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?

Why I Don’t “Prep” My Candidates for Interviews


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I had an interesting experience recently that reminded me why I don’t “prep” my candidates prior to them having an interview with my clients. I’ve been doing senior level searches over the past several years, but as I have recently been working on some Sales Consultant searches for a dear friend, I am once again reminded of the incredible power of a Candidate Prep Call. Vice President and CEO level people generally don’t need to be coached or prepped for an interview. In most cases,  I prep my clients on what they must do to capture the imagination of the senior level candidate.  However, in lower level searches the Prep Call before an interview can seem a lot more like “insider trading” than simple prep call.

As part of the standard Recruiter training protocol, “Prepping a Candidate for a client interview” is as routine an aspect of the recruiting process as the “Candidate Debrief Call.” So, then why do I say that I don’t prep my candidates before an interview? I have long-held the view that by preparing a candidate for an interview with your client, you introduce bias into the process and make the job of vetting the candidates by your client far more difficult. In fact, by doing so, you introduce a profound conundrum which enhances the candidates’ ability to tailor their approach and directly address precisely what your clients are looking for. Why is this bad? It actually undermines the process by giving your candidates an unreasonable advantage in the interview process enabling them to misrepresent their actual abilities with their “super human intelligence” provided by an insider. With preparation from an insider, they can become a better version of themselves. You may think that if you prep “all” of your candidates the same way, then you have “evened the score” making it equal, but while that may be true as it relates to your candidates having equal access to the information, it fails to recognize that what your client needs most from you is an accurate representation of the candidates’ real and natural talent. And this directly undermines this exposure.  In another blog, entitled, “Why Contingency Recruiters’ Candidates So Stinking Good?” I point out that recruiters greatly bias the interview process toward their own candidates when they prepare their candidates prior to an interview by telling them all of the nuances and details that the hiring manager is looking for. For example: “display fire in the belly passion” “make sure you ask for the job” “demonstrate your ability to ____________,” and other such things. It is as if the Recruiter gives a script to the candidates to perform in a play. The very things that the hiring manager told the recruiter he/she was looking for in a candidate gets spelled out in vivid detail. Irrespective of their actual talent, behaviors, and communication, they will follow the lead of the Recruiter who gave them the “insider’s view” of what the manager is actually looking for in explicit detail.  It’s as if an insider in a prospective target sales account gave your Sales Rep the exact road map to the hidden motivations and desires of the decision-maker. What Sales Rep wouldn’t be effective in selling to a prospect whom they have been carefully and meticulously informed of all their hot-buttons, likes and dislikes?  Any Sales Rep worth their salt would give a compelling presentation given such “insider” information. Why then is this bad? Because this is not a “real life” scenario. A competent Sales professional needs to qualify their prospect and elegantly ascertain the wants and needs that are most important to them in assessing a product or service. The Sales Rep must then present their product or service offering to the prospect and ensure that there is adequate disclosure and that any questions or concerns are appropriately overcome with information or demonstrations to dispel doubt and bring about a positive agreement that their products/services meet their prospect’s needs effectively. Then they must close the sale. However if a Recruiter carefully crafts all the objections and concerns for the prospective candidate in advance of the interview, how is that really giving the hiring manager an accurate representation of their true sales abilities? This is what I mean by saying that Prepping Candidates always biases the hiring process and actually undermines the objective of finding the best possible talent and fit.

So let’s consider why “Prepping Candidates” is such a widely accepted behavior of Recruiters everywhere.  First, this makes YOU look good!  When all your candidates perform well in their first interview, it reflects upon you as each of your candidates is well prepared in advance and their polish is a testament to your thoroughness. At the surface, this is true. However, what is the true objective of the search in the first place?  Is it to make you look good or earn a fee quickly?  Maybe it is for you. If you are a recruiter and you know that the only way you will be compensated for all your time and effort, you must take advantage of every means necessary to ensure that your candidate gets hired. If you’re like me, you notice that there is a subtle, yet profound conflict of interests if the Recruiter ever does anything that is not in the best interests of the client. Why is this conflict of interest present you may ask? It is my belief that in part it is due to the prevalence of Contingency Search. Contingency Search has several unintended consequences that elevate the risk of a company making a bad hire. By removing the Contingency terms, recruiters are able to operate as an extension of the company and not out of fear of being “stiffed” out of their fee.  Contingency Search has many potential pitfalls that recruiters must attempt to avoid. (backdoor hire, candidates who circumvent them, resume timing, active candidates etc.) But I also believe that recruiters tend to be transient and not terribly interested in the long-term success of their clients. One of the most bizarre ironies in recruiting industry is the incredibly high turnover and short tenure. I know of no other industry with such difficulty keeping people in the industry. The failure rate of rookie recruiters is over 90% by most accounts. So one might assume that if someone makes it past their first year, they do it right. Right? Wrong!

I’ve been accused of being heretical in my stance on Candidate Prepping. I guess I don’t get it.  All I ever want to do is what is truly in the best interests of my clients to mitigate as much risk of a bad hire that I possibly can. And what better way than to find the best people I possibly can attract given the company’s value proposition and introduce them to the company and later to the hiring manager. The rest is up to the candidate to conduct their own due diligence, research the company, its products and opportunity. It is up to them to manage their own performance in the way that comes to them naturally. Because that is exactly how they will perform on the job. So, whether it is prepping them by telling them to make sure they scour the client’s website and study the products to reading the last three or four press releases so that can be more prepared or advising them how to follow-up after the interview with an email to the hiring manager.  These are things that the Top Performers should do without the need of a recruiter coaching them.

Some Recruiters have laughed out-loud at me and told me that if I don’t prep my candidates, all my work is in vain and that I need to protect my investment of time. They’ve told me that I won’t be able to make a living and that they will run circles around me while I go out of business. Yet after 14 years in the business and the last 10 plus working on retainer this way, I remain convinced that what I am doing and more importantly NOT doing is in the best interests of my clients. And they keep calling me when they have new searches. In the last year, over 80% of our new searches have come from repeat customers. Keep in mind, we are not the “low-cost provider” in the market. While others settle for flat fees and lower percentages, we hold firmly to our rates, because  I believe that in the end, it isn’t about “Cost” but “Value.” The greatest value we can provide is helping our clients hire the absolute best person they possibly can. We believe the best way that they can make an educated decision and discern which candidate is best is through allowing our candidates to come as they are rather than how someone wants them to be. Unless you remove the contingency factor from this scenario, I don’t believe you can properly align your recruiter’s priorities with the company. At the same time, merely removing the contingency factor does not ensure you that your recruiter will not Prep their candidates and bias the process. Every hiring manager should work with someone who they trust to have their best interests at heart and be committed to their success beyond making a hire and earning their fee.

Back to my recent experience conducting the Sales Consultant searches; a few of the candidates came in less than armed to the T with all the preparation that one would hope for. My friend and client saw the shortcomings of a few of my candidates. While it would have made me look better to prep them, in the end he had an accurate representation of each candidate which equipped him to make the best informed decision relative to who best fit the role and had the talent to represent his company in the designated territories. However tempting it might have been to make myself look better by prepping the candidates, that isn’t the highest goal when retained by a client who trusts me to help them hire the best.

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!

“Is Retained Search Right for You?” Join me for a Free Webinar April 5th 1:30PM EST.


Join Drue De Angelis, Apr 05,2012 @ 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM EDT.
Cost: FREE

In this Webinar, Drue will be addressing why he decided to transition to retained search eight years ago and help you discover if it is right for you. He will also explain what steps you can take to begin this process for yourself.

Drue De Angelis is a 12 plus year veteran of recruiting. He began by purchasing an MRI Franchise. After four years of Contingency Search, he was troubled with what he saw as the “unintended consequences” of contingency search. While he contemplated getting out of recruiting altogether, he began to develop a strategy to approach his clients with a better alternative that would yield a better result for all parties. For the past eight years, he has worked 100% on a engaged/retained basis and has seen his average fee rise considerably along with the quality and level of his work.

Focusing at the VP/C-level currently, Drue is passionate about helping others see the benefit of his approach.

7 Signs You are a Marginalized Recruiter


I’ve been writing about the marginalization of recruiters and thought I would put down the signs that you can use to evaluate whether or not you fall into that category of recruiter. Technology plays a significant role in the marginalization of recruiters, but it is not merely technology that forces many recruiters to the margins. Here are some clear signs for recruiters to take an honest look to see if they too are becoming marginalized.

7. The company makes you sign their agreement. They usually like to put little things in them such as flat fees and money back guarantees.

6. Company has an ambiguous and convoluted hiring process and won’t listen to your advice as how to remedy the problem.

5. Company takes days to debrief after an interview. Nothing is more frustrating or diffuses a candidate’s zeal for a position like perceived indifference. Furthermore, if your debrief is a one-way street where they inform you of their decision rather than discuss it with you.

4. You must submit your candidates through a third party software or vendor. Someone else determines the fitness of a candidate rather than the hiring manager and you.

3. You email candidate resumes rather than verbally presenting candidates. Nothing says, “what do you think of this?” like an emailed resume. Then comes the waiting game where you wait to hear back from the company as to if or when they want to speak with your candidate.

2. You only have access to HR. You know the routine. HR dictates when you can talk to the hiring manager. (And it’s never often enough!)

1. Client has multiple recruiters working on the search although you are lead to believe it’s “exclusive.”

The truth is, if you have to deal with any of these, you are becoming marginalized. If you have to deal with more than one of these with your “client,” then consider yourself marginalized.

The Customer isn’t Always Right!


I frequently hear people say “the customer is always right.” That may be true in your line of work, but not in mine. In fact, many times I have to help my clients see what they seem to miss entirely. It is very often the case that my client fails to grasp the gravity of the situation. If I take the approach that my customer has all the right answers and I am merely here to feed their appetite for more candidates, then I am failing them as a search consultant. The smart ones get it, while others may think by challenging their perceptions of things, I am merely looking out for myself. Again, they would be wrong.

Search is a complex endeavor and if my client questions my motive then everyone’s problems are multiplied. Trust is the essence of any consultant-client relationship. If I have not established the credibility with my client such that I can challenge their views or opinions, then I need to re-think my approach. Clients are just people, and they all possess biases that inform their opinions about things from people to the way things should be. Sometimes they make assumptions about people who are factually inaccurate. It is the job of a Search Consultant to advocate on behalf of their client, even if it means disagreeing with them. Early in my career, I was afraid of disagreeing with my client. If my client expressed a concern about a candidate, I would instinctively and without hesitation agree with them. It was often after some thought and consideration that I would think, “that was wrong. I should have said, this or that.”

Many people are adverse to making big decisions so they subconsciously create obstacles, hoping to avoid costly hiring mistakes. One of the most common scenarios is that a client will say “the candidate didn’t seem energetic or interested enough.” or “I just didn’t see the fire in the belly!” This is most often the case of a mistaken assumption. There are stages to a truly passive candidate’s interest, and it starts with mere Curiosity. The first call/interview is actually purely a fact-finding mission and the burden is on the interviewer to capture their imagination. After this interview/exploratory conversation, the individual’s interest will either flat-line in which case they are not a fit, or it will begin to increase. Too often, the client assumes that because the candidate didn’t dazzle them in the first call, that represents a low energy level and intensity on the job. More often than not, they would again, be wrong.

To avoid this scenario, inform your client ahead of time about the level of motivation of the candidate. Is she actively seeking a new job? If so, she would be expected to sell herself. If not, then sell her. This is just one example of ways to help your client be right, before they get it wrong. If you can’t convince your client to see the value of your perspective, then you’d do well to find a new client.

Are you a Headhunter or Search Consultant?


I will go on the record that I don’t like the term “Headhunter” although I know it is often well deserved. I believe it best refers to recruiters who “broker Resumes.” I’ve also heard the term, “Drive By Resume-Shooter” which is apropos. Candidate’s resumes are available in abundance today online. You don’t have to be a recruiter to find active candidates. Let’s face it, all you need to become a recruiter is a telephone and a computer with internet access. That is all one needs in order to qualify them as a “recruiter.” Recruiting takes many forms today and the kind of recruiting that has the greatest value to any organization is one of a true Consultant. Companies will often utilize multiple different recruiters and will task them with different searches to suit their needs. I have no problem with this as I accept that there are different types of recruiters. However, if you are one of those “Headhunters” who are chasing fees through volume, don’t expect to So what kind of recruiter are you? Recruiters who are relegated to the bottom of the “food chain” are what I call “Headhunters.” Headhunters are in a race to the “most available” candidates. The quickest draw often wins the fee with “Headhunters.”

If you are a recruiter and you want to have a meaningful career in search, you better become a Consultant to your clients or you will forever be classified as a “Headhunter” or “Flesh Peddler.” I have found that most “self respecting” Headhunters eventually either become Consultants or eventually place themselves back into a “real job” because of the lack of respect as a “Headhunter.” As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of this type of recruiter and every chance that I get, I encourage people to elevate their game. before you can elevate your game, you need to know where you stand on Search Scale. Are you a Headhunter or a Search Consultant, or somewhere in between? To know whether you are a true Search Consultant or merely a Headhunter, there are a few questions that you must ask yourself and your answers will make the case. The first question is” do you have full, unadulterated access to the decision maker? Or is there an HR person who keeps you under wraps and only allows “supervised visits” while you discuss whatever you need to with the real decision maker. If HR is in control of your every move, then chances are, you’re just a “Headhunter.” The next question is, after an interview, do you debrief the decision maker directly or do you get informed of the decision to move forward to the next stage or not? If you are not able to discuss the interview live with your decision maker, then you are not a valued part of the process. The extent of your contribution is “headhunting.” That isn’t all bad, I guess, if that is all that you aspire to. If you have gone to the length of recruiting passive people, then you have an obligation to both candidate and client to discuss the outcome of the interview and illuminate aspects and qualities of the candidate that were not on display in the first interview. This is what a true Search Consultant does. Presuming that you have spent hours on the phone with this person and vetted them, you will know them far better than the interviewer can in a single call.

Most headhunters will never elevate themselves to the level of a Search Consultant. They will remain in the periphery only to get second-hand information from HR. If this is you, there are things that can be done now to change the way that you work and are perceived by your client. If you can’t convey the value that you bring and the need for direct and timely feedback, then you will likely never make it.