THE BLOG

The Great Million Dollar Candidate: Part 2

02/02/2015 01:50 pm ET | Updated Apr 03, 2015

My name is Mark Wayman, and my 15 minutes of fame was two software companies. One went public on the NASDAQ and the other (counter-terrorism software) was acquired by IBM. For the last 10 years, I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, and last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.

This is Part 2 in my series about what makes a great million dollar candidate. It's funny how so many candidates say, "Oh, I don't need that. I'm a great candidate." My response is, "No disrespect, then why are you unemployed?" The truth is that 80 percent of candidates don't get hired because of the exact situations I describe in this series. Wonderful, highly talented executives that either don't understand the hiring process or make rookie mistakes. Here we go!

Everyone Loves Happy, Smiley People: Only children whine... and even then it's not attractive. A significant percentage of executive candidates that approach me are angry and bitter. Mostly because they got fired or laid off. They blame it on their old boss, the company, their parents, their spouse, their kids, their dogs. Let's make something perfectly clear -- bitter is not attractive. And interviewers will pick up on your bad attitude in 60 seconds and the interview will be over. Had a candidate that was a great fit for a CIO role. During the interview process the CEO said, "How did end up here when you were in Dallas for so many years?" The candidate responded, "I was involved in a nasty divorce. Let me tell you about it." I kid you not. You can't make this stuff up. Let it go! The day you left your company and boss stopped caring about you. They don't care about you. Why should you obsess about it? Million dollar candidates have happy, well-adjusted attitudes.

Don't Be The Smartest Guy in the Room: Hubris is not attractive, and make no mistake, big egos are a major challenge with million dollar candidates. The interview is not a competition where you convince the interviewer you are smarter than Bill Gates. Your intent should be to help the company understand how your education and experience relates to their job role. If you alienate the interviewer, even if they are an HR Generalist, they won't move you forward in the interview process. I remember one candidate that was one of three finalists for a huge job. He emailed the CEO of the company, "As you know, I'm much smarter than the other two guys, so I know you will pick me and I look forward to working with you." True story. Million dollar candidates are humble and genuine.

The World Has Changed: Be Realistic on Compensation: Top candidates are realistic about compensation. Every once in a while I hear, "You know, I used to make a million dollars back in the day." Guess what? That was then, this is now... the world changed. I regularly see executives chasing compensation and end up unemployed for a year. Some never worked again. I had one candidate at $400K that ended up out of work for two years, then took a job for $200K. Remember this, when you are unemployed... all jobs are good jobs. Companies want to hire gainfully employed executives. Be realistic about compensation or you could end up on the beach for a very long time.