Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...Contingency Search (Part 2)

Last week we identified four key factors a headhunter should consider before they take on a search assignment: The Client Relationship, The Company, The Job and The Search. Then we wrote about how important it is that the headhunter establishes a strong working relationship with The Client. This week it’s about The Company.

Alert the media…news flash: It’s easier to recruit for a good company than it is for a bad one or an ugly one. Which begs the question, what separates the Good from the Bad and the Ugly? From the recruiter’s perspective (which in this case tends to be much the same as the candidate’s perspective) it’s mostly about the company’s reputation, situation and location.

Let’s talk first about location. This is a big deal for candidates. If the job is located at the company headquarters it’s a major and immediate issue for candidates. If it’s an issue for prospective candidates, then it’s an issue for the recruiter. I’m not going to pick on specific cities; but in general, transportation, logistics and supply chain professionals resist relocation to California and major metro areas in the Northeast. (This does not mean that we can't fill the position. It just means that the pool of potential candidates will consist mostly of people currently living in or originally from these areas.) Smaller towns tend to be less attractive. Warm climates generally win out over cold climates. And there are certain cities and states that suffer from negative images, deserved or not. Even if the job is not located at corporate, the corporate location has an impact on the candidate. Candidates think about future opportunities and where they might end up living. Company location matters, regardless of where the actual job is located.

Then there is the company’s “Situation”. What do the numbers say? How is the company performing financially? What does the balance sheet look like? What is the condition of their assets? Technology? Service ? Safety? Turnover?...etc,etc. If the company is performing poorly, headhunters know that it’s going to be a tough search. It’s sort of that whole lipstick on a pig deal.

Last and most important, the company’s “Reputation”. Joan Jett may have sung, “I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation”, but if your company has a bad reputation, prospective candidates do give a damn. And you better start giving a damn. Frankly, I consider company reputation to be the most critical of “The Company” factors. The company’s situation is a big part of their reputation. I get that. But here I’m talking about how the company is perceived by the candidates I am being asked to recruit. Example, a company may have a great reputation overall, but if the have a history of churning through sales people; then they will likely have a bad reputation with sales candidates. Some companies just have a bad reputation period. They may generate superior business results and even be in a great location, but if they develop the reputation of being a place where “outsiders” (people who did not grow up in the company) tend to fail, then it becomes a really tough recruit.

So as a contingency fee recruiter, I have to determine if this is a company worth recruiting for. If they are in a bad location, performing poorly and their reputation sucks; what are my odds of success? It depends. Who is my client contact? Maybe the company has brought in new leadership. Things may change for the better. Who knows? But I would say this. If I don’t have a solid relationship with someone at the company, and the company is bad and ugly, and all indications are that it will continue to be bad and ugly; why would I waste my time on a search? There comes a point where even if I thought I could make the placement, it’s just not worth being associated with that company.

Next week, Part 3 of Contingency Search…Purple Squirrels and Unicorns.

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