Saturday, May 26, 2012

____ or Get Off The Pot

“You don't make spending decisions, investment decisions, hiring decisions, or whether-you're-going-to-look-for-a-job decisions when you don't know what's going to happen.”
Michael Bloomberg

The good news is that we are working a lot of searches these days. The bad news is that a lot of these searches seem to go on forever. I’ve been in the headhunting business for over 10 years and spent 25 years in the transportation industry. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen it take longer for people to make a decision when it comes to extending or accepting a job offer. It’s crazy.

I met with the owner of a company a few weeks ago. Most of his management team was in the meeting. The owner was excited about filling this key position and was raring to go. He asked me how quickly we could move on it. I told him that we would have a least two highly qualified candidates within a week. Based on the job specs, I knew that I had at least three or four candidates (probably more) who were ready to make a move and would be interested in this opportunity.

I also looked the owner in the eye and then glanced around at his management team and said, “As long as you folks respond to our candidate submissions, interview them or tell me why you won’t, we can complete this search in a matter of weeks, not months. But what we’re seeing is that most organizations are taking 2 or 3 weeks just to schedule the first phone interviews and if there are multiple candidates involved, we burn 4 to 6 weeks just getting to the point where there is an in-person interview.”

Well, you can guess the rest of the story…although we submitted two dead-on point candidates within 48 hours; we will be three weeks along before the first telephone interviews occur. The owner has handed the process off to a couple of his key people and I’m sure that he will call me in a week or two wanting to know what’s going on, why haven’t we found someone yet. This call will be after his people have thrown me under the bus. I’ll end up sending the owner date-stamped copies of our candidate submissions, his people will get pissed at me and then go about picking the candidates apart in such away that the owner will ultimately conclude that they need to find another search firm. (We know that’s how it works, because sometimes we are “the other search firm”. Anytime a company comes to us bitching about another firm and we know that firm to be competent and capable, big red flags go up. The problem is nearly always the client, not the search firm.)

And we are seeing almost as many delays and stop-starts on the candidate side. It’s not unusual to submit candidates who say they are motivated to make a job change, only to have them bail out before the first interview. And certainly, we are seeing candidates turn down offers or even worse accept offers then later change their minds.

While I agree with Mayor Bloomberg, quoted above, that uncertainty has a lot to do with the struggle to make decisions, I think there are other more fundamental issues here. Some are specific to the transportation and logistics market while others are in play regardless of the industry segment. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about the delays and difficulties we are seeing with clients and candidates, how they impact the search process and ultimately what it means to their relationship with the search firm.

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