At the Darden School’s Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services (ACS), we are often asked questions about executive recruiters. Job seekers want to understand recruiters’ perspective: What are they seeing? How do they operate? What do they look for?

What better way to get answers to these questions than to ask them? In this blog post, ACS Executive Director Jen Coleman interviews Crosby Baker, Darden Class of 2010. Crosby began her career in real estate and financial services, but has been in executive search for nearly seven years. For the last two years, Crosby has served as a director of executive recruitment at Hilton in Washington, D.C.

Jen:  In ACS, we see the candidate side of things, and it’s been an extraordinary fall. Typically this is a quiet time of year in hiring. We’ve seen people landing more often and faster, and I wonder what you’re seeing on your side.

Crosby:  I would absolutely confirm that. We are operating in what we think is a market of negative employment, and it’s very competitive. So, we realized that if we want to find candidates and if we want to find the best talent, we need to make decisions a lot faster. It’s a candidate market.

Jen:  My questions today are about process and what you see and expect as a recruiter. First of all, as a recruiter, how do you feel about candidates reaching out to you via LinkedIn?

Crosby:  I’m absolutely happy that people are proactive in reaching out on Linkedin, but do it with intent, not a mass email. If you’re going to reach out to someone on Linkedin, make sure that you’ve done your research, have a good reason to talk to them and understand their background. For example, don’t reach out to a recruiter that focuses on IT if you want a job in marketing

Jen:  A lot of our clients are thinking about what they should be putting in their profiles and what’s going to stand out. Any advice?

Crosby:  I think it’s important to have a professional picture first. Pictures with your kids are awesome, but that’s not the forum. The more information that I can glean from your Linkedin, the better; so, bullets of your experience underneath your company as opposed to just having companies listed.

Having companies listed accurately and chronologically is important. Recruiters really like to see transitions that make sense. We don’t want to have to work hard to pull together your story.

Jen:  A lot of our clients apply for jobs online and wonder if it’s a black hole, if it’s even worth their time. I’d love to hear your perspective.

Crosby:  Public companies have to be Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs compliant, which means that if you meet the basic requirements of the role, someone has to review your resume. When you’re applying to any job online, make sure that your background aligns with the basic job requirements.  However, your best bet is to try and get some sort of personal touchpoint in the company who can try to get you a conversation with the recruiter leading the search.

Jen:  Can you ballpark the percentage of jobs that you work on that get filled by someone who comes in through the system?

Crosby:  At the executive level, rarely. Many companies, like ours, have an in-house talent research function, whose job is to go out and proactively source passive candidates. Eight times out of 10, the candidate we are looking for isn’t applying online, they are hopefully crushing it at their current job. Candidates don’t apply online.

Jen:  From your perspective, if a candidate asks to negotiate with the hiring manager or goes directly to the hiring manager to negotiate, what happens? What’s your viewpoint on that?

Crosby:  If there’s a recruiter involved, you will almost always negotiate with the recruiter. And here’s why: compensation is a very personal discussion. It is something that people can get very emotional about, and you don’t necessarily want to have that conversation with your future boss. Leverage your recruiter, and feel free to negotiate as much as possible as opposed to playing hardball with your boss. I have never extended an offer to an external candidate in which the hiring manager has been the person who negotiates the offer, at the executive level. Also, always negotiate, always. You’d be surprised how many candidates don’t negotiate. At the very least, its good practice.

Jen:  Assessment tests: We’re seeing them more often. Are recruiters employing this strategy, and what are you seeing in general in the market?

Crosby:  Assessments occur a lot more in the Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific regions than in in North America. I’ve seen companies use a variation of a cultural assessment provided by Hogan or Korn Ferry. Assessments usually show, on a wide spectrum, where your personality traits and drivers line up with characteristics that are culturally important to that company. For instance, teamwork may be a critical key to success at XYZ company and an assessment might show where a candidate values teamwork as a driver in their day to day. The results are never a bright line for selection, but are another data point to use for assessing a candidate and something that companies could also use for onboarding.

If you’ve been asked to take an assessment, be honest. I don’t think they’re that game-able. If you get behavioral-based questions in your next interview, they may have seen something in your assessment that they want to explore more.   Behavioral-based interview questions are becoming more and more common. It is worth understanding what they are and learn to anticipate them and prepare answers for them.

In closing, there is definitely a difference between in-house recruiters and your executive recruiter from a search firm. Executive recruiters will only use you to the extent that you’re useful to them in their searches. It’s harder if you have an out-of-the-box background to get a search firm to put you forward. It’s easier for someone in-house like me to say, “Oh, you know what? This is a really creative background. This could work for this role, and here’s why.”