This headhunter will kick you out of an interview before you ever say a word

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In February, representatives of the National Basketball Player’s Association unanimously voted to fire executive director Billy Hunter amid allegations of misappropriated funds and breached fiduciary duty. A legal dogfight ensued, with Hunter suing the NBPA for defamation. Meanwhile, the union has remained leaderless for more than six months.

Last week, the NBPA announced a search for Hunter’s successor. Chicago headhunter Bob Reilly is charged with finding someone capable of cleaning up the mess. Despite keeping a low profile, Reilly Partners boasts a client list that ranges from McDonald’s to the University of Notre Dame to the United States Olympic Committee.

Reilly works in three sandboxes: private equity, Fortune 1,000 and sports. A few days after he was tasked with heading up NBPA’s search, Grid sat down with Reilly to discuss what it takes to impress him.

Biggest Faux-Pas

Before you’ve said a single world to Reilly, you may have already disqualified yourself. “No perfume,” he says. “Cologne is even worse. If I shake your hand and can smell you two hours later, you’re done.”

Reilly might not appreciate Chanel No. 5, but he does get a kick out of a high-end wardrobe. “There’s no such thing as a suit that’s too expensive. I’m 58 years old. I enjoy when someone’s dressed well,” he says. But every now and again, he’s open to those who overwhelm style with substance. “If I find a great candidate who’s a mess, I’m gonna present them to the client and let them know that this guy could probably use a grooming kit of some kind, but give him a break. There’s some real meat behind what you’re seeing.”

What You’re Not Supposed To Say

“Once a candidate gets here, they need to understand that we’ve made 200 calls, seen 50 resumes, interviewed 15, and I’m interviewing the top 7,” says Reilly. “I’m now face-to-face with the best seven of the group? You better come prepared.”

He doesn’t just mean the job on the line. Reilly will give a short introduction of his firm, but if you didn’t already know the contents of his spiel, you’re in for a quick exit. “‘Wow I didn’t know that?’ Wow, you’re out the door,” he says. “It’s just kind of dumb.”

What You Are Supposed To Say

“The smart ones, and only the smart ones, say I think it might lead to something else. ‘This is part of my life plan, this is gonna get me in the corner office,’” Reilly says.

When Reilly understands that this move is part of a larger trajectory, he has faith that the candidate has skin in the game.

“It’s about someone filling in the various pieces of the career puzzle: ‘When I got outta business school, I spent time in control, went to a plant, moved into FP&A, then treasury work, now you’re giving me an international piece — now I can be CFO.’”

The Win-Win

Reilly offers a two-year guarantee on any placement. In eight years, he says he’s only had to redo a search three times — and once was because a successful candidate died.

With that kind of longevity guaranteed, he needs to find someone who doesn’t have happy feet.

“The thing that people don’t really understand is, a screen for a job interview, moving to the next level by a headhunter, we’re trying to assess how happy the candidate’s gonna be,” Reilly explains. “We’re all good at some things and not so good with others. If you can match up what you’re good at with what you like to do, you’re gonna be really good at it.”

The Right Reasons

For C-suite jobs, that often includes pulling up the stakes. There are good reasons to want to move — reuniting with family, for instance — and then there are bad reasons to want to move.

“Let’s say you’ve got a warm geography or Colorado or something like that, and they’re all over it because of the quality of life and the ability to ski more days or spend more time fishing. That’s a red flag to me,” Reilly says. “It’s another thing that’ll take them away from work.”

The Background Check

Reilly checks your references, then his contacts at your company, and then he calls in the detectives. Everyone who makes it to his office must submit to a criminal, tax, and credit background check. They can also expect to have their online presence carefully scrutinized. “We can figure out everywhere they blog and go, YouTube account and everything.”

On occasion, that’s turned up some views that have been right of Mussolini or left of Mao. In either case, you can expect Reilly to forget your number in a hurry.

Want more candid career advice? Look here.

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