Friday, November 12, 2010

Purple Squirrels and Unicorns....Contingency Search (Part 3)

So assuming we have a functional Client Relationship and the Company is not too Bad or too Ugly, our next consideration is THE JOB itself.

When looking at the job I start with two major questions:
I. What is the comparative value of this position relative to similar positions in this industry?
II. Are the candidate qualifications and requirements reasonable?

I continue to be amazed by hiring authorities who attempt to get "A" level talent with "C" level compensation/benefits. I think there are several reasons why companies go this route. Probably the most legitimate reason for this approach is “salary compression”. This condition exists when the internal compensation level (what the company pays their current employees) is less than the external compensation level (what the company will have to pay to attract top talent from outside). This can occur for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the company has a long pattern of hiring less qualified and/or less talented people at lower compensation levels. When the day comes and they decide to “upgrade”, they are faced with the dilemma of needing to pay more to get what they need than they are currently paying for what they have. We also see salary compression in companies that grow their own talent and have a high level of employee retention. People may stay because they like the company or there are not many other employment options in the area or the company has great benefits and other extras. But it can still make it very tough to hire people from outside who are unwilling to make a lateral move or take less money just to work for this company.

There are other less legitimate reasons for companies to try hiring “on the cheap”. One is that they are just cheap. They think if they open enough channels (search firms, job boards, employee referrals, social networks, etc) they will find a highly qualified and talented person who’s willing to take their below market compensation package. And, occasionally it works out that way. But as a recruiter, you don’t want to be spending your time chasing that rabbit.

Another factor in the “comparative value” equation is career advancement opportunity. A position that offers significant career advancement opportunity is a major plus for a recruiter. Especially when going after top-level talent. So don’t focus entirely on the compensation/benefit package.

Now to Question Number 2: Are candidate qualifications and requirements reasonable?
(Or am I looking for Purple Squirrels and Unicorns.) I turndown as many searches over this issue as I do over “comparative value” concerns. Sometimes the hiring authority has a list of “must haves” that makes the search virtually impossible. The recruiter’s only option is to try and talk the hiring authority down off the ledge. (This get’s back to The Client Relationship. Will they listen to me?). But if the hiring authority is dead set on finding someone who meets all the specs, the recruiter has to decide if it’s worth the effort. And I would tell you that sometimes it is worth the effort. If it's a high-level position with a good company, I will seriously consider it. Some of my best candidates (and clients) have come from recruiting projects where, in the beginning, I was essentially looking for that Purple Squirrel or Unicorn. But, if in the process of looking for that which does not exist, I can develop relationships with highly-qualified, talented people; it’s not a bad investment. And sometimes, I can eventually persuade the hiring authority to consider an exceptional candidate who may not be a 100% match.

The real message here is that the recruiter must honestly evaluate THE JOB before taking on THE SEARCH. You owe it to yourself and to your client. The client may be locked into a situation where they simply cannot offer a highly competitive compensation package. What is the best they can get for what they can afford? The client may have totally unrealistic expectations regarding candidate qualifications. What is reasonable? What should they expect? Recruiters who know their industry can answer these questions. Recruiters who work for clients who will not listen better have some other source of income.

Next week, Part 4 of Contingency Search….”How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?”

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