What do headhunters look for in the CV for senior managers?

As a part of our ongoing series of conversations with headhunters, today we present insights from Jorg Stegemann- experienced headhunter and recruiter especially for executive positions. Headhunters and executive recruiters are the first step into getting into great management jobs.

Headhunter insights on cv for senior managers

Recently, a senior executive in his 40s was contacted by a headhunter and he reached out to one of our colleagues asking: what do headhunters look for in a CV for senior managers? We do believe a lot gets written about this topic, however, getting the insights directly from a headhunter is most helpful in this context, allowing candidates access to practical insights and tips during a job application process. This is an old interview but we decided to share it, since it does still give us the insights that we feel candidates would be keenly interested in. Here’s our top 5!

1. What do headhunters look for in the CV for senior managers?

Stegemann: A resume is like a menu in a restaurant. I want to understand and like what I read. At the same time, the presentation from a candidate shows how he/she is able to prioritize and clearly indicate the most important details. Therefore, a two pager is more than sufficient, and I’d even recommend not having any more than 5 bullet points for any work experience that is over 10 years old. Typos are in all cases inexcusable. After all, if someone can’t put his/her own CV right- then what can one expect from the quality of his/her work?

2. From a candidates’ perspective, what can they expect from a top headhunter or an executive recruiter?

Stegemann: CEO of the ManpowerGroup, Jeff Joerres in the ‘Human Age’ puts it well, saying: it is not the lack of knowledge or technology but people who determine the competitiveness of a company. As a candidate, I would like to be perceived in a way that it’s not just my knowledge but also my potential and personality that is taken into consideration. A good consultant should be my agent, who is on my side, and is able to defend my stand when the need arises.

3. I’d immediately reject a candidate, when …

Stegemann: He lies to me. A top recruiter and a headhunter is like a doctor or a lawyer. We need to have all the knowledge from the candidate so that we are able to communicate it further to the client. It is our job to explain the bumpy passages in your CV, or coach you to present yourself in the best way. This is perhaps connected with the last question a bit, our inherent ‘consulting’ approach is the primary difference between a quality headhunter and a ‘CV broker’.

4. What questions would you never ask a candidate?

Stegemann: There are a few things to expect. First of course, depending on the legal context of the country, then the guiding principles of the professional bodies or associations in a market and also the ethical values by which the headhunting or recruiting company functions. Anything that can be misconstrued as discriminatory or too personal would usually not be a part of a job interview.

5. At 40, am I still interesting for headhunters?

Stegemann: Surely, as long as you’ve tried to remain competitive. This includes a proven track record in a relevant job and also meaningful and valuable (further) education as well as the frequent changes in the profile- accepting new jobs or challenges. We’ve had search mandates for a salary benchmark of €500,000 and the candidate in the selection process is not even 32 years old … age is increasingly just a detail.

Thank you Mr. Stegemann for sharing your perspectives with us. We hope these insights are helpful for all those trying to understand how a headhunter is perceiving their CVs and job applications, especially for management jobs.

About Jorg Stegemann:

What do headhunters look for in the CV for senior managers
Jorg Stegemann has been a headhunter since 2001. He is also a certified coach and business writer. He heads Kennedy Executive Search & Outplacement, a search firm with presence in Paris, Frankfurt and Prague. Jorg is running Kennedy Exec’s company blog and is writing for Forbes, BBC Capital and other media. The latest positions from the company can be found here.

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