Monday, February 11, 2013

The Changing World of Headhunting (Part III)…How it is impacting the Employer-Recruiter Relationship.

Dialogue from the movie "Dumb and Dumber"

Lloyd: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me... ending up together?
Mary: Well, Lloyd, that's difficult to say. I mean, we don't really...
Lloyd: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
Mary: I'd say more like one out of a million.
Lloyd: So you're telling me there's a chance...YEAH !

Over the past few weeks I have written about how much the job search process has changed. It is now much easier for candidates to find jobs and it is much easier for employers to find candidates. This very fundamental component of recruiting…the finding or sourcing of candidates is no longer all that difficult. As a result, the Employer-Recruiter Relationship is changing.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that we are talking about contingency fee based recruiting. In other words the headhunter only gets paid if he places one of his or her candidates with the employer. For a contingency search firm the most attractive search assignments are those which are confidential, the employer is not trying to fill it themselves and no other search firms are working on it. The reality is that for many years, search firms would accept searches that were not confidential or the company was trying to fill it on their own or there were other search firms working on it. We always asked qualifying questions and if the position had been too widely publicized and/or multiple firms had been working it for some time, then it probably wasn’t worth the effort. Most search firms took that approach and most companies understood that’s how it worked. If the employer had just run an ad or two for a couple of weeks and perhaps did some “networking” within the industry, search firms were more confident that they did have a reasonable shot at filling the position and would take it.

Today it’s different. When we ask the question: “What have you done to fill that position?” and they reply “Well, not much. We have not advertised it. It is on our website and we have only done a little networking,”… what does that really mean? Often times it means that their website posting is drawing hundreds of responses. Their “networking” may have included a message on LinkedIn or Facebook to a few thousand of their closest friends regarding their need to fill this position. Therefore, the additional questions headhunters must ask today include: “How many responses have you had thus far?” “How many candidates are you considering?” “How many have you interviewed?” “Have you extended offers to anyone?” And depending on the answers to those questions one then has to ask, “Why haven’t you been able to fill the position?” “What’s the problem?”

The reality is that increasingly, employers are just “kicking tires” when they decide to use a contingency search firm. It is a no-cost, low-risk option that simply adds to the thoroughness of their recruiting process. When their boss ask the question, “Are you sure that we have found the best person for the job?” they can respond with a long list of activities and resources which have been utilized in the process. Clearly, employers still have a very good reason for using contingency search firms… as long as they don’t have to pay them.

The other reality is that in many industries there is a shortage of talent. This is certainly the case in our specialty, Transportation & Logistics. Along with this talent shortage, there is a considerable gap between what employers expect to pay for talent and what that talent expects to be paid. If relocation is involved, the pool of qualified, “affordable” talent dries up very quickly. As a result, many employers are putting forth a lot of effort trying to fill positions and may even use multiple search firms. Over the past year, we have had more calls than ever from employers who are unable to fill positions, even after multiple job board postings, direct recruiting on their own or using other search firms.

Do we take on the search and if so, how much effort do we make on it? If we don’t take the search or take it and make a poor showing, what message does that send to the company? Especially given the number of eager beaver headhunters who are willing to waste their time working on dead-end searches just to get their foot in the door. The answer is that if the position is in the core of our practice and it is likely that we have candidates or can quickly find candidates who are a match, we’ll give it a shot. Worst case, we strengthen our relationship with the company. Better yet, we find a candidate or two who will fit future searches. Best case, and frankly a long-shot, is that we actually fill the position. YEAH !

So what does the Employer-Headhunter Relationship look like going forward? Well, obviously it depends on the employer and the headhunter. And I think circumstances and the history of the relationship will define the future relationship. Next week, we’ll wrap up the Changing World of Headhunting series by looking at the different types of Employer-Headhunter Relationships we see in today’s market.

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