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.

Every day I receive a dozen unsolicited resumes from executives in career transition. Translation, cold calls from folks that are unemployed. Like most Executive Recruiters, I only work with executives I know personally, or that I receive through referrals. This article outlines why the wrong time to meet an Executive Recruiter is when you are unemployed, and provides a few tips for putting your name at the top of an Executive Recruiter’s candidate list.

Relationships Trump Talent – If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this: relationships trump talent every day of the week. Mediocre, unqualified executives get great jobs on a regular basis. Why? Because they have strong relationships, and a former boss or peer juices them into the job. People hire candidates they know and like. I recently worked on a “C” level position and submitted three excellent candidates. All three of my candidates were better than the person that was eventually hired, however the hiring manager worked with that candidate previously…so he got the job. You are correct – life is not fair, but this is how it works. On the other hand, I see highly competent, talented executives lose out on jobs they should have won. Why? They don’t play well with others. They burn bridges, and as Walt Disney once said, “It’s a small, small world.” Relationships trump talent…period!

Here is the Secret to Being on an Executive Recruiters Candidate List – If a Recruiter has three candidates, and they all have the same skill set, the Recruiter will submit the candidate they know personally. Why? Because they know and trust them. And companies expect Recruiters to personally vouch for the candidates they submit. Want to get to the top of a Recruiters candidate list? Help them out with referrals. Check in with them regularly when you DON’T need a job. Stay in touch. Be helpful, and it will get you to the top of the candidate list when you need it.

Recruiters Get People for Jobs, NOT Jobs for People – It is important to understand how the Executive Recruiter makes money. Recruiters are paid to fill jobs, and they are laser focused on it. If they don’t fill their open roles, they don’t eat. They are not career coaches; they are not in a position to figure out your personal situation and fix it. As my race horse trainer used to say, “I have jockeys, I need horses.” If this case, “I have candidates, I need hiring companies and jobs.” It’s not personal. Executive Recruiters Focus on clients (hiring companies), not candidates.

Finding a Job MUST Be a Priority – It’s shocking how many unemployed people are “too busy” to interview. Great way to get a Recruiter to drop you like a bad habit. Remember, YOU need a job, I HAVE a job. YOU need to make yourself available. Make your job search a priority.

Recruiters Don’t Like to Be Gang Tackled – A lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis for the Recruiter. Being aggressive with a Recruiter will get you dropped like a hot rock. Don’t call hourly or daily with “just checking in” or “any new jobs?” messages. Have a six to twelve month rainy day fund, so you don’t come across as desperate. Needy and high maintenance is not attractive.

No Cold Calls or Unsolicited Resumes Please – The best Recruiters only work with executives they know and trust. Meeting a Recruiter for the first time when you are unemployed is a terrible strategy. Possibly you can pull it off by having one of the Recruiter’s big clients refer you, but even that is a longshot. If you don’t have two or three good Recruiters in your rolodex, ask your peers who they like, and get introduced NOW. Build the bridge before you need to cross the river.