Career Advice Tuesday – “The Silent Treatment – Executive Style”

March 20, 2012

Dear Infosecleaders:

I have recently engaged in an interview process for a Senior Information Security leadership role through the help of a retained executive search firm.   This is the first time that I have even been considered by one of these types of entities, and I can tell you that the process has been quite elaborate. 

Before I even had a chance to speak with the company, I had to go through three rounds of interviews with the executive search firm so that I could be vetted.  This included in person interviews, a personality profile, and a series of video conferences.

After that battery of tests, I was invited to fly out to the company’s headquarters where I had to commit to two full days of interviews.  The interviews consisted of a range of corporate executives including the CFO, COO, CIO, General Council, Business Unit Leads, and various technical SME’s.  

The days were exhausting, and I left the meetings feeling that I did “OK”, but quite frankly I do not really believe that I would want the position if offered.    I provided feedback to the executive search firm and I have yet to hear back.

That was roughly a month ago. 

In that time, I have lobbed some calls in to the search firm and sent some e-mails but I have not heard anything back from them.  At this point, I am assuming that I was not selected, however, I believe that I am entitled to understand why.  

First, I believe it would be good from a learning perspective, to understand which skills that I am lacking and need to develop.  Secondly, I believe that I am entitled to some closure and some courtesy.  I mean, I have taken about five days to go through this interview process, and I believe I deserve this decency.

Any help can be appreciated.


“Hear No Evil”


Dear “Hear No Evil”:

Believe it or not, I would not assume that you have not been selected for the position.  I know that this may sound strange, but many executive search processes take extended periods of time, due to the fact that it is difficult to coordinate calendars of both the interviewers and the candidate pools.

Understand that in a true “Executive Search” process, it is likely that a company will interview as many as five or six candidates on site, before they are able to build comparisons, rank the candidates, and come to some conclusions.  In addition, in some cases after interviewing the candidate pool, they may come to the conclusion that they have designed the role incorrectly, and they want to engage a candidate pool with a different collection of skills.

You should also understand that many (I will not speak for all) executive search firms believe that their only client is the one paying the bills – not the candidate they are sending into the interviews.    In an executive search process, the recruitment fees are quite significant, and I can image that for the position that you are applying for that the fee could approach $100,000 – $200,000.

The search firm in this case is being paid more as a “Consultant” – and for their elaborate process and guidance in the search process, as opposed to the hiring of the candidate.  In fact, they will be paid a majority of this fee ( and it is likely that  they will be paid the entire fee) , whether they fill the position or not.

Considering that their allegiance is to the company that is paying their bills they are going to carry out their wishes.  One of those wishes may be to not communicate with the candidates until all of the interviews have been completed.

Now that you have a better understanding of the process, let me get back to your question…..

You definitely have a right to get some feedback from your efforts.  However, understand that you may not get this.  I would continue to attempt to engage the executive search firm to get this feedback through a pattern of phone calls and e-mails.  However, I would not be too persistent or too pushy, as they will be “judging” you by the method and the delivery of your attempts.

It would be good to determine if you want to keep a relationship with the executive search firm.   My advice is that you should, even though you may not like the process.  The next time that you do engage, you should ask the executive recruiter to map our their process, their time lines, and their feedback process.   At that time, you can determine if  the Information Security leadership position is worth exposing yourself to this type of process.

Hope this helps.

Lee Kushner

Posted by lee | Filed Under "The Other Side of The Desk", Advice, Behavior, Career Advice Tuesday, Interviewing, Leadership, Recruiting 


One Response to “Career Advice Tuesday – “The Silent Treatment – Executive Style””

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