I have an ongoing dialogue with a friend of mine, Lars Leafblad, around such topics as interviewing and finding top talent. He is an open, engaging and inquisitive person by nature, and his position as principal at a retained executive search firm gives him plenty of fodder for fascinating discussions. Recently Lars sent me a list of takeaways from his time in the business, and I want to share them.

Before I do though, a little bio on Lars. He came to Minneapolis-based KeyStone Search in September of 2007, after serving as Director of Development for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He began his career with GE Capital and also worked on a high-tech start-up among other things. Along the way he got his MBA with a concentration in Strategic Management from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. His path to becoming an executive recruiter is not really a typical one, if there is such a thing, but then nothing much about him is typical.

Following are his collected insights about the retained executive search industry.

  • Most candidates don’t expect a timely, professional process based on their previous experience with search firms /recruiters.
  • Candidates you take the time to help when they are in a period of career transition seem to rarely remember you when they’ve landed.
  • 99% of unsolicited “networking” requests  turn out to be  “help me or someone I know find a job please.”
  • The questions, or lack thereof, posed by candidates are a crucial insight into how they think and who they are.
  • Candidates using “we” more than “me” have a higher likelihood of moving forward in any search process.
  • Personal hand-written thank you notes from a candidate or networking contact are memorable, impactful, and unfortunately rare.
  • Traits that matter in all candidates  >  Curiosity. Empathy. Positivity. Honesty. Energy. Listening. Follow-up. Gratitude. Vision. Mental Agility.
  • Think of your resume as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story – what matters are the choices you faced, what you chose, why you chose it, what happened as a result of that choice, and what you learned from the decision.
  • Your reputation matters. Thank those who help you along the way. You never know who will ultimately influence a hiring executive(s) in their own assessment of your reputation and candidacy.
  • Leaders in career transition who view it as a time to learn, share, grow, and help others will leave that period of their lives more quickly, with greater fulfillment, and with much more value gained from the experience.
  • Without exception people help people they like. Be likable. Help others without asking for anything in return. Say thank you. Follow up. Actively listen. Be present.
  • Own your weaknesses and failures as a leader and as a professional.  We all have them.
  • We live in a 2-degree world. Don’t burn bridges. Take the high road. If you can’t say something nice about a former employer or co-worker, you know the rest…..
  • Human beings have an incredible authenticity-filter/radar/antenna regardless of formal education/training/job. Be real.
  • We all want to be heard and respected. Listen first.
  • Say thank you, a lot, to everyone in your circle.
  • The email address you use says something about you  (hint:  retire the hotmail account).
  • When interviewing, think of it as a conversation, not an interrogation. It’s appropriate to pause, think, and reflect before responding.
  • Body language is 80% of how we’re heard and perceived, especially in an interview.
  • Do your homework. It’s your job to be prepared and informed for a networking meeting or an interview.

We would love to get your list of  insights gained from participating in interviews and networking conversations, so please share.

And if you would like to connect with Lars and have a direct dialogue with him, here are some ways to do that.

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/larsleafblad

LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/larsleafblad

KeyStone Search – http://www.keystonesearch.com

Pollen Newsletter – http://www.facebook.com/bepollen

Finally, if you would like to read more insights from Lars, including what he loves about the recruiting business, and what he thinks recruiting firms will need to do to succeed in the future, read this interview with Lars on Staffing Talk that I did with him this past summer.

Tags: Business, Networking, Authenticity, Retained executive search, Candidates, Resume, Career transition, Finding talent, Interviewing, Reputation, Search process