Saturday, November 20, 2010

How 'Bout Them Cowboys...Contingency Search (Part 4)

OK, I closed last week’s blog entry with a “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” teaser. I had no idea they would show up Sunday afternoon and beat the Giants. Now I’m confused and will postpone further discussion of the Cowboys until next week.

Over the past three weeks you’ve read about my process for evaluating contingency search assignments. First, I consider my relationship with the Client. Second, what is the Company’s reputation? Third, is it a good Job? Now we are down to the Search itself.

I think there are 8 key factors which impact the actual search process:

1) confidentiality
2) competition
3) need
4) urgency
5) other options
6) interview process
7) hiring decision
8) the fee

Let’s briefly discuss each of these factors and why they are important.

Confidentiality. I like confidential searches. Usually there is less competition (other search firms, advertising, networking, etc). It can be a little tougher to recruit certain candidates who insist on knowing “the company”, but overall confidentiality is a plus.

Competition. The more competition on the search, the less likely I am to be successful. When a client tells me that they are using multiple search firms, running ads, have the job posted on multiple websites and social networks, etc etc.; I am not inclined to put much effort into the search. If the search has been underway for some time and now they are asking me to join in, I have to question why they have been unable to fill the job. Too much competition or a search that has gone on too long are major red flags.

Need. We get a lot of “tire kickers” in the contingency search business. Clients know that it doesn’t cost them anything to have me search. If the client is not truly motivated to fill the position, then my odds of success go way down.

Urgency. Sometimes we have clients who sincerely have a need, but always move slowly. In this business we say “time kills deals”. I’ve had searches that drag on for months even after the client has interviewed and targeted two or three candidates for the shortlist of finalists. I have even made placements on such slow-moving searches. But generally speaking, the longer things drag on, the less likely we are to have a successful outcome.

Other Options. This is really just another form of competition and it bites recruiters more often than most would like to admit. The most common “other option” is an internal promotion or transfer. I always ask something like: “Have you considered internal candidates?” or “Is there no one within you organization who can step into this role?”
This is a critical issue. Some companies use the search firm just to “see what else is out there” or to validate their decision to promote internally. If a company is seriously considering an internal candidate, be careful about investing too much time in the search.

Interview Process. Just knowing the interview process is a big plus. I can prepare the candidate for almost anything if I know what’s coming. Some recruiters don’t like companies who make candidates go through multiple interviews with different people throughout the company. My experience is that a lot of great organizations do this, so I’m all for it IF it’s done properly AND IF I know it’s coming. A lot of not so great organizations just sort of “wing it” through the interview process. Not good.

Hiring Decision. Closely related to the interview process, I need to know how the hiring decision will be made. The more people involved, the tougher it gets to make the placement. For example, I’ve had candidates left “standing at the alter” because the primary hiring authority finds out at the last minute that his boss or some other senior executive has a bias against people from the candidate’s current or former employer. Always beware of too many decision makers and/or the hidden decision maker.

The Fee. Size matters. Would I rather have a 40% chance of earning a $50,000 fee or an 80% chance of earning a $20,000 fee? You do the math.

So we have the model for evaluating contingency search assignments:
The Client
The Company
The Job
The Search.

Next week I’ll apply this model to an actual search assignment. What if you got a call from Jerry Jones and he asked you to find the next Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys?

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