Executive Recruiting Lessons from Chicago the Movie
Last updated Apr 28, 2021
by Krista Bradford

Executive Recruiting Lessons

Executive recruiting lessons can be found in great works of art. For example, Oscar Wilde noted more than a century ago,

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”-Oscar Wilde

And thus, it should come as no surprise that there are executive recruiting lessons to be learned from American theater.  The American musical Chicago was co-written by Bob Fosse, who created its iconic choreography. Fosse’s work is inspired burlesque — humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody, grotesque exaggeration — and, yes, even striptease. 

So what is a discussion about burlesque doing in a blog about recruiting?

Stay with me.

The movie Chicago features the song Mr. Cellophane that offers an important recruiting lesson:

Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name
Mister Cellophane
‘Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I’m there… 

,We All Want To Be Noticed

Senior executives often approach me for help in finding their next job. Whenever they do, it reminds me of a key executive recruiting lesson.  What we want down to our very core is to be seen and heard. Like Mr. Cellophane,  leaders who are networking must find a way to be noticed. Then, they must engage in conversations to network their way to their next opportunity. 

I am paid by very powerful client corporations to find the ideal candidate for a specific job opening. I make it a practice to foster relationships with select executives who are counted among the industry’s best and brightest – luminaries and up-and-coming stars.

Yet since there is only one of me and an endless supply of leadership talent. I cannot spend time getting to know everyone who wants to strike up a relationship with me as a headhunter. There simply isn’t enough of me to go around.


Avoid Approaches that Annoy

Consequently, sending me an email with the subject heading, “Hey, Kristaaaaaaaaa” 5 times in a row might get the sender noticed. But it will do so only long enough for me to add the address to my SPAM filter. The sender did not find a way to share insights to inform my executive search practice. Rather, he wanted something from me. He didn’t even say what it was that he did for a living — his specific current (or recently former) position and company. A short biography would have been nice. 


Make your emails easy to digest

When you approach an executive recruiter, a hiring executive, or influencer,  you can help them help you. Make making your information easy to digest. Keep you emails short and sweet. Limit them to a few sentences, a couple of bullet points, and a closing line.

In addition, make your resume or CV easy to access. Yes, attach your resume to the email but also copy/paste the text below your signature. Don’t give the reader extra work by making them open your file. Next, upload your resume to the the search firm or company website.  That step ensures you get added to the candidate database.  And if a hiring executive or recruiter doesn’t respond, that simply means they don’t have an opportunity to discuss with you right now. It also means you didn’t give them any other reason to have a conversation with you.

So, give them a reason.

So that raises the question: What’s the best way to get on my radar screen? Again, there’s a lesson to be learned from burlesque.


We Want a Real Connection

A key recruiting lesson is that networking is not about the “get”, it is about the “give”. When you give, you become empowered. The give may be sharing industry insight, making an introduction, or offering to refer business. When you focus on what you can do for someone instead of what they can do for you, you will consistently yield better results. You avoid seeming desperate.

Helping those with whom you network can challenging. If find yourself in desperate circumstances, it is hard to conceive of what you could possibly offer an industry luminary. But what we bring to the table has nothing to do with our employment status. It has to do with who we are.

We all have something to offer.  Sure, you will get pushback from transactional leaders. That resistance simply guides you to movers and shakers who are more open to your ideas. When you focus on the give, it helps get your mojo working again. You put energy out there in the universe that will reap rewards. I have seen it happen, time and again.

So be good to Mama, my friends, be very, very good.

For more executive recruiting tips, check out our Executive Search Collection featuring articles like Executive Recruiting for the New Normal and 12 Reasons to Hire a Headhunter


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