As a headhunter since 2011 and now as owner of my own recruitment firm, DG Recruit, I have had the pleasure of placing hundreds of professionals in roles ranging from senior to executive positions nationally.
Here are a few things recruiters and hiring managers know that job seekers don’t.
1. All basic qualifications having been met, likability trumps all
What this means is that the B and C students have just as good a chance at making it in life than A+ students — and it’s not the most talented and technically-savvy engineer who eventually becomes the CTO; in fact, it’s usually the most politically admired and personally connected candidate that wins and progresses into the C-suite.
Of course, basic qualifications are important to even be considered a feasible candidate, but success is usually dictated more by one’s ability to influence, actively listen, and respond appropriately, their level of social etiquette, and their general level of acceptedness by their peers and superiors.
In order to be more likable, read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. In sales roles like mine, and certainly for any enterprising professional who wants to progress into senior leadership roles, learn how to ask open questions sincerely to drive conversations with anyone. Be genuinely vested in others’ lives, sufferings, wins, and emotional state. By empathizing, remembering personal details, and creating conversation consistently, you’ll win over the hearts of anyone you endeavor to build a relationship with.
2. HR people actually are not that important in the hiring hierarchy
As a headhunter, surprisingly, the HR person is the last person on my list of any importance. As a job-seeker, you should understand that the person who really controls the chessboard is the hiring manager or department head — the actual person in charge of the future hire.
The hiring manager dictates everything! Who to interview, what price to pay them, who to hire, and which headhunters to utilize. As long as the real boss, the hiring manager, likes you, you’re about 90 percent of the way to an offer letter.
No matter what role you’re in, you can find hiring managers on LinkedIn by experimenting with the search fields. You can type the company name in the filter and then type in “manager” or “director” of a certain role, like “java development.” If that doesn’t turn up anything, then delete the keyword. You can narrow the list by geographic range; similarly, you can find more relevant contacts by looking at the right-hand column called “People also viewed” and opening a new tab in your browser.
- Keep track of your activities on every contact through an Excel sheet where you design the columns to display Company name, First Name, Last Name, Role/Title, and Your Actions to take notes of what you’ve done.
- Be careful. If you directly reach out to hiring managers, you risk being caught looking, since your manager may also know whom you’re soliciting. They may have backdoor conversations about you — and if you directly reach out to firms, headhunters will be unable to represent you to those companies for a period of a year.
- That’s why you’re best off contacting recruiters first by utilizing LinkedIn, job boards, and referral sources to find the best recruiters in your space. Once you fully map out which recruiters represent which firms and what the word on the street is, then you know which companies you should utilize recruiters for, and which firms you can get after yourself.
3. You can negotiate and leverage other offers to great effect
Many candidates are so afraid of upsetting prospective employers that they feel bad for disclosing where else they’re interviewing at or how much money they actually want. For many people in high-demand labor markets where the supply of jobs outstrip candidates available, the candidate actually holds a LOT more power than employers do.
Candidates should definitely negotiate and be transparent about exactly which other offers they’re juggling and when deadlines approach. If handled appropriately, this will increase employers’ desire for you, not penalize you for “looking greedy” or “not interested.” It’s simply reflective of the competitive labor landscape in which firms must fight for top talent.
In today’s world, it’s all about the etiquette and manner in which you communicate. If you present an articulate, fact-of-the-matter case as to why your demands are as such, people respect you rather than dislike you. After all, it’s a given right for a worker to demand their just wages.
4. You should interview your interviewers harder
Commonly, candidates are so scared of losing the offer or being looked at as needy or demanding that they don’t actually say what’s on their mind. This hurts their success on the job, even if they manage to obtain a great salary and offer, because they may agree to something that they did not fully understand or align with.
That’s why it’s your prerogative to be a strong communicator. Get the answers you truly need during interviews by asking the tough questions that are detailed and specific. This is where you’ll be spending your next few years; you better be aggressive in how you vet it out!
Even if you ask all the right questions and hear all the right answers, you still may need to rely on your intuition, gut, and backdoor referencing by asking others to verify what the truth is. Try to see beyond the “sell,” as of course everyone will be trying to secure you and win you over. Look for microaggressions, small gestures that betray their attitude and treatment of people, or red flags that indicate they’re not as supportive as marketed.
Some questions you may want to ask are:
- What is your management philosophy? What are your biggest struggles with leading teams or your staff?
- What is the vision/plan/future of this team/company/department?
- What are your biggest frustrations or challenges in the current market environment/competitive landscape/internal dynamics?
5. Interview, even if you don’t need to
Due to loyalty, fear, laziness, or arrogance, most candidates refuse to proactively learn about what opportunities are available. Even if headhunters call them with amazing and legitimate roles that could seriously impact their earning potential or career trajectory, people say no to themselves all the time, allowing others less-qualified to leapfrog them.
As a headhunter, I see this happen daily. I’ll call a bunch of similarly-talented people, but some are just more open-minded to listen to others’ advice. They’re clever about their future. Others who think they know everything miss out! No matter if you need to look or not, once you hit a certain amount of experience in your role, it’s time to take your head out of the sand and start interviewing, even if just for your own education.
This phenomenon disproportionately hurts women due to the majority of women being extra bought-in/loyal and super paranoid of being “found out.” Especially if you’re a woman, please go out there and interview — even if you don’t need to.
I could go on and on about misguided resume designs and why people should stop wasting their time freaking out over cover letters, but the above points are the most important in terms of mindsets about the job-getting process and ecosystem that will really misdirect job-seekers’ actions and strategies.
Keep a positive attitude, an open heart, and be smart about who you let into your life — and which company to work for — to stay in control of your life and career.
Dandan Zhu is a headhunter, investor, and entrepreneur who coaches, trains, and recruits top talent in recruitment and sales positions. As an immigrant coming from humble beginnings, Dandan struggled through culture shock and difficult family dynamics until her early twenties when she realized she wanted more from life. She went from being a waitress at 22 to a millionaire by 30 through her recruitment and investment career. Now, she shares her methods through her businesses and advice on DG Recruit, Dandan Global, and her daily posts. Tune into her podcasts DG Recruit and Daily DANDAN for more insight, guidance, and coaching on anything related to careers, success, and recruitment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.