Selecting the Right Executive Recruiter aka No Sales Weasels Please!

05/27/2015 03:54 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2016

My name is Mark Wayman, and for the last eleven years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. My model - only represent executives I know personally, or executives that are referred to me through my network. No unsolicited resumes, no online ads, no candidate databases. Reviewed 20,000 resumes, represented 1,500 candidates, and successfully placed 600+. Compensation starts at $100,000; last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.

One of my clients emailed to say, "You talk about how to me a great candidate, but how about something for hiring managers? How do we go about selecting an Executive Recruiter?" REALLY good question! Having been a "C" level hiring manager for 20 years, and another ten as an Executive Recruiter, here are my tips for selecting the right Executive Recruiter...from both sides of the desk.

There is a Recruiter on Every Corner - A few are very good, however I'll be the first to admit, many are not. They are arrogant, pushy and aggressive. They cold call, they email, and in some cases, actually show up in person in your lobby trying to get in front of you. They...are the Sales Weasels. When I was a CIO, they called me every day, "My quota is $100,000; what part are you going to help me with today?" A client recently told me about a Recruiter sending her a lengthy email, dropping names and acting like they had been friends forever. It was a cold call - she had never even heard of the Recruiter. Worst of all, most Recruiters badger you to death when you are a hiring manager, but won't return your call if you need a job. So the question becomes, how do you avoid all the sales weasels and find a legitimate, talented Executive Recruiter?

Peer Referrals - Start with calls to your professional network. Who do your peers use, and why? How about your competitors? Executive Recruiters are equal opportunity employers, so they will often service multiple companies in the same space. And better to have them working with you than to have them poaching your top talent for a competitor, yes?

Client Testimonials - Ask for client testimonials, preferably from your peers. Personally, I have a PDF with three pages of testimonials. When you look at the testimonials, give preference to those from CEOs or other "C" level executives. Anyone can get their Mom or brother-in-law to vouch for them, but CEOs don't give out their support lightly.

Without Integrity, Nothing Else Matters - Unfortunately, there is no shortage of sketchy Recruiters. I'm not judging, but when I was on the hiring side, I saw it all. They tell the hiring company the candidate is the best thing Bill Gates. They tell the candidate the hiring company is the next Microsoft. Why do they spin the truth? Because they have a QUOTA. This is REALLY important to understand. Most Recruiters get a low base salary and don't get paid unless they get a placement. So they will do whatever it takes to make that placement. The number trait to look for in a Recruiter? Honesty and integrity.

Industry Expertise - Recruiters come in two flavors, industry specialists and generalists. I'm a specialist; 75% of my rolodex is gaming/casino and the other 25% is technology. Robert Half is an example of a generalist. They work in many areas and many industries. If you are in a specialized industry like casinos, best to stick with someone that has an extensive industry network. If you are looking for $50,000 candidates, a general will work just fine.

It's All About Access! - If you get nothing else out of this article, understand this, the ability to identify top candidates is 100% related to access. The reason so many recruiting firms fail my industry (gaming/casinos) is their lack of access. They literally cold call "C" level executives, which yields a 2% success rate. CEOs don't return cold call, and they are not going to trust their career strategy with a Recruiter they don't know. Gaming is a very closed industry where everyone knows everyone. Candidate QUALITY is directly related to the Recruiters ACCESS.

Personalized Service - One of the top complaints about national Recruiting firms is that the Partner calls in on the company, and then shuffles the hiring company down to an low level Associate. Ask the Recruiter who will be working on the search, how much time you can expect them to commit, and who will be your interface. As a one man show, I don't have the luxury of delegating, however many of my clients list "personalized service" as the #1 reason they work with me. "We know Mark Wayman will personally work on it."

Candidate Sourcing Process - Do you really want to hire an Executive Recruiter that posts jobs on LinkedIn, and CareerBuilder? YOU can do that. The best Executive Recruiters know the candidates personally or are getting referrals from within their network. If you think a Recruiter is going to place LinkedIn ads and "perform due diligence", you are wrong. First, anyone that applies to an online ad at $100,000+, is not someone you want to hire. Second, candidates don't list their alcohol, drug and gambling problems on their resumes. Or that they got fired at the last place for an inappropriate relationship. Recruiters need to know the candidates, not get them from

I Love Costco, But Buy My Suits at Nordstrom's - If you are focused on price, Executive Recruiters are not for you. Post online ads and subscribe to People are the difference between success and failure. I can rattle off a dozen companies that went bankrupt due to poor hiring decisions. It's actually good business for me, because typically after they foul it up the first time around, they call me for round two. You get what you pay for in life. Anyone that tells you a 15% Recruiter has the same access as a 30% full of it. People are the difference between success and failure in business. Do you really want to cheap it in?

Relationships vs. Transactions - A Recruiter is like a Doctor, Attorney or CPA - you don't want to make a mistake! It's essential that you perform your due diligence, pick the right Recruiter, then build a mutually beneficial relationship. Don't treat them like a vendor! This is one of the most common mistakes hiring companies make - treating Recruiters poorly. The last thing you want is Recruiters telling candidates that your company is a poor place to work. More importantly, you don't want them poaching your talent. As your Mom told you, "Play nice."

The Bottom Line is Results - At the end of the day, the Recruiter needs to produce. If you use them for two or three searches and they don't get results, move on. Maybe it was not a good fit, or more likely, they were not completely forthcoming on their abilities. Regardless, identify a Recruiter you can have a long-term relationship with. Don't be-bop around.

Work with Someone You Like and Trust - Assuming multiple Recruiters meet all the requirements above, pick one you like and trust. A CEO once told me, "We don't work with companies - we work with people, and we only work with people we like and trust." Happy hiring!