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


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!

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.

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.

The Problem With Recruiters

The problem with recruiters is that most of them are focused on “closing the deal” and all else is just details. They will do anything necessary to simply make a placement and invoice their customer. They don’t have their customer’s best interests at heart. His only concern is getting paid and getting past the guarantee period!

Sad, but true for many, if not most recruiters. Oh sure, they “care” about the outcome. But not more than they care about submitting an invoice. In most cases, they are not committed to the success of their clients. They are committed to doing whatever is necessary to obtain a fee for services. This is almost universally true of contingency recruiters and sadly even true for many in the retained camp. It’s a basic human flaw that people are “self” first and “others” second. It is rare to find a recruiter who will do the right thing when they must decide between telling the truth and remaining silent. There is a lot at stake for a recruiter in the short term, and it takes incredible character to do the right thing when there is a large sum of money at risk. There is a sacred trust in a relationship with a company and it’s recruiter. My belief is that very few of them make the right choices when facing this dilemma.

Here are some examples of What is Wrong with Recruiters:

A. Over-preparing candidates on how to appeal to all of the hiring managers’ “hot buttons”
B. Editing a resume to cover up “red flags”
C. Pressuring both candidates and hirers to make a decision that may not be in their best long-term interests
D. Not searching for the best candidates, but only skimming the “low hanging fruit” of the Internet
E. “Flinging” resumes of people they haven’t vetted nor received permission from
F. Presenting the same candidate to multiple companies in order to create greater urgency
G. Concealing obvious flaws of their candidates

These are some of the problems with recruiters and “just cause” for HR to suspect bad behavior from them. Considering these examples, is it any surprise the industry has a poor reputation?

There is much that can be done to positively impact this bad rap, but it must start with recruiters doing the right thing at every turn. It is simply the best way to build your practice and reputation. It requires seeing beyond the short term financial gain and believing that by doing what is right for your client, you are building a business with honor and integrity, and by doing it this way, you will get repeat business. As i said, it is the right way to build both your business and reputation. If you can’t stay in business doing it right, you really should get out. There are far easier ways to make a living. Besides, you’re bringing down an entire industry!

Bad behavior isn’t right no matter how many placements you make! Do us all a favor and go do something else!

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…

Never Hire a Contingency Recruiter!

Conflict of Interests

An enormous conflict of interests exists between the Contingency Recruiters and their client. What may have seemed like a good idea, in actuality has turned out to silently pit recruiters against their clients. Let’s face it, to many people in business, recruiters have become nothing more than a “necessary evil.” In fact, many HR professionals will tell you that one of their top priorities is to use fewer and fewer recruiters and in an ideal world, they would eliminate using them entirely. After being on both sides of the table in industry for over a decade and now more than a decade as a recruiter, I can assert that the Tragic Flaw in this process isn’t the recruiter per se’, but instead the means by which recruiters are engaged.

First and foremost we must acknowledge that contingency search makes sense on the surface. It is hard to argue against the idea that if you aren’t happy and don’t hire, you pay nothing. However the law of unintended consequences takes over and the fall out is what may look like a good short term outcome rarely lasts and HR very rarely knows the truth of what happens behind the scenes. Evaluate the process, and I think you’ll see that it is rife with embedded conflicts of interests which create all the right conditions for a terrible long term result. Pay for performance seems pragmatic enough right? After all, this is a “Market Driven Practice” brought on by competition and demand. But why don’t we engage all functions on contingency? Why only recruiting? Is it because the barrier to entry to become a recruiter is a phone and a PC? Is it that anyone can make any claims on the other end of the phone about being an expert in any field? But what about the results? Isn’t that what it is all about? I believe that I can make a case that what lies beneath the surface is a conflict of interests of Epic proportions which ultimately rewards the worst possible performance and most unethical and self-serving actors in the recruiting industry. If you’re familiar with the book, Freakonomics, then you know that with each economic incentive comes an element of unintended consequences. This could easily fit into a chapter of their next book because it is a clear example of the negative outcome being more destructive than the specific intended benefit, which was “Paying Recruiters based on their Performance.” Why would it make sense to have a consultant who conducts so important a role have any other priorities apart from yours?

Product Development

Lets take for example a company in need of a product re-design in order to fix a complex problem with one of their existing products. When the company hired a design firm on contingency, they determined the effort the firm could put into the process which is inseparable from the outcome. Would the design firm enlist their best and brightest designers to thoroughly study the problem to find innovative ways of solving the problem without creating new ones? I can promise you that they would NOT if there was even a remote chance that they would never be paid for the work. If they did, they would compromise their very existence. Then what would happen if the same company openly discussed its product needs with other design firms in hopes that they may have an innovative solution. This sort of thing happens all the time. What if the company suddenly changes direction and scraps the whole project after weeks of design work? The design firm will have lost all their time, materials and opportunity to make another part for a paying customer. Any design firm willing to work this way either is in a desperate situation and needs the work, which begs the question, “Why?” Is it because their work is sub-par? A good design firm would never work on contingency because it doesn’t afford them the time and security to make the product that best suits the needs of their client. It would force them to rush the job and commit very little time and energy to the project.

Essentially, a recruiter is no different than a design firm. Although they don’t create people, they must essentially commit the same time to identify and recruit talent with all the right features, skill sets, character and chemistry, to solve a problem that a company has. All of this takes great time and attention if done correctly. On contingency, a recruiter simply cannot do the necessary work and truly put the needs of the client ahead of their own need to secure the fee.

I contend that this conflict of interest is easy to eliminate provided that you find the right firm to partner with; one that understands your unique value proposition and culture. Without a real commitment, not merely words on paper, but a real, “skin in the game” commitment, the immediate pressure is off and the fear of loss is eliminated thus allowing them to do the work right in stead of cutting corners. In a contingency search, it is a race to the most readily available candidates which means that they must already be actively pursuing a new job.

Without this level of commitment from a company, a recruiter will not be committed to the long-term success of the company, which is finding the absolute best people in the industry for your job. Instead, they will be committed to securing a fee above all else. Why don’t contingency recruiters share your priority? Because they are human and their basic needs come before anyone elses needs. This translates directly to the caliber of people they will put in front of you. They cannot take the time to truly understand what your company needs and the challenges this person will need to overcome. They cannot afford to take the time to truly find those people who’s head is down and they are successfully plowing away at their jobs.Those types of candidates are harder to recruit and they do not interview like an “applicant” does. They don’t need your job. Yet, the active candidates who I like to call “Mis-Employed,” will interview in a compelling and aggressive way out of their own need. The “Mis-Employed” fit in to either one of two general categories, “Currently Unemployed” and “Nearly Unemployed.” In either scenario, these candidates are the ones that you will see when working with a Contingency Recruiter simply because they are ready to move. They are motivated to make a change and already have made a commitment to get a new job. These people tend to interview very well because their motivation to find a job compels them to sell themselves. Contrast that with the “Gainfully employed” person who frankly doesn’t need your job. These candidates are completely different. But who would you rather have at your company, someone who is out of a job or discontent with their job? I contend that these people make short term decisions about their future because of the pain that they have. When your boat is sinking, any land mass that is dry seems like a good place to land. To someone who isn’t looking for work, they are more discerning about their future and they focus on what pulls them into a new opportunity instead of what pushes them. This is a concept that once you grasp, I believe that you start to see the breakdown of the contingency search. It doesn’t force the recruiter to rush the search and thus find the best people, but the most available.

If they operated while in a contingency search while trying to find the best prospects for the job, they would certainly lose out to the opportunistic job shoppers because I we just learned, they do a better job of selling themselves. In fact it takes a discerning person to tell the difference between the two. These nuances are critical to understand what motivates your candidate. If however, you’ve hired your recruiter on contingency, you most likely won’t know this because they will conceal these little facts such as the candidate is on a 30 day plan, or she hates her boss, or he has done something against the rules and is under discipline. You will never know this or any other fact that might hurt the contingency recruiter’s chance of making a fee.

I like to tell people that it is the job of an honest recruiter to reveal the blemishes of each candidate, not to hide them. It is the responsibility of the recruiter to tell the prospect what the role entails and what they need to be able to do to be successful, not tell them the “hot buttons” of the hiring manager so that they can check all the boxes of what he or she is looking for. If you don’t believe me, then you’ve never been through the any Contingency Recruiter Training. There are dozens of ways recruiters know how to overcome your objections through preparing candidates to make the grade.

Alignment of Interests

If a recruiter has its clients best interests at heart, then it is constrained to do what is right for the company and not for himself. It is their fiduciary responsibility and sacred trust to do everything in their power to recruit and vet each candidate until they find those who to the best of their ability to discern, the candidates will be successful in their new role and be a valuable and loyal employee for years to come. To make matters worse, most companies have a policy of only paying the first recruiter to email a resume when hired. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that this is an incentive to email a resume prior to speaking to and vetting a candidate. Where do recruiters find such resumes? The Internet of course. Knowing this, how confident can you be as a Hiring Authority that this recruiter will do what is in your best interests. When their top priority is ensuring that they put someone into the position as soon as humanly possible? The truth is that you can not. You have instead undermined your own chances of hiring the best possible candidate. You have forfeited the best for the most expedient. I am fairly confident that no one would think that was a good way to do business when it comes to designing a new product? Why should it be any different when it comes to hiring a full-time employee?

If what you want is a race to the “low hanging fruit,” contingency search is a great way to do it. The incentive exists to do the work as quickly as possible by taking enormous short cuts essentially putting the needs of the recruiter above the client’s. I cannot understand why this would be acceptable to any company. Rates aside, the terms are what determine the outcome of any search. Either it is rushed to make a buck or it is executed responsibly with the highest priority being finding the best possible people to fill the role and excel in it for years to come. Furthermore, I don’t believe that any smart business person would ever knowingly entrust so important a task to such an irresponsible process, let alone arrange the terms in such a way as to guarantee it. However, companies do this all the time when it comes to hiring a full time employee.

The right process involves establishing a relationship with a firm that invests the time to gain a thorough understanding of the problem or the position that must be filled by the acquisition of a very specialized skill-set. Then the comprehensive design/search process would be conducted to be sure that all the specifications of each prospective candidate meet the demands of the role. Thorough vetting of the candidate would then be conducted prior to presentation of the product to the client to minimize risks and ensure the best possible outcome.

I contend that contingency search has incredible pitfalls as it creates a gross misalignment of priorities between the recruiter and the company. No recruiter can do their best work on contingency. When a company and a search consultant have conflicting priorities, the process is undermined and the product and result is severely compromised.

10 likely consequences of Contingency Search:

  1. Active Candidates are simultaneously interviewing with other companies
  2. “Mis-Employed” candidates are less focused on your job. Push vs. Pull
  3. Candidates accept your offer only to later renege after accepting a competitive offer
  4. Candidates stay a short time at your company and never quitting their job search
  5. Candidates turn out to be different people than who you hired. “Over prepared” or “Force Fit”
  6. Search takes much longer than it should have due to turned down offers and other problems
  7. The Replacement guarantee you now need was only 30 days
  8. You lose large amounts of Time & Money not to mention the “opportunity costs”
  9. Multiple recruiters submit the same candidate creating conflict and risk
  10. You grow increasingly skeptical of all recruiters and unwilling to trust them with your best interests
  11. The more I consult with business people, the more convinced I am that HR has settled for scraps when a feast is only a few contract “terms” away.. Companies should never engage any consultant with an incentive any other than delivering the products and services which are in the company’s best interests. The odd thing is that the fees for each respective process are the very comparable, while the process and product are significantly different. Partnering with a search firm in such a way that promotes a healthy alignment of priorities, a company can and should have nothing but the best possible slate of vetted candidates/prospects from which to hire without losing them to a competitive offer or worse, losing them a few short months after their start to an aggressive competitor/suitor.

    The choice is yours to make. Either continue to gnaw on scraps or set the table for a feast of epic proportions.