Saturday, August 4, 2012

Thanks For Wasting My Time (Part 4)

Some weeks back I started this series on the most significant “time wasters” we face in the headhunting business:

_The Client does not really know what they want.
_The Client is not willing to pay for what they want.
_The Client has too many people involved in the process.

This week, I’ll wrap things up with a few comments about the “too many people involved” time waster. This has actually become the Number 1 Time Waster because it usually comes into play late in the process. Most of the time we can tell when a client doesn’t know what they want or knows what they want but aren’t willing to pay for it BEFORE we get in too deep. But when it comes to getting “too many people involved” in the interviewing and hiring process; this deal-killing, time-waster usually doesn’t show up until the final interview. If you’ve ever been in sales, you also know this as the “hidden decision maker(s)”.

Anytime we take a search assignment we always ask who will be involved in the interview process and who will make the hiring decision. Most of the time what we are told is not the way things ultimately play out. The reality is that when it comes time for the “final round of interviews”, many organizations grab whoever is available to interview the candidate. So we not only end up with too many people, we often end up with the wrong people. Three things can happen and two of them are bad. The good outcome is that the interviewers all like the candidate and the candidate is still interested in the job after running the interview gauntlet. The two bad outcomes are that one or more of the interviewers doesn’t like the candidate; or that the candidate gets turned off on the opportunity after interviewing with people who weren’t really “invested” in filling the position or may even be downright opposed to seeing the position filled by an “outsider”.

Another factor here is that increasingly we see companies essentially “hire by committee”. I agree that candidates need to be interviewed by multiple people. It’s good for the candidate as well as for the company. But they need to be the “right people” and they need to ask the “right questions”. And when the interviews are completed, all of those involved need to get together at the same time and make their case for or against hiring the candidate. (Some people will disagree with this approach and prefer to have the hiring authority or HR gather the interviewers' feedback one by one. In my opinion, if the interviewers cannot collectively discuss the interview results, then you've got the wrong people involved in the process.) And if the decision is not to hire, the search firm must be told the reasons for that decision. (Of course, whether or not those reasons are shared with the candidate is a matter of judgment and discretion, not to mention legal liability.)

Unfortunately, many companies do not have a good interview process. And it doesn’t improve if you just keep adding more people to the process. It gets progressively worse. As a result, too often the interviewer with the loudest voice (position and/or influence with the willingness to use them) ends up making the decision, not the hiring authority or even the hiring authority and their team. And in the current business environment where people get more blame for doing something that doesn’t work than for doing nothing that doesn’t work, it is much safer to not hire if there is even one dissenting opinion. So the more people involved in the process, the more likely that someone, for whatever reason is likely to say no, or maybe just “yea but”, and kill the deal.

As a headhunter all you can do is ask the questions up front, see what happens and learn from experience. It would be great if all searches were done on a retainer or we simply got paid by the hour. Then the time wasters might be less inclined to waste our time since they would also be wasting their money. But as long as there are enough idiots like me out there who are willing to work on contingency, I am afraid that the time wasters will keep doing business as usual.

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