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?


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.

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.

Why so Many Recruiters Burn-Out or Fade Away.

Here is an Irony for you: The Contingency Recruiting Industry has the Highest Turnover Rate of any industry. It is a well-kept secret because of the obvious implications. With an approximately 90%+ recruiter turnover within the first year, recruiting has to be one of the toughest things in the world to do, intellectually speaking. So, I’m not comparing it to the military or being a fireman or police officer, but in terms of the amount of disappointment that a person experiences at work. Many smart and capable people who attempt it end in ruin. I actually had a grown man who worked for me for 6 months run out of my office in tears due to the continual defeat that he experienced! It is not for the faint of heart. Not only are you making hundreds of “cold calls” each day, almost no one wants to talk to you on either side of the desk, company or candidate. As you dial over and over and over repeating the same pitch, which is often read from a script, your mind grows more numb with each voice-mail you leave. “Smile, because they can hear your smile.” “Don’t be too monotone.” “Don’t ramble on too much.” “Leave your phone number twice.” “Don’t unload the truck, just give them enough to whet their appetite.” and the list of thoughts goes on and on as you drone on with call after call. You already feel less like a professional recruiter and more like a “Telemarketer” in a “Boiler Room.” Is there any less respected job? Before long you feel like no one wants to talk to you, unless they’re unemployed, and those folks can’t help you reach your goals. If all you do is talk to the unemployed, before long, you’ll be one of them.

Out of every 100 calls, you hope to catch 25-35% live so you can actually have a conversation. Of those, very few will have any interest in what you’re “selling.” When you crunch the numbers, for every 100 calls you make, strikingly few are meaningful. You finally have some good things happen and get a Job Order. Now you work on your pitch so you can start recruiting! You’re so close and yet so far away… After putting together a long list of potential candidates to begin the recruiting campaign, you’re ready to start down the list. Voice-mail after voice-mail goes unanswered until you finally get someone on the phone. You’ve made 50 calls, spoken to eight living people and none show a sincere interest or are close to the mark. Day two, three, four and five of the same pitch and the same voice-mail left 200+ times with little to no results. The only people interested in the job don’t meet the minimum requirements for the role and you’re beginning to feel despair. Another week goes by and you can’t figure out why it isn’t working. You’ve changed your pitch around to see if it will produce different results and yet nothing meaningful happens. Three weeks into the search and you finally have two to three people who are qualified and somewhat interested in the role. You waste no time calling and presenting your top three candidates to the hiring authority and what happens?

A. They inform you that they already have a finalist candidate even though there was no mention of anyone in the process during your 30 minute call when you go the job order

B. They inform you that the position is now “on hold” indefinitely

C. They inform you that an “Internal Candidate” is now slated for the role

D. They never return your call

Sound familiar? All that work and you never even got to present your “body of work.” Bear in mind that you never even got to the interview stage. The interview stage has within it a myriad additional opportunities to fail. But you were Dead on Arrival and so was the last three weeks of effort on this search. This is one of the reasons that recruiters are so darn “pushy.” You have to make sure that they are not going on a wild goose chase that will cost them time and money and perhaps even their job. I have observed recruiters to be some of the most emotionally resilient people in the world. At least, the ones who survive. If you are still a recruiter after a year, then you are in the great minority. Assuming that you didn’t come into the business on the retained side as most people don’t, you are working on contingency. This means that for every successful placement you make, you were also working on another five to ten, or perhaps even more, that failed to close. That means that a whopping 80-90% of your entire job ends in failure. You must also have developed coping mechanisms to handle all the negativity that comes with that much failure. Sadly, I have seen people who recruited for more than 25 years hit a wall and burn out. These are people who after so long in the business shouldn’t have to work that hard. Their reputation and network should feed itself to a point that they have their pick of clients. Why then do so many come to ruin? I believe that it is the cumulative effect of the incredible amount of failure that their psyche endures.

If you cannot make the transition to retained search, you will become Marginalized and likely burn out probably well before your 25th year. Some “burned-out” recruiters become trainers because they cannot bear the pressure of the “desk” anymore. You don’t have to end like that. If you transition your business into a “pure engagement” practice, and work exclusively on a retained basis, you will eliminate the vast majority of the failure and negativity which you currently endure. It is Life Changing! Just a little Food for thought…