Breaking Free from Contingency Search into Retained.

Here is a three minute excerpt from the Big Biller presentation on Next Level Recruiter Training.

In this video, I share the process I went through taking my contingency recruiting firm to a full retained firm.  It is not for every recruiter, but those who move into this way of doing business always find it to be more fulfilling and rewarding. What have you got to lose?


It’s still TRUE whether you accept it or not!

In recent months, I challenged the value of measuring recruiting metrics. I declared that the only metric that really mattered was how successful the person was that you placed in your client’s company. I received a staggering amount of criticism from recruiters and HR people in cyberspace.  I have to admit, I knew it was a little bit edgy, but not quite blasphemous. I wrote it in respond to the prevailing views on recruiting blogs discussing which metrics are best for recruiters to measure in their business. I realize that these measurements can be useful when managing recruiters, but I was interested in challenging the conventional wisdom and making people think bigger. You might say, that I was trying to get people to think about the outcome of their work and the impact on their clients rather than their own efficiencies. My assertion that only one metric truly mattered, and if we aren’t measuring how successful the people we placed were, and the impact they have in the companies we place them in, we are missing the whole point of our profession.  What is so scandalous about that? Isn’t that the whole point? Are we not placing people to do a job? Are they not hired to effect change or growth or both? Or are we only accountable for helping companies fill open requisitions, with no connection to the results? Because if that is the case, and you’re one of those recruiters, you are guilty of malpractice.  I am not a “Career Recruiter,” so perhaps my view is tainted by actual “real world experience” where sustained results really matter. When I was working for Stryker, I occasionally hired through recruiters.  I kept track of the results of the people who I hired through recruiters and compared the results in order to validate the expense and effectiveness of hiring recruiters.  At that time, I can say that the results I obtained through recruiters was far less valuable than those I hired on my own. Subsequently, I stopped using recruiters.

People who don’t understand why companies engage recruiters  beyond simply filling vacant positions lack a fundamental  understanding the real value that companies expect of them.  Several comments that I received after my bold blog said that I had “too lofty a view” of my role, and that “it isn’t the job of the recruiter to worry about what happened after the hire occurred.”  “we don’t have any control after the hire is done!” REALLY?

No control? FALSE!  You are the “procuring cause.” You cannot distance yourself from it.  During your recruitment process, you perform due diligence to discern who, to the best of your ability, will best execute  in your client’s company and have the greatest impact on their business.  If you don’t get that granular, then you aren’t thorough enough to earn a full fee. , (this may be why so many recruiters are forced to discount their fees to levels more commensurate with the quality of their work.)  You see, I don’t think my view of the role I play in the acquisition of talent for my clients is too high; but if you think I’m wrong,  your view of this business is too low!

As a Search Consultant, you have the opportunity to be a tremendous strategic asset to a company and enjoy the many rewards that come with this type of consultative relationship with your clients and industry.

You also have the right to feed on the bottom with the majority of recruiters who see their only responsibility as “filling openings.”  The choice is yours, but the implications are huge!  Choose wisely!

People Quit Jobs for Two Reasons

People leave their jobs on their own for two primary reasons, their Culture & Opportunity. I’m not referring to when people are let go, but when they choose to leave. The most common reason that people leave their job for another position is due to their boss lacking the ability to inspire, lead or develop them in a way that is satisfying their need to belong and make an impact. You may well come up with several other reasons, but they all boil down to leadership failure. Even when people leave a company for a better opportunity with another company, ultimately, the person’s boss failed to give them the chance to advance their skills and expand their horizon. Sometimes, it isn’t possible due to a variety of logistical reasons, which is why I didn’t say that there is only ONE reason people leave a company.

In a recent VP of Sales search for a $250mm division of a larger company, the final candidate listened to my initial presentation on the opportunity because something inside of him was yearning to be appreciated by his CEO. He felt under-appreciated and thus disrespected by his CEO. This is what led him to allow me to convince him to have an “exploratory conversation” with my client, the President. It was in that call that the President laid out her vision for the company and her philosophy of leadership. When they finished the call, the “bait was set.” Even still, the candidate was not convinced that this was either the right time or the right fit . After our debrief call, he graciously bowed out of contention for the position. Although the opportunity was bigger and the role more impressive than the one he currently held, he felt that he had more to do where he was and thought it better to stay and finish what he set out to do five years ago. Clearly, in his case, the reason to change was not for the “better opportunity” with my client, though it arguably was better.

In his case, he decided that he had more to accomplish in his current role. During the debrief call, he suggested that my client should continue to pursue other candidates and then if they felt that he was the best of the best, perhaps they should speak again. What he didn’t know was that my client had their heart set on him and only him. At this point, I agreed with him that he should stay the course and finish whatever is was that he felt needed to be completed. In speaking with my client, however, I explained to her his thoughts and the President still wanted him, probably more so at this point. I told her that in order to get him, she would have to perform in a manner that her company was not accustomed to. Being a billion dollar company with thousands of employees, they have policies and procedures that would get in the way of hiring him. They would have to move very decisively and have an offer within a few weeks or they would have ZERO chance of hiring him. I also explained that she would need to pursue him and show him that she wanted him more than his company did. She accepted this challenge and to her credit, she accomplished it. Now it was up to me to reel him back in and do so on the “culture side.” Knowing that the bigger opportunity would not be his driver, I tried to learn about his relationship with his boss and found that things weren’t perfect with his CEO. I learned that there were promises made that were not kept. I also found out that the integrity of the leadership was questionable. This was then the focus of all my discussions with the candidate.

Even in situations like this,people can be comfortable and complacent. Just because the leadership and culture isn’t positive, doesn’t mean that people will always be looking elsewhere. Perhaps it is the idea of “the devil you know, versus the devil you don’t.” But it does make the company very vulnerable to a Search Consultant with an equally impressive opportunity. In this case, my client pulled of a respectable feat by cutting through the typical HR rigmarole and executed the offer in record time, even cutting out a standard site visit with a full battery of interviews. This was exceptional on multiple levels. What wasn’t exceptional is that the candidate who was given the offer, accepted and resigned 48 hours later did so, ultimately, because of his boss.

There is a perfect example that people resign their jobs for two basic reasons, bad bosses or better opportunities. In some cases, both.

You Can’t Fix “Stupid”

You can’t argue with the statement that “Some People are just average,” and some do really stupid things. If you work at a company that has significant issues, more than likely they’re a product of someone’s doing and not without cause. Some people have developed useless products that cannot compete in the marketplace. Some companies have developed solid products, but failed to develop the right marketing strategy and the product failed to launch. In other cases, the product and strategy were strong, yet sales were flat due to weak sales management and execution. In each case, the common denominator is that people screwed things up. Where do bad products and strategies come from anyway? People! Yes, well-meaning people who either lacked the ability to conceive of or execute what the market needed to produce the right outcome. Regardless of where the blame is laid, the buck stops at the top of the org chart.

Executive leadership must quickly recognize when the wrong people are in the wrong place in their organization. They must identify the heart of the problem and find the solution or else they will, themselves, be at risk. Where is the solution to the problem, you ask? It is in the mind of a person or persons who have yet to be exposed to the problem. The solution to virtually every problem that exists in your company has a name. Your answer in times of trouble is PEOPLE! The easy part is the “gap analysis” to figure out what is missing. The challenge is finding the best person to replace them who possesses the right stuff to bring fresh perspective and creativity to bear and fix the problem. Let’s be honest, all people are not equal, despite the prevalence of “Participation Trophies.” Our culture hates to admit that there are those who “Over-Achieve,” those who “Achieve” and those who “Under-Achieve.” Not everyone who dons an LA Lakers jersey is a “Kobe Bryant.” Admittedly, it is possible that an “Under-Achiever” could possibly be an “Over-Achiever” in a different area, function or company. It depends upon their “mosaic” of competency, character and chemistry. Different people have different talents, experiences, abilities, skills-natural and learned.

Any executive whose company is experiencing difficulty must find the right people to solve their organizations toughest problems. Prior to starting this process, the executive must evaluate whether they CAN hire an “Over-Achiever”. Not all companies are capable of doing this based upon a variety of factors, ie. culture, value proposition, compensation. Is the company one where people are empowered, or is the culture one of politics and fear? It won’t do you any good to hire the right kind of person to solve your complex problems if they are not enabled to thrive in the environment with autonomy. This caliber of person must have the freedom to do what they deem necessary to fix the problems or they will not be effective. This is why so many smaller companies out-perform larger ones. The larger companies are stuck in a political rut. The hierarchy has become the driving force in the company and no longer the ideas that people create. When this happens, people who are visionaries become stifled and grow frustrated and before you know it, they’ve moved on. Before you hire one of these Over-Achievers and task them with fixing your problems, you’ve got to determine if the problem is Systemic or not. If your problem is systemic as in cultural, you must concurrently address this problem or suffer. Even cultural problems are a result of having the wrong people in control and can be improved by the right leadership. Notice that I didn’t say, “New Leadership,” because the best person for the role may already be in a different role within the company. Be ready for things to get shaken up if you are addressing a cultural issue. Most often changes of this sort are very welcome to the rank and file. Regardless of your problem, you must find the right person to solve the problem. Sometimes, it takes a fresh perspective, one with objectivity to identify the source of the problem. Whether the best person to address the problem is within or needs to be recruited, it requires action!

The point that I am driving home is that EVERY problem in a company has its solution in a PERSON. How you arrive at that point is up to you.

HR’s Double Standard

The purpose of this post is NOT to vent, but to highlight some of the oddities that I have observed as I have been in search for more than 12 years.

I have a client that retained my firm to hire a Vice President of Sales for a $250mm division of a larger Medical Device company. This was a repeat client with whom I had placed three other VP’s in the past, albeit with a different division. Working with different HR executives at this company, I acknowledge that each has a unique approach and style. With one of their HR executives, it went quite well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as lucky with the others.

After extensive recruiting and vetting, we presented a slate of candidates and scheduled an array of telephone interviews for the President to meet these prospects. What happened next was an example of a double standard coming from HR that they don’t seem to recognize. For the second time in a matter of two weeks time, the President, who was scheduled for a telephone interview with a VP prospect, had to cancel the interview only minutes before the call would be placed. This didn’t happen once, but twice! After the second cancellation, my candidate made a snarky comment about the recurrence and eventually, said that he understood and would be flexible.

The irony is that the same HR person informed me that because a different candidate cancelled his interview only a few hours before his interview due to a conflict with his schedule at his current company, her company was no longer interested in interviewing him stating that “he didn’t show enough interest and it obviously wasn’t important enough to him to keep his appointment.” So here I find myself wondering why it is NOT OK for the candidate to cancel the interview on short notice but it IS OK for them to do the same thing not once, but twice!

Could this HR person be that out of touch with their own reality? Is this Double Standard acceptable? Is the Customer Always Right?

I would love to know what others think…

The Importance of Picking a “Great” Client

As a Search Consultant, your success is largely dependent upon the quality of your clients. Contrary to popular belief, any “paying customer” isn’t necessarily a client worthy of partnering with. Anyone who has been in the business a while learns this lesson, usually the hard way. We’ve all accepted searches from clients only to later regret it. What is the key to avoiding this regret? The key to avoiding the heartache is being honest about it and thinking about all parties, including the person you intend to move to this new company. You have to be honest with yourself first and foremost and not play games. Sadly, many people lie to themselves and convince themselves that everything is copacetic, later to face the reality that they ignored obvious signs that they should have let it pass. I have justified it to myself by using the old phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The reality is that I put myself into a terrible position to attract someone to a company that is not well regarded usually for good reasons. A “greater fear” casts out a “lesser fear” and the fear of financial hardship can tempt us to accept a search with a bad client. Unfortunately, this usually ends badly for all parties. If you accept a search knowing that the company’s value proposition stinks, inevitably, you are going to be very sorry!

Nothing is worth accepting a bad search and getting stuck with a “dud” of a client. If a company isn’t in a position to attract the caliber of talent that they want and are convinced they can hire, you are putting yourself in an un-winnable position. By accepting this search, knowing that the company has a poor reputation or during the exploration phase you find that the person to whom the new hire will report, is not a good person, you have put yourself in a classic conflict of interests. You are about to take someone out of a good job and put them in a bad situation. They will not love your for that, and why should they? You will have put your own needs before theirs, which is a misuse of your responsibility. Not only is there a very high probability that the candidate will back out late in the game, if they do accept it, and later regret it, you will develop a reputation as someone who doesn’t care about the people you place. Furthermore, you may have to replace him or her when they quit. Trying to recruit another candidate of equal caliber to replace them knowing that there is a problem within the company is a misuse of your power and something I hope you will never do. How do you think that will affect your reputation in the marketplace? Will you be seen as an opportunist who doesn’t care about the people you place?

It is critical that you select a great client so that your career is one that you can be proud of. To do this, you must make sure you diligently vet your potential client beyond their “willingness” to pay your retainer. Take time to get to know this potential new client and their team. Investigate their products or services and honestly evaluate their “Value Proposition” and the “draw” that brings with it. If you believe in the people and the opportunity, and you have confidence that you will be doing someone a favor by extracting them out of their current job, and placing them there, go for it!

If not, walk away and don’t look back.

Top 3 Reasons NOT to Hire a Search Consultant

I’ve been pouring over the HR blogs since starting this blog recently and found a lot of posts with the “10 Top reasons for this” and the “Top 24 reasons for that.” So taking the lead of the various pundits on the Interweb, I’ve decided to throw in my two cents. Since it seems like all of us Executive Search folks are trying so hard to convince all the “would be” clients to trust us and become our clients, I thought I would throw them a bone.

Here are the Top 3 Reasons NOT to hire an Executive Recruiter:

1. The Internet – Let’s be honest. With the prolific tools on the internet, you can find “Active Candidates” on your own. These are people who have posted their resumes on job boards. You don’t need to pay a fee to a recruiter when they will likely be sifting the same sites that you have access to download all the recent resumes. (Which by the way is NOT what any self-respecting, competent recruiter does.)

2. Your Company’s Weak Value Proposition – Each company has a Value Proposition to offer. This consists of Products or Services, Culture, Opportunity for Growth and Compensation. If the first three are overflowing, then the compensation can be average. If these are Average, then your compensation has to be INCREASED in order to draw in the best people. If your company does not or CANNOT be flexible in the area of Base Salaries, Sign on Bonuses and other inducements to draw in the best, then go back to #1 and stick to the “Active/Internet Candidate Pool.”

3. Your Company’s Rigid View of Hiring Talent – If your management team is not sophisticated enough to know how to recruit and interview people who are NOT actively seeking a new job, then you will Turn Away the best people and waste a ton of time. Sometimes it isn’t the management team’s fault. There are some companies where the HR Dept. dictates the hiring process to the management. As the government continues to heap on more regulation, it puts a legal burden on companies to enforce compliance of “great-hire killing” policies. This is a big turn off to a lot of talented people who see that their new job, were they to accept, would be frustrated by these same policies.

So, if you are a corporate HR or Hiring Manager and have been frustrated by the inability to execute searches effectively by hiring extraordinary people who have long-term staying power, then you are beginning to understand that to win the War for Talent, you have to be flexible and creative. You must tailor your recruiting approach to the individual prospects that you desire to hire, rather than making them fit into your little box.