In the November 22, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a successful executive who took time off then worked as a consultant says headhunters won’t touch him. What’s up?
I was an executive with a financial services software company for 20 years. I joined when it was a start-up. After the company was sold, I took a package and left, as did the co-owners and, eventually, all of the senior management. I have a five year gap in my resume after which I had a couple of consulting engagements, one of which lasted a year, the other approximately six months. I speak with recruiters frequently, but invariably the gaps prevent me from getting an interview. The recruiters will not even present me to the client. I would truly appreciate any advice.
Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)
Most recruiters suffer from a buzz words syndrome. If the buzz words aren’t on your resume, then you’re not a candidate.
Those recruiters obtain lists of “candidate criteria” from their clients, and they pattern-match those criteria to someone’s resume. My guess is that among those criteria are “stable work history” or “must be currently employed.”
You had a long, successful career building a company from the ground up. That’s trumped by “currently unemployed” only in the mind of a foolish recruiter.
If you had been as narrow-minded as those recruiters about whom you hired while building your start-up, the business would likely have failed. I’m willing to bet you hired people who spent time consulting or running their own businesses. You relied on your ability to recognize what people could do; you didn’t judge them on buzz words or on what they had done in the past. You probably hired people that others wouldn’t touch.
What I’m telling you is, those recruiters are helping you weed out companies you should not work for. I know this sounds like sour grapes, but think about it. We all have a selection process in mind that supports the way we live and work. We pick people and we make choices that reflect who we are and how we operate.
Now, think about what that means. You’re being rejected by recruiters and companies that are looking for “the perfect fit” to their narrow criteria. But when did you ever encounter “perfect circumstances” and “perfect solutions” to the business problems you faced at your start-up?
Kiss those recruiters goodbye, because they’re working for narrow-minded employers that you probably won’t be happy working for. Instead, track down insiders who work with the kinds of companies where you’d shine. Start talking to lawyers, bankers, investors, realtors, landlords, accountants, consultants and other folks who do business with dynamic, growing companies that want talent — not perfect fits to static job descriptions. (You and I both know there’s no such thing in either case.)
Those recruiters don’t work for the companies that will hire you. You will find your next employer through external consultants (like those I listed) who work with companies like the one you helped grow. The company that hires you next won’t be looking at the gap you’re facing — it’ll be looking at how effectively you can leap over that gap to help grow its business.
How did you leap over an employment gap? Did you ever hire someone with a gap? What the heck does a gap really say about a person, anyway?