Publisher’s Corner

Several decades ago, I managed an office for a major franchise. It was owned by an absentee franchisee who only came to the office to pester me once a week or so. I had anywhere from 8 to 10 desks at any one time and each had their own area of specialty. Some predated my arrival by several years and were well entrenched within their niches and most were better than average producers.

Every couple of weeks, the owner would show up with a ‘hot’ job order he got from one of his friends at the golf course, tennis court or bar at his country club. Most, of course, were what I’d call ‘throwaways’ but he was bound and determined to impress his cohorts by having us fill these third rate grunt jobs, most of which paid little more than stoop labor wages. He would proudly give them to me to distribute to the appropriate AE and, of course, they were expected to drop everything to work on these third rate jobs.

To escape his easily aroused wrath, they usually complied, sometimes wasting days before deciding these job orders were unfillable at the salaries offered by his clubhouse buddies. Then it was my job to tell him while his neck veins bulged in a bright crimson color.

These episodes came to mind when an owner wondered why two of his crack senior recruiters (new to his firm but very experienced professionals) were reluctant to take over search assignments he had generated (but didn’t want to recruit for) and which were non-exclusive ‘B’ or ‘C’ class openings even though he offered them a bigger cut of the fee if they succeeded. He wondered what kind of incentives he might offer so they would work these marginal job orders.

It was déjà vu for me. My answer (excerpted) follows:

“It appears to me that you are attempting to convince your newer recruiters to take a handoff of some of your openings by making the recruiter/house split more advantageous for them. What I fail to understand is why any seasoned recruiter with a portfolio of their own clients with “A” level positions to work would want to accept a handoff of a “B” or “C” level position on a second rate, non-exclusive basis, no matter what the split.

If they had extra time on their hands (not likely), as their manager, I would want them cultivating and recruiting for more “A” level business and not spinning their wheels working openings you don’t care to work – probably because you already know the improbability of them bearing fruit.

Some openings are only worth a file search and if a company has given those openings to multiple recruiters on a non-exclusive basis, the odds of successfully recruiting the right person aren’t even worth a 65/35 split since, if they are as good as you think they are, you shouldn’t try to tempt them away from the potential of great positions to substandard ones.

If you are personally generating these substandard searches and you really feel that you’re losing them because of inattention or apathy on the part of those you want to work them, you might try hiring some college kid as a part time researcher to do the grunt work the others don’t want to do, even for a better split. A bad job order is a bad job order. Upping the ante doesn’t make them any better when compared to those good ones that abound in today’s marketplace. I’d rather have my people spend their time looking for the good ones. Just my opinion.”

After I emailed my opinion, I received another note that said:

“From my point of view, my intent was to put money in my new recruiters’ pockets as quick as they can WHILE they are building their own client base. Some nonexclusive searches with good companies are fillable though, of course, our odds of a placement are reduced by the non-exclusivity. While I may have developed some apathy for working on such positions – an attitude gained from working 20 years in this business – I would never turn my recruiters loose on a goose chase. The ones I pass along have a realistic chance for a placement. My approach is flexible and again, in the spirit of facilitating placement success as quickly as possible while they learn the business and develop their clientele. Perhaps my approach is misguided, maybe not, but I am sure it will continue to evolve as I work with my current and future recruiters. I love the recruitment business and I truly believe its one of the best career opportunities available. However, as good as it is, I have seen too many individuals talk themselves out of recruitment success in their first year. I am simply trying to circumvent that by more quickly jump-starting their success (commission checks) by having them work in support of both A and B level searches.

If you have any other ideas or would like to challenge my thought process, please feel free. Again, I respect that you have better things to do. I acknowledge the time and energy you put in your response and thank you! Like I said, I’ll be subscribing to The Fordyce Letter for as long as my recruitment career lasts!”

I’d like to hear from our readers. Send your comments or opinions to me at TheFordyceLetter@aol.com. With or without attribution.

They’re at it again – Imagine the scenario. Your phone rings and the person on the other end of the line claims to be the International Director of HR with a major well-known foreign company that is supposedly opening up a plant in the U.S. and needs to establish relationships with various recruiters he found in a directory of executive search firms. You ask him questions about the company and its plans and are met with ambiguity and evasion. “It’s highly confidential at this point but your firm is being considered for some high-level search assignments and we need some information about you, your track record in the XXXX industry and a list of your client contacts along with phone numbers so we can check you out before asking you to submit a proposal. Because of the intense confidentiality factor, I’m asking you to immediately send this information to my personal Email account (areyouasdumbasithinkyouare@gotcha.com) so I’ll have the information to review when I meet with my CEO in France in a couple of days.”

Guess what! You (and probably several others) have just been scammed into revealing your client list to your newest competitor. Our business just doesn’t work that way but we’ve heard from several readers who have been approached this way . . . and a few actually Emailed their client list.

Ken Cole, publisher of The Executive Search Research Directory says freelance researchers are very busy these days – many with more business than they can handle. Ken is in the formative stages of writing a book and is looking for people who have sold to the big box stores – WalMart, etc. to interview for the book. If you know of anybody (candidate, friend, colleague or whatever) contact Ken through www.rsronline.com.

Please make a note of our new Email address (FordyceLtr@sbcglobal.net) The old one (FordyceLtr@aol.com) will still work but AOL is getting so kinky these days, we’ve decided to make the change.

You may remember my trenchus interruptus tribulation due to a July storm which knocked out power to over 600,000 homes and businesses in St. Louis for up to 6 days. Two interviews that had been arranged by me with one sales candidate were cancelled by everyone involved.

In late August, I received a call from the candidate telling me that he had been recontacted by one of the companies, had interviewed with the sales manager and felt sure he was about to receive an offer after meeting with the president. He was, however, disturbed that the sales manager didn’t want to pay a fee. My previous contact – and the person with whom I arranged for the previous interview – was the firm’s president. The fee obligation was made crystal clear by me and agreed to by the president before the intervention by the sales manager.

My follow-up call to the president can only be categorized as troubling. He agreed that I was the one who made him aware of the candidate – a perfect contender for the anticipated new product rollout – but then, due to the storm damage, everything fell apart for a while and when the president mentioned my candidate to the sales manager, the SM claimed to have already known about him and agreed with the president that no fee should be due.

I called the other company I had previously lined up and learned that they were still quite interested in my candidate so I arranged another interview time. I also spoke with the candidate in general terms and asked him to Email me a confirmation of my involvement with both companies He did so.

I then called the president of the first company again and told him I was taking my candidate out of contention. He said, “You can’t do that!” I replied, “I just did! Although I didn’t tell him about the underhanded way you tried to avoid paying a fee after agreeing to do so, I wouldn’t feel comfortable about him having anything to do with the type of firm you have turned out to be. If, by some outside chance, you do end up hiring him, you should know that I have documentation from him affirming that I was involved and a fee will be due.”

As luck would have it, the second company had just lost their Kansas City-based sales manager – a significantly better job than we had discussed before the storm. Another bit of serendipity was that my candidate’s twin brother lived in Kansas City and if he had to move, that’s where he preferred to go.

An offer was made and accepted. Although the start date is not until October (after we went to press with this issue), I have been advised that there will no problem with the fee. I’ll keep you posted.

Article Continues Below

Requests for the European model of Selection Services are on the rise with many of our readers’ US clients. If you offer such services, I’d like to have the details and costs of these service models. Contact me at TheFordyceLetter@aol.com. Thanks.

“HAVE WE GOT A DEAL FOR YOU”

As though we were just pulling parts out of a bin, more recruiters are being asked to complete voluminous Request for Information documents before becoming considered for inclusion on a “preferred provider” list which normally means you’ll be subjected to a ridiculous one-sided employer-generated agreement to cut your fees, give lifetime guarantees, wait 90 days for your money, agree to never recruit from them, etc.

We recently waded through several of these multi-page “drop your knickers” questionnaires which, if you pass muster, gets you invited to the party but doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be asked to dance. Some are fairly simple, but others can be excruciatingly detailed, asking for sensitive and proprietary information no self-respecting recruiter would provide.

As search continues to become commoditized as just one of several alternative talent sources when companies decide to streamline, optimize and cut costs, many turn to their purchasing or materials management departments for guidance in picking “vendors” as though search expenditures somehow compare with the buying of basic commodities usually purchased through those departments. One firm said they were trying to put a hard structure around a soft process.

Some of the less invasive questions are for information such as:

• Placements made during the last year (title & company)
• Record of assignments (by specialty/industry/discipline/function areas)
• Research capabilities (internal and outsourced)
• Time commitments to fill job
• How many current searches (and for whom)
• Off limits companies
• Fee structure
• Expense reimbursement process
• Search methodology
• Guarantees

While some of these may be reasonable questions to ask, some are out of bounds. What should you do when asked?

Most are answering as ambiguously as possible citing confidentiality concerns. Others are attaching the information to “For Your Eyes Only” clauses such as the following:

(Prospective client) will preserve and regard as confidential all trade secrets pertaining to (recruiter’s) business that have been and may be obtained in furtherance of the proposal herein. Said trade secrets include, but are not limited to all:

a. Names, addresses, telephone numbers and specific contacts at past or present business references.
b. Information concerning pending or completed search assignments, activities performed, procedures used, and fee arrangements.
c. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of past or present candidates.
d. Business records, forms, and resumes of candidates.

In the event it becomes necessary to enjoin the unauthorized disclosure or use of the foregoing trade secrets information or obtain damages for its unauthorized disclosure or use, (recruiter) shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees, litigation costs, and any other necessary and proper reimbursement in addition to whatever other relief may be awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Even with these protections, there is no assurance that this information won’t become the groundwork-eliminating foundation for an in-house recruiter’s emigration into their own or another firm to compete against you. We warned against a similar scam (above) where a caller (supposedly an HR type for a foreign-based company) asked for a list of client references to check in anticipation of appointing “preferred” recruiters for a new stateside operation’s openings.

In response to one company’s intrusive Request for Information, a reader sent his own version of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” with questions such as:

• How many recruiters will be on your preferred list?
• Who decides?
• What percentage of professional hires come through recruiters?
• What is the average fee paid to recruiters during the past year?
• How many openings were filled through recruiters during the last year?
• How many openings were filled through other sources during the last year? Details.
• How many disputes did you have with recruiters during the last year?
• What is your policy regarding candidate source recognition?
• Do you grant direct access to hiring mangers?
• What is your professional employee retention rate?
• What is your average time-to-fill?

There were several other questions asked and, to date, none have been returned but, as the reader told us, “Who wants to do business like this anyway?”

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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