Leroy T. Barnes Jr. is a pro when it comes to landing employment through an executive search firm. Take his current position as vice president and treasurer of PG&E Corp., and his prior post as vice president and treasurer for the Gap Inc., for example. He landed both with an impressive work ethic, solid credentials, personal contacts4and the assistance of an executive recruiter.
He knows that leveraging relationships with the right recruiter can open doors beyond your personal network and turbo charge your career. In Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 million +: Your Insider’s Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-Changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century (the Viceroy Press Inc., $29.95), author John Lucht focuses on the art and science of interacting with recruiters. “If you treat them right, they can be the most favorable of all outside influences on your career,” advises Lucht.
Barnes forged a relationship that has spanned 15 years with Michael Reid, president and founder of Michael James Reid and Co., an executive search firm in San Francisco. In 1984, shortly after AT&T’s break up, Reid assisted Barnes in moving from the chief financial officer (CFO) post at University of California Press to the finance department of Pacific Telesis (PacTel), a newly hatched Baby Bell. Within 12 years, Barnes rose to assistant treasurer of PacTel. His skills and senior responsibilities made him a prime candidate for an executive spot at the Gap Inc., where from 1997 to July 2001 he served as vice president and treasurer.
All the while, Barnes maintained contact with Reid, keeping him abreast of his promotions within PacTel. In 1996, Reid placed Barnes on the executive board of the then newly created California Endowment, a nonprofit organization that funds healthcare efforts in California. Under his leadership, including a two-year stint as board chairman from 1998 through 2000, assets have grown to $3.5 billion4making it one of the largest foundations in the country. Barnes’ visibility led to other board appointments, including one to a for-profit publishing conglomerate, the McClatchy Co., which owns 24 newspapers in six states.
Developing this kind of relationship requires patient effort, says Barnes, who’s also had his share of unpleasant experiences. “Most drop you like a hot rock if you’re not a perfect match. They act like brokers instead of consultants,” he says, meaning that they’re not always sufficiently tuned in to job specs in relationship to your needs. “Many have random-access memory; once the search is turned off, they forget everything they know about you,” he adds.
When interacting with recruiters, it’s up to you to ensure that your needs remain “front and center.” Here are some crucial pointers to help you become a knowledgeable player in the executive search game:
- Be aware that search firms strive to present employers with a diverse slate of candidates. And the candidate doesn’t necessarily have to fit the job. If a recruiter presses you to interview for positions that don’t fit you, this factor could be at play. Remain open if you have real