In my last post I outlined the story of an individual who took great initiative and was rewarded with the best job of his career. Here are some of the important points I was able to mine and utilize from that and other similar experiences in executive recruitment.

Generate your own luck

Did I have a great deal to do with this placement? Aside from helping to construct the contract and attending to all final ancillary items, the general and seemingly obvious answer would be no. However, the individual who introduced the successful candidate may very well have never been located and prompted to action without hard, focused work, a strong presentation of the benefits of the position, and a willingness to continually strive to improve one’s professional approach. Diligence and perseverance always seem to be hallmarks for most people who are perceived as having more than their fair share of fortunate breaks.

Never underestimate passion, motivation, and proper organizational agreement

All too often the key figures in the hiring decision framework become overly fixated on quantifiable minutiae and, in the process, often neglect or erroneously diminish other crucial factors that are essential to determining whether or not a potential employee will flourish in their particular environment. I am familiar with some highly successful technology sales executives who decided to enter the recruitment field and ended up generating results that were far less than spectacular. In many instances, they had become accustomed to recurring streams of income and often disproportionately large customer wins that readily filled their respective quotas. Unfortunately, such ingrained reliance left them ill-prepared for the unequal and often differing demands of an executive search role. Others simply preferred to spend the brunt of their time in the field or found the nature of the work to be dissimilar from what they had expected.

Clearly it is important to make certain that potential employees possess a minimum amount of relevant skills and abilities to effectively operate in a certain role. However, it has been my experience that the truly great performers are more often than not those who may lack the most appropriate background, but are willing to do whatever is necessary to far exceed established standards. Their desire to be the best is unflagging, and they will quite often achieve far better results than individuals who have a seemingly more applicable set of qualifications on paper along with highly pertinent knowledge. Underperformance by those perceived as exemplary may be due to a host of reasons, some of which include: a) lack of necessary impetus to excel, b) satisfaction with current expectation/success ratio, c) improper fit with the company’s structure and systems or d) outside demands that require a great deal of attention. The important thing to note is that employers must give sufficient weight to qualitative intangibles when making a hiring decision.

Always expect the best possible outcome

It is absolutely essential to maintain confidence and resolve even in circumstances that may appear dire. A positive perception of one’s abilities combined with a diligent and professional demeanor, particularly during the most trying of circumstances, will produce extraordinary results. Even if a certain assignment is not completed successfully, all involved will greatly appreciate the sincerity and determination of your approach and will be more than willing to utilize your services again in the future.

Never assume anything 

I recall working at a company with one individual who only became aware that a placement had gone awry when the client organization called the day after the candidate was to begin work and wondered why he hadn’t shown up. It turned out that he had received an offer from another company which he had decided to accept. Neither person felt it necessary to make contact and the results were abysmal and very possibly avoidable if the recruiter had followed basic protocol.

Some things will simply be beyond our control. Many others, however, can and should be attended to with as much diligence as possible. Increased attention to seemingly small details such as candidate presentation, interview preparation, follow-up, and other pertinent factors will dramatically increase success in all areas of the hiring process and life in general.

Embrace the unexpected

In the example given above, it would have been a simple matter for the VP to storm out of the room in anger and call off the entire slate of examinations. However, he was an individual who had experienced great success by wielding the ability to recognize opportunity where others simply saw distraction or wasted time and effort. Most importantly, he had always made it a point to confront, control, and nimbly guide all potentially deleterious events in a direction and manner that was as undaunted and forthright as possible. Even if things do not fare as well as hoped, the lessons learned from the unforeseen event are quite valuable.

Systems and structure are great; adaptability is golden 

We all have developed particular standardized methods that have proven to be productive. However, too many people seemingly become bound by the confines of an established set of procedures and protocol and are either unwilling to advance their abilities due to perfectly natural apprehension, or they simply are not allowed such latitude due to corporate policies. The difficulty, of course, is that humans are not hamburgers and, try as we might, there simply is not a single approach or framework that ensures uniform success for all. Individuals must be allowed sufficient leeway within an established scheme in order to fully utilize their particular skills and abilities.

Do everything possible to maintain and enhance relationships with clients and potential candidates.

Certainly a very basic tenet, but one that often seems to be depreciated or entirely disregarded in the quest to generate business. In the case illustrated above, not only did the company still offer to pay a recruitment fee, they did so without hesitation due to the fact that we had an exceptionally strong track record with the firm and many of its executives.

Through great initiative, preparation, and basic drive Steve had won a highly coveted position over a number of supremely qualified applicants, all of whom had exceptionally appropriate experience and proven success in the sector in which the company operated. The VP of Sales had been willing to take a studied chance on an individual who would require training and a brief period of time to appropriately acclimate. Nevertheless, the amount of business Steve might generate above that of other candidates would more than make up for the initial investment requirements.

Bob had always believed that items such as motivation, extended record of performance, and attitude should carry as much (if not more) weight than product knowledge, company pedigree, and time in the sector. By being open to an overture that many may have quickly dismissed, and maintaining an approach that willingly incorporated a tempered tolerance for calculated departure from the standard, he had hired a champion sales professional.