My name is Mark Wayman, and for the last eleven years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, average placement is $250,000, last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.
This article is geared towards Human Resources professionals. For the last eleven years as an Executive Recruiter, I have hustled 24×7. In my business, if you don’t sell you don’t eat. Literally reviewed 100,000 resumes and thought it would be interesting to share a few of my completely unscientific findings about candidates you do NOT want to hire. There are exceptions to every rule, however in general, after 11 years and 700+ high level placements, here is my insight.
The Unemployed – There are very few good reasons for a candidate to be unemployed. Again, there are always exceptions, however for the most part the best executives are NEVER unemployed. They foresee issues and/or layoffs and proactively manage their way out of it. Layoffs are a great excuse to drop non-performers. Never saw a company layoff a good sales guy! The economy is strong right now, so if someone is unemployed, there is probably a good reason for it.
You Know People Can Google You, Yes? – When a candidate sends me a resume, the first thing I do is check their LinkedIn profile. Then Facebook. Then Google. You would be amazed what I find. EEOC and workman’s compensation law suits, pictures of the candidate half lit at a nightclub, tax liens, DUIs. With regards to off color items on Facebook, some candidates have “an obsessive need to be me.” They don’t care what anyone thinks. I know a CEO who fills his Facebook page with pictures of him at nightclubs with young girls. While I don’t judge anyone, that is not going to make a good impression with employers. One last note on this topic. How about the candidate that used the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe they should use something more professional. How about first initial and last name?
Job Hoppers – Executives that change jobs frequently typically come in two flavors. First (and most likely), they don’t play well with others. When I start checking references on a job hopper, invariably I hear the person was not well liked and could not get along with anyone. Specifically, his/her boss! Second, job hopping gives the impression that the executives is not terribly loyal. Who wants to invest in an executive that may not stay around for long? I rarely represent a candidate that has not been in their current role for three or more years.
Education – I have seen some great non-degreed candidates, mostly in high tech, when technical people rush to the workforce for the big dollars. That stated, most companies require a college degree for management level jobs. Does it make you smarter? Maybe not, but it shows you had the self-discipline to spend four years of your life becoming more educated and worldly. There are many valid reasons for an executive to not finish college. I’m not judging. The ones that REALLY concern me are the candidates that list a college on the resume, but don’t have a degree. They only needed a “few more credits.” That’s even worse! Why would you drop out with a semester to go?
They Don’t Price Their House to Sell – When people sell their house, they have a propensity to get emotionally attached and price it WAY too high. In a like manner, when folks consider new career opportunities, many price themselves out of the market. They are unrealistic about compensation. I can read a CV in 60 seconds and tell you a candidate’s market value. Why? Because I do it all day and every day. Also because I know how much everyone makes, so I can compare education and experience between executives. One of they stories I frequently tell is about an executive making $275,000 that was fired. He asked me for a job at $350,000. My response was that $225,000 was the right number. He declined. He was unemployed for a year, got a job at $225,000 (I hit that number right on the nose!) for six months, then moved to a job at $160,000. Again, not judging, but in general candidates that are disconnected from reality on compensation…and not good candidates.
Needy and High Maintenance – Be wary of desperate candidates! If someone has no rainy day fund and needs a job today to make their mortgage payment…that is a MAJOR issue. Top performing executives don’t place themselves in that position. Also beware the candidate that “is not looking”, but rides you like Secretariat. My experience is that any executive that leads with “I’m not looking” is desperately looking. And in probably 50% of those cases, I find out the executive was terminated within a week or two thereafter.
They Read Their Own Press Releases and/or Lack Integrity – How many resumes have you seen with two paragraphs of “I’m king of the world!” at the top? Top executives don’t need to trumpet their success. Others do it for them. My preference is candidates that stick to the facts. Give me company, title and tenure. Follow that up with several bullet points on how you improved revenues or reduced costs. The biggest issue I see with candidates, even at the million dollar level, is INTEGRITY. It is absolutely shocking how many executives lie to me. You can call it “spin” or “not forthcoming” or “not straightforward”, however candidates that are dishonest are a total deal breaker for me. As one CEO told me, “If they don’t have integrity, I don’t care how brilliant or talented they are.” Amen!
Bad Life Choices – Regardless of your feelings about drugs, they are illegal in most places. And I have a saying, “If you can’t pass the drug screen you can’t get a job.” Only had one candidate in ten years fail the drug screen, a $300,000 CFO. Or should I say a $300,000 CFO with no common sense? Other areas of concern are criminal record, DUIs, tax liens and financial trouble. Executives that make bad life choices also have a tendency to make bad professional choices.
Leaving Las Vegas – Name the Casino President that broke two Las Vegas casinos in less than two years, was unemployed for the next two years, and then was hired by a Native American casino “after an exhaustive search.” If a gaming executive cannot get a job in Las Vegas, THERE IS A REASON. Usually because they burned all their bridges or can’t pass a compliance check.
Counter-Offers are Never a Good Career Choice – A client called me for a $250,000 search. Apparently a VP emailed in his resignation. Who does that? After an extended search, we were down to two strong candidates. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the guy renegs and wants to stay. Translation, the wheels came off his new job. The CEO decides to keep him. Seriously! Let me tell you how this story is going to end. That guy won’t last another year, and to my mind showed a total lack of character by quitting, then reneging. At the end of the day, the CEO is at fault, and the story will not end well. Never, ever extend a counter-offer to a candidate.
Salary Surveys are BOGUS! – This is my bonus tip. I have to smile when I see salary surveys. Let’s face it, the candidate is worth whatever you offer them. I have seen $200,000 executives take $100,000 offers due to desperation. Also seen $80,000 technical candidates get $150,000 because they have a rare skill set. The funny thing about the gaming industry salary surveys is that typically the companies sending them out have no way of knowing how much anyone makes. Why? Because they place $50,000 individual contributors. How would they possibly know what a CIO, CFO or VP makes…they never work on those jobs. And you have to love the candidates that don’t believe cost of living is a factor. A $250,000 job in San Francisco pays $100,000 in Las Vegas. California has a 13.2% state income tax, and for $5,000 a month you get to live in a shoebox. Some companies have open checkbooks and can hire the best people; some pay below market and the get the leftovers. Money is not everything, but anyone that tells you it does not matter….doesn’t have any.