top of page

What Recruiters Know That You Don’t

Written by: Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Until this point, you have had a track record of success throughout your career and, perhaps personally. It is why this job cut feels particularly severe. You have been the person who made decisions about others. Many have been difficult ones that have affected others and now you are on the receiving end of one. Maybe you’ve known it might be coming. After all, the economy has become complicated and your portfolio has shrunk. Maybe, as in the past, you thought you might be able to ride out the economic hurricane as you have before.

Young woman in eye glasses pointing at camera

Not this time.

As much as you think you know what to expect, you can’t be sure. This is new terrain (or maybe it has been a long time since it happened to you). A lot has changed since you last dipped your toe in the water.

These are a few of the things recruiters know that you may not know or have forgotten.

1. It’s common to face challenges to your self-image that make you question yourself.

They may arise because you no longer have the same authority and/or power you once had. People catered to you. Now, you are a professional “interpreter” who has to explain to others why you made certain decisions. It feels like interviewers are doubting you and what you accomplished, just like you did with the people you interviewed.

This time it’s different because you are the one being doubted and that hasn’t happened to you in this venue in a long time, if ever. I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. People hire me for no BS coaching and career advice globally. This is something you are going to have to deal with on your own. No one will be able to persuade you to not feel this way. You will until you get across the finish line and are hired for your new role.

The best way to prepare for getting there is to prepare for your interviews like you prepared for meetings with the Board, the press, or anyone else or any situation you believed was important in the past. Act world-class. Never go into an interview or a discussion unprepared.

2. Positions like the last one you held don’t come along frequently.

When you are contacted about one, listen carefully, ask great questions to find out more, and explore it unless it is at too low a level for you.

You may be encouraged to take a step down to take the step up again. You may be tempted to do it because you may be feeling desperate. Maintaining your self-esteem has been critical to your professional and personal success to this point. They will see your acquiescence to a lower position as a weakness. Don’t allow yourself to look weak. It will cost you a lot at the time you receive a job offer because no one will want to negotiate with you.

It's important to recognize that these feelings are normal and to address them in a proactive manner. One way to do this is by reframing your perspective and focusing on the opportunities that lie ahead. Think about how you can use your skills and experience in new and exciting ways, and how you can continue to make a positive impact in your field.

3. Ageism may be an issue for you with some firms, jobs and interviewers.

The major way to defeat it is to become an industry-known expert so that people want to approach you about opportunities instead of you chasing after them.

As I work with senior professionals globally, the ones who are most successful with a job search and in their careers are the ones who are on stage at conferences, interviewed for articles, podcasts, and articles in the press because they are “pre-qualified” for their expertise by the media outlets.

Another way is writing a book about your expertise or articles for magazines and LinkedIn that allow your knowledge and abilities to be seen and evaluated by others. If you decided to write a book, it doesn’t need to be a best seller. Most business books aren’t. It doesn’t need to be long. Think of it as a business card for you and your knowledge that is available on Amazon for Kindle and as a paperback and reflects your expertise.

Another way to defeat ageism is with passion and drive during interviews. Often, older professionals seem to have “lost a step.” Their drive, perseverance, and determination has mellowed. As was the case when you hired people, this isn’t seen as desirable. Don’t waste time “feeling people out” during interviews. Deal with them as you presuppose them to be. As is the case in your current career and personal like, 95 times out of a hundred, your instincts will be right. Don’t inhibit yourself with worry that you will make a mistake. The mistake is that:

4. When firms hire, they hire the person they trust most.

Competence is only one thing firms evaluate for. They want to see self-confidence, a person with character with whom they have chemistry; they have a preference for charismatic people, a person they connect with, who cares about what they do. As an aggregate, these characteristics allow organizations to trust you or not. Recruiters know that if you hold back to “feel out the interviewer,” you risk missing an opportunity to connect with them because they may have already made a decision by the time you have started to open up to them. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Focus on delivering your message in a world-class manner. In most cases, you will be rejected if you play small. Be magnificent as a person. If you behave like everyone else, you are giving them little to connect to.

5. Your network will be the likely way you find your next role.

The data is very clear that you are more likely to land your next role based upon who your network knows who you don’t know. I am not saying that your immediate connection chooses to bring you on. They know many people who you don’t know including other senior leaders and search firms who you can be introduced to by them.

It is why as tempted as most recruiters are to hold onto you, they know that it is through your relationships with others that you are more likely to find your next role.

6. Expand your network.

Expand your network of relationships to others like you. Join existing groups or create a new network of your own to bring people together for mutual support.

Many I know will make excuses for why they can’t (won’t) do that. In fact, you’ve been doing this since you were small. You met new people at school and developed relationships and friendships. You did it at each employer you’ve ever worked for. Maybe as a very young boy or girl you were playing and a parent introduced you to their son or daughter and the two of you played with one another.

Networking with new people is exactly the same. You are introduced or introduce yourself and find something in common. From there, you evolve to become mutually supportive friends.

You are not competing with one another. You are supporting one another. Give more. Get more.

7. The more senior you are the more visible you need to be.

What recruiters know that many of you don’t is that many searches start with Google, not just LinkedIn. LinkedIn is now everyone’s database. Your LinkedIn profile and resume need to be congruent. What a search pro will do is see the degree to which your leadership has been validated by public exposure.

After all, your resume and/or LinkedIn profile is not the only quality one they will review. There are many experienced leaders who have accomplished terrific things as well. How can you stand out in their mind vs your competition?

In one campaign I helped build to attract executive recruiter, we helped him get exposure on the stage at two conferences. With another, we worked together to have him co-author a book with another expert, as well as publish articles in well-regarded print media in his field. Another was interviewed on several podcasts and by several YouTubers who covered her field.

Having that stamp as an expert proved valuable to each and helped each attract executive recruiters to them and elevate to more senior roles.

8. Wherever you can, get off the line and find another way in.

American poet and publisher, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr (the father of the Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes) wrote, “The young man knows the rules but the old man knows the exceptions.”

Too many people are excellent rule followers in their job search but do little to find the exceptions. As Alex Banayan, the author of The Third Door describes getting into a night club, “There are always three ways in. The First Door is the main entrance, where the line curves around the block. The Second Door is the VIP entrance, where the billionaires, celebrities, and the elite cut the line and waltz right in. But what no one tells you is that there is always, always the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen—there’s always a way."

Many of you have developed compliant systems thinking that demand you wait on line to be chosen. Many recruiters have the creative thinking that helped them get the client to do the search for. However, they want you to wait on line.

See if you can find another way in.

9. You are probably not their client’s “A” priority.

I helped someone who was being considered for a Chief of Staff role to the President of a media company. He was told at a meeting that he would be brought back to meet the President again before a decision was made. Three weeks passed. Four weeks went by.

“Why haven’t they scheduled yet,” he complained.

“You know they are on a tour in Asia and opening new businesses. They probably haven’t given it a thought since leaving on the trip. Message the person who told you that you would be meeting with them and see when the trip was ending.”

As frustrated as my client was, six weeks after the President left for Asia, he met the President and was hired.

Remember, running the business, the division, the business unit, he department, the team and delivering results is their priority. Hiring is a tool to doing that. Delivering results is their focus just like getting a job is yours.

As a former recruiter, I lived in the world of finding talent for my clients for many years. Now, people hire me for no BS career advice and coaching globally because I make things easier for people related to all elements of their career.

Being in charge of your career requires you to put in effort to managing your career while examining and acting upon a few of the lessons you pick up from recruiters. There is a lot you can learn from noticing what recruiters do and how they do it that will help you professionally.

Follow Jeff on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or visit his website for more info! Read more from Jeff!


Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, is a career and leadership coach who helps people with their careers, including job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading, and resolving workplace-related issues while being the person they want to be in life. He has written 9 books and guides to job search and hiring, including "The Ultimate Job Interview Framework" and "The Right Answers to Tough Interview Questions." He is the host of No BS Job Search Advice Radio, the #1 podcast in Apple Podcasts for job search with more than 2100 episodes, as well as on YouTube, Amazon, Roku, Apple TV, and 90+ smart sets. Jeff works with clients worldwide and is a popular speaker.


  • linkedin-brainz
  • facebook-brainz
  • instagram-04


bottom of page