The hidden “tests” of a recruiter to determine if I am qualified for the interviews of candidates for celebrities and billionaires have finally been revealed.
This post can be compared to Google revealing its secret algorithm to appear on the first page of search results. If you know how the system works, you can use it to your advantage.
Allow me to explain: The majority of a recruiter’s day consists of screening candidates to create a “shortlist” for clients. Imagine that my last three job postings had 51, 82, and 200 visits, respectively. Approximately 75% of the page visitors submit their resumes. For the last position as a travel companion for a VVIP, more than 100 resumes were submitted, and that doesn’t even include the “passive” job seekers already in my system. In short, the competition is extremely intense. So, how do I go from 100 candidates to 10 potential candidates? Since I don’t want to accidentally overlook great candidates, and I don’t use an applicant tracking system, I have to manually review EVERY SINGLE resume. Every qualified candidate, therefore, has a chance to win, and the opportunity is in their hands.
The only practical way to identify the most prepared (not necessarily the “best” or most qualified) candidates is to conduct integrated “tests” to determine if the candidates know how to follow instructions and pay attention to details. After years of experience in recruiting, I have recognized an undeniable truth.
If candidates cannot pass the small tests, they are highly likely to fail the big ones when it really matters. I have been fooled too many times and lost clients. My reputation has been damaged, and hard-earned commissions have been lost because I took too many risks with unprepared candidates.
That’s why I have to be strict because it’s about the survival of my company. Some of my competitors are malicious and constantly lurking behind me. In recruiting, it’s about the “survival of the fittest.” However, this doesn’t mean that empathy and kindness are disregarded. In fact, I am known for being particularly dedicated to the candidates I work with.
When a personal assistant, estate manager, or executive assistant serves a celebrity or billionaire, they must consistently deliver outstanding performance. Applicants must bring their best every day, with discipline and attention to detail evident from the first contact with the hiring manager and continuing throughout the entire selection process.
What hidden tests do recruiters use for applications to billionaires?
Test 1: Cut and paste your resume
First things first: it is essential to check if the applicant has basic technical skills. It is quite common for me to receive emails from candidates who don’t know how to cut and paste texts. They claim that it doesn’t work. At that moment, they are immediately eliminated from the race.
The position of a personal assistant or estate manager for an extremely wealthy person or billionaire requires resilience and steadfastness that is hard to imagine. Highly complex problems need to be solved multiple times a day.
If a candidate cannot figure out how to use the “Ctrl-C & Ctrl-V” keyboard shortcut to cut and paste texts, they must be eliminated as they would fail crucial tasks where much is at stake.
You might think that I should simply send the candidate an email and explain how the cut and paste function works. Unfortunately, a recruiter should not do this even for an entry-level position, let alone a position serving a billionaire. In fact, it would undermine the purpose of the test from the start and create additional work for the recruiter as numerous messages would have to be exchanged back and forth.
If the candidate cannot muster the resourcefulness to either ask a friend for advice or watch an instructional video on YouTube, then they are clearly not ready for a position where they would need to act with breathtaking speed and accomplish the impossible on a daily basis.
If the applicants are not ready for the top tier, it is my responsibility as a recruiter to “find out” – and that’s exactly what I get paid for. Candidates should be 100% prepared in all aspects for the position they aspire to. That’s why celebrities and billionaires pay recruiters amounts between 25,000 and 50,000 euros to obtain a tailor-made candidate at the top of their industry.
Test 2: No duplicate submissions
Once my inbox is overwhelmed with a flood of resume submissions, it is of utmost importance that no candidate makes a duplicate submission, which unfortunately happens with about 10% of them. This poses the second hurdle that needs to be overcome (some candidates even submit three or four times). • Test 3: Timeliness of responses I understand that many applicants are currently employed. However, candidates should make a reasonable attempt to respond to questions promptly. If job seekers do not respond quickly enough to my inquiries, they also leave my clients uncertain, which affects my reputation.
Test 3: Up-to-dateness of the answers
Of course, I understand that many applicants are currently employed. However, candidates should make a reasonable effort to respond to inquiries promptly. If job seekers don’t respond quickly enough to my requests, they also leave my clients in the dark, which affects my reputation.
There are instances where I receive a response to messages a week or more later. For this reason, it is typically considered a disqualifying criterion as it doesn’t demonstrate enthusiasm for the position.
Question: Who wins the championship?
Answer: The team that wants it the most.
Test 4: Salary expectation
I cannot speak for other recruiters in the domestic staff industry, but in my case, women in this field have a much better success rate in answering this question than men. The reasons for this are unknown to me. When a recruiter sends you an email asking for your salary range, the answer should be concise. Do you know what you’re worth? I hope so! For some inexplicable reason, many men (in a somewhat emotional way) provide a detailed non-answer, which completely bewilders me. Essentially, the candidates indicate that they want to go through the interview process with me and the client first before stating a number. Unfortunately, this leads to immediate disqualification of the candidate. If a candidate is confrontational even before the process begins, they will also be confrontational in the final negotiations, and the entire deal will fail after months of painstaking work. To be fair, there is nothing wrong with knowing some details before providing an exact number, but that’s why I ask for a range. A recruiter needs to know the playing field. If recruiters didn’t ask this question, it would do a disservice to the candidate. We don’t want to waste the job seeker’s time unnecessarily. Assuming I had ignored the fact that a candidate didn’t want to answer the salary range question and still invited them to an interview. Then, two months later, the employer offers much less money than the applicant would have expected, rendering all the work pointless.
What could be an appropriate response to the salary question? One possible wording could be: Based on my experience, education, and the fact that the position is located in New York City, I estimate that my salary range would be between $150,000 and $175,000. However, I would need further details on bonuses, company car, accommodations, and overtime to provide an accurate number. This response gives a rough estimate without sounding confrontational. It’s important to emphasize that it’s just an estimate, saving time for the recruiter, candidate, and client. If the client’s expectations are not in the same range, the candidate can be disqualified. If there are too many unknown factors to provide a rough estimate, another answer could be:
Based on my experience, education, and the fact that the position is located in New York City, I estimate that my salary range would be between $150,000 and $175,000. However, I would need further details on bonuses, company car, accommodations, and overtime to provide an exact figure.
This response provides a rough estimate without sounding confrontational. It is important to emphasize that it is only an estimation, which saves time for the recruiter, candidate, and client. If the client’s expectations are not in the same range, the candidate may be excluded.
If there are too many unknown factors to provide a rough estimate, another response could be:
Overall, my current compensation package amounts to $250,000, including salary, bonus, insurance, company car, and accommodation. To consider leaving my current job, an offer of around $300,000 would be necessary.
However, if a candidate is unable to answer the recruiter’s question in any of these ways, it is a clear disqualification criterion.
Test 5: Willingness to participate in exploratory phone interviews
An exploratory phone interview provides both the hiring manager and the applicant with a great opportunity to quickly discuss “non-negotiables.” This prevents later surprises, such as unwillingness or inability to work late evenings or weekends.
For domestic staff positions, important information is usually not listed in the job posting due to confidentiality reasons. The exploratory conversation also serves to discuss the candidate’s career goals. Even if the current position is not a fit, the recruiter may consider the candidate for future opportunities.
Occasionally, I come across candidates who react confrontationally when it comes to conducting an exploratory conversation. For example, recently I filled the position of a real estate manager for one of the top ten richest people in the world, and a candidate got snippy when I asked for an exploratory conversation, saying, “I don’t understand. Do you want to have a real job interview with me for the position or not?” In such cases, the candidate is immediately disqualified.
Test 6: Email tone, grammar (writing skills), and formatting
The ability to write is an important skill highly valued by affluent individuals, especially billionaires. When working for a high-profile person, everything you say and do reflects on your boss.
I dedicate a lot of time and attention to reading candidates’ emails. Tone and grammar skills play an important role. However, when I receive messages sent from a phone filled with formatting issues, autocorrect and typos, the candidate must be eliminated. It is simply unprofessional to present oneself at this elite level in such a way.
For example, messages to recruiters should not be sent while driving from a phone. You should sit down and write them on a desktop computer. The only exception to writing a quick email “on the go” from your phone would be if there is an urgent and time-critical issue with the headhunter. Otherwise, take the time and do it properly.
Recently, a candidate sent me a one-page cover letter that he had typed from his phone. It was full of formatting problems, spelling errors, typos, and lacked coherence in general. If a candidate sends me such messages, they will also send them to the client. This leads to the candidate being eliminated.
Test 7: Negative presence on social media
When it comes to jobs with celebrities and billionaires, extra caution must be exercised. Several high-profile surveys have statistically proven that about 95% of recruiters and hiring managers check a candidate’s social media presence.
In general, it is recommended for all professions to be cautious regarding social media when job hunting. However, this is particularly true when working in the private service industry for celebrities and billionaires.
If candidates have controversial posts, rants, or other questionable activities on social media platforms, they are immediately taken out of the race. There are no further discussions.
Once, I received a resume from a candidate who had top-notch experience but had been unemployed for over a year. That didn’t make sense, so I looked at his Facebook profile and saw photos of him standing shirtless at a table in Las Vegas, taking vodka shots. Goodbye, Mr. Candidate! It’s shocking. No one wants to hire someone who takes so little regard for their own public persona and personal branding.
Test 8: Resume Organization and the “Wow Factor”
While I initially request a copy-paste resume, I will then ask for a PDF version of the resume if the candidate appears qualified.
Remember that resumes are “professional documents.” They are an essential marketing tool to demonstrate a candidate’s competence for the role. If the resume contains poor formatting, grammar errors, or typos, it will certainly be discarded.
Errors have no place in a resume, especially one being submitted to a celebrity, UHNWI, or a family office managing billions of dollars.
Imagine you are responsible for private party invitations, let’s say for a high-profile CEO or executive, and you have to do it under pressure with a tight deadline. Can you afford to make mistakes? Certainly not. It must be perfect, without exceptions or excuses.
Since you have unlimited time to make your resume “perfect” and you are not under pressure to meet a deadline, it should have no errors whatsoever.
It is not the job of the recruiter to correct it for you, as there is no time for that. If a candidate’s resume contains errors, it raises concerns about what might happen with the CEO’s emails, invitations, or other communications that need to come from the personal assistant, especially when the pressure is high, and you are moving at a fast pace.
For your information: I once conducted a survey on LinkedIn and asked the platform how many errors are allowed in a resume. The overwhelming majority responded with “zero.”
NOTE: I also include the presentation of the candidate’s LinkedIn profile in this category. Generally, the profile should closely align with their resume and have a “wow factor.” If the candidate doesn’t even have a LinkedIn profile, it does raise some concerns.
Test 9: “No Phone Calls or Deliveries” (or stalking on LinkedIn)
Applicants must respect a recruiter’s personal time and space. Although my number is unpublished, some people have it if they have previously done business with me. If the job posting states not to call, please do not call. Other job seekers who do not have my number contact me through other social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. It actually crosses the line.
NOTE: Recruiters understand that it can be frustrating not to receive a response. That’s why it is stated that “due to the high volume of submissions, only candidates in the shortlist will be considered.” After a candidate has submitted a resume, if they are shortlisted, they will be contacted. So, when hundreds of candidates reach out and ask if the recruiter has reviewed their resume, it becomes overwhelming for a recruiter to respond to everyone. We wish we could, but the day simply doesn’t have enough time.
Test 10: Presentation in Video Interviews
Assuming all the above “hurdles” have been successfully overcome, we now come to the final phase of the selection process before screening: the video interview. If I haven’t met the candidate in person yet, a video interview replaces the in-person meeting since the candidate is usually in a different city. Here are some brief notes:
✓ Ensure that the lighting is good.
✓ The camera should be positioned at eye level.
✓ Look into the camera, not at the screen.
✓ The background should be neat.
✓ Test your system in advance with a friend to ensure everything is working.
Once, I conducted an interview with a candidate who was sitting in near darkness because the lighting was so poor. The camera was positioned sideways on her head, so I could see into her ear. Ironically, she told me that she had previously worked for a princess and was a top-notch personal assistant. Sometimes, candidates have technical issues and fumble with their equipment during the interview, indicating that they haven’t prepared enough. Think of the old saying about Abe Lincoln and chopping down a tree: preparation, preparation, preparation.
Test 11: Recommendation Letters
Recommendation letters need to include important information. Recommendation letters are a very sensitive topic for professionals in the private service sector. Candidates want to protect their references, and that is understandable. Even if you are perfect for the position in every way and meet all the criteria outlined in this article, you will never be hired by a billionaire if you cannot provide verifiable recommendations. And by that, I don’t just mean the name and phone number of a person in a family office. I can’t speak for other recruiters, but I won’t recommend anyone for a job with a celebrity or billionaire if the recommendations are not documented in a specific written (or digital) recommendation letter. There are exceptions if I know the candidate or the people they have worked with.
I won’t go into detail about the “gold standard” for recommendation letters here, but I’ll give you some quick tips. Ideally, recommendation letters should:
✓ Be written on a company letterhead.
✓ Include the name, title, and position of the reference provider.
✓ Explain the dates, title, and scope of the candidate’s work.
✓ Provide a company email address and phone number for direct confirmation.
Once, I received some recommendation letters that allegedly came from representatives of the candidate’s previous prominent employers, and they were all written in an “unlocked” Word document: no letterhead, no relevant details, and the “sender” of the letter had neither a title nor a phone number. Additionally, all three email addresses on the letters were from a Hotmail domain, not a company domain. That is a VERY bad sign. If I were to email the alleged senders, I could very well receive a response from the candidate’s brother or sister.
Just to be clear: I’ve seen it all. There are fake resumes, fake recommendation letters, and fake university diplomas. I even had a candidate who registered a domain and set up an email address with a fake university. Yes, really! I’ve seen it all.
In short, recruiters must be extremely strict in their procedures because ultimately, we carry the responsibility, and it jeopardizes our business if we don’t act with discipline. This is not about playing small games; it’s about the big league. It’s a tough, gladiator-like competition.
Tips for grabbing the attention of Headhunters for positions with prominent individuals and billionaires: Applicants should take a holistic perspective and spare no effort to achieve their goals.
Final thoughts on recruiting billionaires in the current era:
- Is life characterized by injustice? Certainly.
- Is the recruitment process prone to errors? Without a doubt.
- Are exceptional candidates overlooked? Indeed.
Nevertheless, considering that many recruiters work ten to twelve-hour days and operate in environments with immense demand and high workload, they do their best to manage their tasks. The modus operandi requires practical action both on behalf of the agency and in the client’s interest (almost as if under the threat of sanctions).
The recruitment industry as a whole is corrupt, as clients are always in a hurry and engage multiple agencies to drive them into competition for placement fees. This leaves no room for error. Headhunters do not have the freedom to take risks.
When job seekers understand the challenges recruiters face, they can use it to their advantage. Believe it or not, it’s much easier to stand out from the crowd than you might think. Because if you dot every “i” and cross every “t” accurately, you can outshine your competition, even if they are more qualified.
The biggest surprise of my career in recruitment is the fact that less experienced candidates (typically younger and full of enthusiasm, to be frank) can surpass more experienced candidates simply because they want it more.
It goes against my nature to sound clichéd and childish, but “don’t blame the player, blame the game.” Learn the rules of the game and then surpass your competitors by going the extra mile! Applying for a position is both an art and a science.
By the way… The “secret” of the Google algorithm is not actually a secret. It’s quality content that resonates with users and ultimately with the algorithms. And you know what? The same applies to job applications. High-quality applications always prevail. Be outstanding in quality, and you will leave a good impression on recruiters as well.