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?


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!

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 Importance of Picking a “Great” Client

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

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

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

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

Don’t you Dare “Interview My Candidates!”

It’s one thing to convince a new client to abandon the old way of engaging a recruiting firm and embrace the best way to conduct a search by retaining us, and it is still yet another thing to get them to dispense with the old mindset of “interviewing” the potential candidates that we bring them.

Their default is to have the standard “behavior based” interview questions and ease into increasingly complex follow up questions to really vet them and see how they respond under the pressure of the moment. The problem is that if they conduct that type of interview, they will turn the person off. I often tell my clients, please don’t interview this prospect. Your job in the first call is to sell the dream. Tell them why you joined the company and what still charges you up about being part of the company. Talk to them about your vision of where you plan to take the company. Your primary goal is to get this person excited about the opportunity. Most recruiters don’t know what it’s like to be recruited, so they miss a major factor in the recruitment process when dealing with what I call a “prospect.” this is someone who you’ve networked to find plugging away in their job and they are very happy where they are. Most recruiters, once they hear this, turn the call into a call for referrals. But a good recruiter will engage their curiosity to the point that they are “open to an exploratory conversation with your client. I have found these to be some of the most incredible people to place. They don’t have a resume on the Internet, nor have they even updated it in years. It will take a phenomenal opportunity to attract this prospect and engage them as a candidate.

If you are lucky enough to bring this person to the table for an “interview,” your client BETTER NOT INTERVIEW YOUR CANDIDATE, or they will be turned off and the door will close.

So it is not merely enough to convince your client that working on retainer is better for them than contingency. You have to prepare them for this on advance.