A Peculiar Perspective from a “Would be Client” Part 1


Today I received a call from an Executive Assistant with a $160mm Medical Device company asking if I had 30 minutes today to speak with the President of the company. Upon returning the call I was on the phone with the President within seconds. He told me that he was referred to me by a CEO who I had placed a few years ago with another Medical Device company and whom he had previously worked. He shared with me the critical nature of “confidentiality” and I reassured him that I understood the sensitivity of the situation. He went on to describe the profile of the ideal candidate to replace the incumbent. He used all the typical cliche’s one uses to describe the “ideal” Vice President of Sales. One who can really impact the organization positively and “advance the ball.” This search was right in my wheelhouse and I assured him that it was a search that I could deliver on effectively. I described my background to him to allow him to gain comfort with my knowledge of his space and my ability to identify who they need quickly.

He was asking all the right questions so I explained how I work. He was obviously in a hurry to get this moving as soon as possible. He was in such a hurry to get this search going that he asked me to forward a copy of my agreement so that he could send it to HR for approval. What he didn’t know was that I had actually conducted the same exact search for the same company on retainer exactly two years previously. After I presented my candidates and they were each interviewed, they ultimately hired an internal candidate for the role. I explained that a few months ago I placed the VP of Sales of a direct competitor who is almost identical in size. When the call ended, I was under the distinct impression that this was a “done deal.” Within 90 minutes my phone range again only this time is was the VP of HR. She was very typically stiff and and all about business when she began asking me to explain some of the details in my agreement. She said that she wasn’t sure if her President really understood that my agreement was a “retained search” and “confidential.” I explained that this was the only way that I worked and referred to the previous search that I had conducted two years ago and she informed me that she had a copy of my original agreement from two years ago. She explained that her President had “other contingency firms” working on it simultaneously due to the urgency of the project.

She then began asking me specific questions about my fees and terms. Usually this is what I would call a “buying sign,” but I sensed that she was merely trying to work me down. Since she told me that her President was already working with other firms. So, here is where I had a decision to make. Either I try to sell her on all the merit behind my fees and my terms, and I did that to some degree. However, I was convinced that the President was the decision maker , so I decided to tell her that I should speak with the President to explain my terms. I have been down this road before several times and I am convinced that it is far easier to work from the Top Down than up.

Once again, we are dealing with an executive who fails to understand how a contingency search undermines his process and severely compromises the outcome. What he can expect from having multiple contingency recruiters working on this search is this:

A. The Same Candidates May be Presented by Multiple Recruiters – Possibly costing double fees or potentially legal fees.

B. Candidates Misrepresenting themselves – Because they “Need” your job.

C. Only Accessing “Easy to Find” Candidates – Most of the best people will never even hear about your job.

D. You Have No Commitment or Accountability from your Recruiter

E.- Z. What other potential problems does a contingency search bring?

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One thought on “A Peculiar Perspective from a “Would be Client” Part 1

  1. I am sure that a “highly confidential” contingency search for a senior executive will be highly confidential for about 30 minutes.

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