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.

Quantity vs. Quality Reason #1 to Reject Contingency Search


There are many good reasons to reject Contingency Search in any form, but for today’s post, I’ll deal with only one reason.  Quantity vs Quality. In most cases, by no fault of their own, recruiters are forced to produce poor quality work or get left in the dust by other recruiters with a quicker trigger finger. The inherent weakness of Contingency Search lies in this conundrum: The more you endeavor to vet and qualify your candidates, the less likely you are to get paid for your work.  The take home is that if you want to get paid, you had better not take too long in skimming those online resumes and be late to the party.

A basic rule of Contingency is: If the same candidate is referred to the a client by different recruiters, only the recruiter who was FIRST to send the resume to the client gets paid for the referral. Therefore, the most conscientious recruiter will far too often lose out and not get paid for their referral. Why? Because they were too thorough in doing the job of a recruiter. Even if you want to do well on behalf of your clients, you are put in the position to have to race to the resume submission before you should. I am convinced that this is the reason that the best recruiters don’t stay in Contingency Search for long.  They either convert their business to a Retained model or leave the business altogether.

Why would a client want a flurry of resumes filling their inbox only to have to spend time sorting them to determine who sourced them only to then begin the arduous task of vetting and qualifying the new resumes?  Furthermore, because of the race to the bottom, they have been flooded with all the “low hanging fruit.”  These are essentially two kinds of candidates; Physically Unemployed or Emotionally Unemployed. In either case, they are motivated to escape a bad situation giving them an impure motive in many cases.  That severe motive can compel such people to embellish their experience and worse, misrepresent who they are in order to meet a basic need they have. If you’ve hired much, you know who this is.  Its the guy who turns out to be a very different person than the one you interviewed.

I’ve spoken to many different recruiters who suffer burnout and mental and emotional fatigue from trying to balance doing the right thing on behalf of their clients and getting paid. Okay, money isn’t everything, but its right up there with air. So the problem for many is that they desperately desire to be a good recruiter who does excellent vetting of the people they present to their clients yet they simply cannot accomplish this and thrive or in many cases survive.

The irony in all of this is that usually the FEE that a client is willing to pay  for contingency is the same as it would be on retainer. The only difference is the terms of payment. Yet the key benefit to working on retainer is the ability to gain a commitment from one firm with a good reputation that you believe understands your company and the needs of the role and giving them what they need to be successful in the search. In doing this, the company will have a slate of qualified, vetted and interested people with the right motivation that ensures the best possible outcome.  This is why it is still a mystery to me that companies think that they are better off working on contingency.  What a tremendous miscalculation!

“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.

There’s only ONE recruiting metric that matters.


How do you evaluate your recruiting business? What metrics are important to you? Are there any metrics which enable you to measure your effectiveness? I recently read a recruiting site discussion where the person initiating the discussion asked “which recruiting metric is most important to you?” I read through some of the answers which were predictable; Send Outs to Placements, Calls to Send Outs or Job Orders etc. I am convinced that the most important metric and the only one I care to follow is; how long did the person I place stay with my client company? Are they still there, or did they leave? Were they promoted? Or were they Fired? This is the only “recruiting metric” that any of our clients really care about and frankly so should we.  I am all for improving metrics to improve outcomes. I just believe that the most important metric IS the outcome.

Queue Typical Recruiter response: “I don’t hire the person or manage them. It’s not my job” Fair enough. It is not your job to “hire” the person that they ultimately chose to hire. But, was it not you who recommended they hire this person? When you presented a candidate, you essentially endorsed them in that role. How can you present someone to your client as a prospective hire and later backtrack from them and blame them for a poor hiring decision? If it ins’t “our job” to vet the people who we bring and do our very best to assess their fit culturally as well as vet their character, what exactly IS our job?

“Win some, lose some?” Sure, no one is infallible or reads minds, but we can and should be doing our absolute best to determine the competency and cultural fit of teach and every candidate prior to presenting them.

The metric we should be interested in improving is that of the success and tenure of our placements. How long do they stay? How well liked are they? How well do they fit in with the rest of the team? Do they get promoted? This is the true test of “Added Value” which is why companies hire recruiters. Companies don’t hire recruiters to “fill open job orders!” They hire us because they hope that we can bring to bear our professional consultative insights,  reach a larger network and attract better people than they can on their own. Otherwise, they would do it themselves. They want to mitigate hiring mistakes and increase net outcomes in the position. Our job is, of course, to increase the success of the companyin as much as the search we conduct has influence to do so. If the search is a VP of Sales, then the measure of success is equal to that of the person we place as VP of Sales. So, how is sales growth?  If it is VP of R&D, the measure of success is the company’s improved product development pipeline and intellectual property position.  How are they performing? and so on. If we only judge ourselves on the number of people we place and the ratio of Send Outs to Placements,etc.,  then we are completely out of touch with our VIP, our client.

If you present someone to a client, that is tantamount to “your professional endorsement” of them for the role you have been hired to fill. If it doesn’t work out, no matter the reason, you never should have presented them in the first place. You simply cannot divorce yourself from the process and explain it away as “someone else’s fault.”  The interview process is a time where you must continue to vet and look for additional issues to raise. (If you’ve ever wondered why HR people try so hard to uncover those “red flags,” its because they don’t think that you are doing a thorough enough job of it. HR is skeptical of recruiters because they feel like you are not adequately vetting the candidates that you present.)

As far as “Metrics” are concerned, if it helps you to manage recruiters’ metrics in order to make sure that they are doing all the right activities for success, great. But don’t lose sight of what is really important to your client. Stay aligned with your clients and you will have all the repeat business you can handle.

http://www.druedeangelis.wordpress.com

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.