunch and a good Recruiter will always check in with a potentially interesting candidate. To do otherwise is simply cutting corners.

Left out in the Cold

Perhaps nothing embarrasses me more than when a candidate recounts interviewing for a position and thereafter never hearing back from the recruiter involved in the search. I find myself apologizing on behalf of my profession, all of us! It is a reasonable expectation to be provided with status on a search you engaged in. This should come as a personal call if you have spent time interviewing but at the very least, an email is apropos. Feedback is also usually welcome and appreciated by candidates, at even the most senior levels.

There are certainly other areas where we recruiters can improve but as a candidate and even potential client it would be wise to assess your collaborators along at least these lines. And a final note to my fellow recruiters, the mention of these flaws is only intended to perhaps raise the collective bar so that we all benefit.

Agility Executive Search