Publisher’s Corner

My father worked for the same well-known company for 45 years before finally retiring as a VP of Sales. He had to quit school in the third grade to help contribute to the support a very large family but, despite the lack of a formal education, he was one of the smartest men I ever knew . . . and one heckuva salesman. Although he was approached by dozens of competitors during his career, he never even faintly thought about changing jobs.

I started in this business in the late `50’s. I was given a desk, a phone, some Yellow Pages and the application form of a janitor who, because he had completed a correspondence drawing course found on the back of a matchbook cover, wanted a job as a draftsman. My training consisted of convincing walk-in traffic to sign the contract obligating them to a hefty self-paid fee.

Because I didn’t know any better, I placed the “custodian/draftsman” within a week with a company needing a janitor. They promised to give him some part-time drafting if the need arose. He paid his fee (in long, drawn out installments) and retired from that same company as the V.P. of Engineering with a string of patents as long as your arm.

Neither of these people would have passed muster as an “A” player.

These stories came to mind when I ran into an old friend’s son who asked me to refer him to a ‘headhunter.’ I inquired about his background and learned that his entire 18-year work record consisted of eight jobs, none of which had exceeded three years in tenure . . . a couple were less than a year. When I questioned this wanderlust, he told me that his record was a rather common one amongst his peers and, while he was still employed, he felt it was time to move on.

This sounded a bit odd to me so I went to the Federal government for information. Part of what I found was:

Median employee tenure is higher among older workers than younger ones, as would be expected. For example, in January 2004, the median tenure of workers age 55 to 64 (9.6 years) was more than three times that of workers age 25 to 34 (2.9 years). Workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure (5.0 years) among the major occupational groups. Employees in service occupations had the lowest median tenure, 2.8 years. Workers in service occupations tend to be younger than persons employed in management, professional, and related occupations.

Jobs with noticeably high employee tenure include management occupations (6.0 years), architecture and engineering occupations (5.8 years), protective service occupations (5.5 years), education, training, and library occupations (5.1 years), and production occupations (5.0 years). Jobs with somewhat low employee tenure include food preparation and serving related occupations (1.8 years), personal care and service occupations (2.7 years), sales and related occupations (2.8 years), and healthcare support occupations (2.9 years).

It seems that we are becoming a nation of ‘itinerant fruit pickers’ where almost all jobs are impermanent. I don’t know what percentage of American jobs are temp, contract, outsourced, etc. and it wouldn’t change my mind if I did. When CEO’s are playing ‘musical chairs’ with increasing frequency and most other senior executive-level jobs are just transitory in nature, it’s no wonder that the rank and file has adopted a similar mindset. Especially since employers are no longer keeping ‘retirement watches’ in their inventory because so few of their employees are kept on board long enough to get them. Loyalty is a two-way street and that street is full of potholes these days.

Maybe that’s the way it was destined to be. Attorney Jeff Allen often opines that, “Life is a temporary assignment” and a songwriter wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

In our quest for political correctness and social equality, our schools have dumbed down to the point where high school diplomas don’t assure the recipients’ basic literacy, and colleges and universities are awarding sheepskins to people unable to string properly spelled words together into coherent sentences. With only this polluted pool from which to draw, employers have had little choice but to dumb down as well. Most companies are populated with chair warmers who are more interested in their benefits and making it to 5:00 p.m. than in creating a long-term career. “A players” are uncommon in a society that has been colonized with “B” and “C” players as the norm. If you don’t believe it, just take a romp through the inventory of the job boards. Not the best collection of ingredients to create internationally competitive corporate super-firms.

Supplying those exceptional and extraordinary human ingredients is what the recruiting profession is all about. But if you’re wondering why companies are taking forever to make decisions on your candidates and asking for unbelievably extended guarantees, it’s because they understand that they will probably only get to use that candidate’s talents for a few short years before they are offered greener grass elsewhere. Most HR folks are reluctant to pay a fee because they fear that their return on the fee investment won’t be realized. They fear that, perhaps, you have dressed up your “B” or “C” players in “A” player camouflage and they won’t recognize that fact until it’s too late. The alphabetizing of the hiring process (both candidates and target companies) is a subject for another column so in the meantime, I asked some of our readers: “Where do you find those ‘A’ players?” and here’s what a few of them said:

Dave Staats, Pinnacle member and big biller said that, “98% come from other good candidates. Maybe I am nuts, but in my market I don’t think candidates ever change. I think that when the economy heats up we all are tempted (and some do to various degrees) to deal with lesser candidates who do all the stuff that we blame on hot economies. I can tell you that approaching it this way saves me a lot of grief.”

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Mary Sue Short, owner of Placement Solutions put it succinctly, “By networking with stars.”

Kacie Morgan of Morgan-Collier International wrote, “We recruit all our candidates from their present work situations … so they are happily performing their jobs, being well appreciated & are usually well paid … therefore, we place A Players with our A Clients! We work in a small niche, so we draw from a limited area, but we try to go ‘outside the box’ as much as we possibly can to bring fresh ideas and fresh talent to our industry. That usually means moving into a related field where employees have the same types of degrees & product/process knowledge. All our candidates come through professional referrals or from the network that we’ve developed through the years … no ads … no job boards … no public domain candidates for our clients! Call us old fashioned, but it still works (at 30%)! Most candidates are quite content today, and need to be encouraged to identify unmet career needs/desires … and then shown how they can be met in another venue. It is a much larger challenge today! We make fewer placements than in former years (income is more, of course), but we keep the flow moving & rarely have a search assignment that we cannot fill.”

Dealing with the “A” player can be more problematic but the payoffs are better when your talent pool is Tiffany rather than Jolly Joe’s Discount Gem Store. Another reader wrote: “Candidates have multiple opportunities to consider (not always through us); counter-offers are a more serious problem. Candidate expectations are harder to manage. Candidates are looking for a larger portion of their first year compensation to be ‘guaranteed’ (i.e. in the form of sign-on or y/e minimum bonus guarantees). Stock options and restricted shares are more prevalent. Candidates are expecting more significant increases in compensation to justify considering the opportunity. Basically, as the pendulum shifted, so did the expectations.”

Well, the pendulum has indeed shifted and will continue to swing in our direction for many years to come. We will continue to cover these trends and techniques.

In both 1993 and 1998, we chronicled the EEOC employment testers who swooped down upon many placement and recruiting firms in an effort to prove discrimination. It was a painful time for many. These alleged transgressions are usually begun because some disgruntled job-seeker didn’t get a job they thought they should have. They form an action committee which attempts to entrap placement firms and when they think they have enough ‘evidence,’ they contact a willing bureaucrat within the Justice Department or the EEOC and sparks begin to fly. Well, it’s happening again and I just wanted to warn readers that you may be in the crosshairs.

Discrimination stinks and, thankfully, it’s rare these days . . . but it’s not completely gone . . . nor will it ever be extinct. Some members of the recruiting community along with officials of the EEOC conducted a webinar debate last month on the subject of employment bias and discrimination. We were one of the sponsors. I recommend you go to http://www.lawclerkatyourservice.com/websum.html for a report of the proceedings. The live video broadcast can be viewed until 6/4/06 at http://www.accolo.com/debate/ and the event sponsors are working on an audio file downloadable through IPod and MP3.

We have all used Google at some point. For most, it’s probably every day. But do we really use Google to its maximum effectiveness? Probably not! Now, our Internet Recruiting columnist and guru has published a new book titled POWER SEARCHING FOR FREE RESUMES ON GOOGLE – A Guide to Advanced Search Techniques and Methods. This book offers the reader several advanced methods utilized for locating qualified resumes of passive candidates on Google, the largest and most productive search engine. Over 40 pages of great information for the beginner to the advanced searcher. Includes sections on the difference between active and passive candidates, detailed explanations of Internet search terminology, inurl and intitle searches, community/isp/site searches, synonym searches, use of best practices, pages of little known Google extras, commercial search tools, and more. Available in both hardcopy and electronic pdf format, there is something for everyone in this book and I heartily recommend it. More information available on the web site: Swat Recruiting (www.swatrecruiting.com)

You don’t read much about sexual harassment suits in our industry because they’re usually settled behind the scenes but there have been lots of them. And the awards have been BIG. Jeff Allen addresses the problem this month.

Paul Hawkinson is the editor of The Fordyce Letter, a publication for third-party recruiters that's part of ERE Media. He entered the personnel consulting industry in the late 1950's and began publishing for the industry in the 1970's. During his tenure as a practitioner, he personally billed over $5 million in both contingency and retainer assignments. He formed the Kimberly Organization and purchased The Fordyce Letter in 1980.

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