Publisher’s Corner

When should you consider terminating a new consultant? That’s what a number of readers have asked lately, especially since they started re-staffing their offices a few months ago.

It depends upon a number of factors. In an office specializing in local clerical and/or administrative support placements, the time should be significantly shorter than in an office specializing in higher-level positions where relocation is often an issue. Depending upon your training methodology, the first week is almost always a loss. But from then on it should depend upon what they’re doing and how well they’re doing it.

It’s up to the manager to ‘live’ with new hires until they grasp the process and start generating some revenue-producing activity. During my manager days, I monitored everything they did, from the time they came in the door until they left for the night. Many never came back. Their phone was tape recorded with a voice activation tape recorder. Their plan for the next day had to be turned in before they left the office. We met for a few minutes every other hour or so to discuss any problems they encountered and brainstormed possible solutions. I was their worst nightmare.

I usually listened to their daily tapes on the way home every night and on the way back to the office the next day. Sometimes I made the termination decision during drive time. Some people just didn’t ‘have’ it so the decision was made early on.

Since this is a formula business and a numbers game, my criteria was how many things they had done that could potentially turn into a finalized placement. That is, after all, what the business is all about.

When I took over the management of an office from an owner who preferred the golf course to the daily grind, the agreement was that I was to work a desk for one month or until I made a billable placement. Only then would he leave and let me take over the management of the office. I didn’t much like him and I disliked the bullpen even more. I made a placement in 2 weeks signed, sealed and delivered. He left me (almost) alone for 2 years until he decided that his unemployed son would be a good replacement for me. The office closed within a year.

I had a sense of urgency and if I didn’t see that self-induced pressure in my new hires, I got rid of them. This is a business wholly dependent upon results. If, in your opinion, they are not striving to be the office bell cow from day one, they should be cut loose. In the final analysis, I was at fault because I had made a mistake in hiring them. I made dozens of hiring mistakes in my career but I tried to admit it as early as I could. Well-known speaker Brian Tracy sent me an article on ‘mistakes’ we all make and it struck a nerve. It is published elsewhere in this issue. Hope you enjoy it and profit from it.

Last month, we chronicled a case where a placed candidate was recalled into active service by his Reserve unit just two weeks after starting the new job. The placing recruiter wondered about his obligation to return the fee, replace the candidate or what. Attorney Bob ( enlightened us with the following: “Employment at will state or not, your recalled reservist cannot lose his job. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act guarantees that an employee who leaves his job to undertake military service (voluntarily or otherwise) is entitled to his job back after completion of active duty.

I suppose I could argue to a court that a guarantee doesn’t apply here, because the employment didn’t ‘terminate,’ but I’d rather not, and this is a situation that begs the recruiter to work something out with its client.”

Mike Selman of Selman Associates, Inc. wrote: Had a similar situation during the first Gulf War way back in 1990. My candidate was an Air Force reserve pilot who flew the huge C5 cargo planes.He got his orders as he and his wife were following the moving van from DC to Kansas. He got special dispensation to report late, the Air Force gave him enough time to find his uniforms when the movers unpacked and get to Delaware. Not only did his employer hold his job open for a year, but paid him the difference between his salary with the company and his military pay for the entire time he was on active duty. Not to editorialize, but that’s the way it should be. Oh, and I got paid my entire fee…on time.

“IF ONLY.” What’s the real job description? For those of you who have ever worked in an HR setting for a fairly large company, you are aware of the fact that almost every job in the firm has its own job description . . . a template of required education, skills, experience levels, etc. That way, when a Line Manager calls HR for a replacement, the job description for that particular mid-level job is already written.

We’ve all received these boilerplate-type job orders and, far too often, have had perfect candidates rejected. Sometimes by meat grinder HR assessors, but sometimes by the line managers as well.

Untold hours can be wasted matching candidates to the job description only to find out that the ‘perfect’ candidate in the eyes of the hiring manager may be quite different from the previous chairwarmer’s job.

When good old Ernie leaves his job, it’s often a great time to tinker with requirements of the job they vacated. The “If only” state of mind comes into play. If only Ernie had been better with customers. If only Ernie had been able to think a bit out of the box. If only Ernie’s vision had extended beyond the other end of his desk. If only Ernie had been more knowledgeable about (you name it).

These are usually unspoken desires. They aren’t quantifiable in a written job description and they will vary with each managerial wishful thinker. Since they are often intangibles, they usually aren’t communicated to the HR folks because, in fact, they may even be somewhat discriminatory in nature.

Can a short manager tell HR not to send anyone taller? Can a bald manager really hold a subliminal grudge again a well-coiffed candidate? Can a thin manager reject a well-qualifed chubby?

Since HR can only act as a funnel and since most of them don’t really get the nitty-gritty beyond the words on the requisition, it becomes almost mandatory to have a conversation about the real types that will likely be hired.

Are they seeking a loner or a team player? Are they looking for an ‘up-and-comer’ or someone who has reached the top of their career path? Do they need a strong personality or a follower?

Of course, you can always waste everyone’s time by sending in a ‘stalking horse’ candidate from which to fine-tune the actual wish list. But we all know that changing horses in mid-stream is a bad deal.

Terry Petra’s column this month puts this topic in perspective by differentiating between ‘candidate submitters’ and ‘finalist presenters.’

A reader called to ask what the liabilities were when a potential client asked him to do a team ‘lift out’ from a competitor. The target group was a boss and his four subordinates. There was no question about their willingness to all leave their current employer. The client’s CEO had already discussed the matter with the head of the target team and he had already talked to the subordinates about a mass move. The client just wanted a buffer to interrupt the direct chain between them and the raided company. They have offered a one-time flat fee for this effort since, in their minds, it’s a done deal. What did I think about this?

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The potential client just handed this reader a barrel with five fish and a loaded rifle. “Lift-outs” are otherwise known as corporate raids and can be hazardous to your legal health, especially for retained practitioners.

Jeff Allen explained why when he wrote:

The search business isn’t passive anymore. The people you want are employed. Maybe not “happy” (whatever that means) but at least satisfied enough to heat their seat.

There’s only one practical way to find them: Calling them on the job. Then interesting them in looking for another one.

It’s usually legal too. Unless you’re: A. Paid in advance to B. Call into a specific employer, and C. Raid an entire department or discipline.

That’s what the civil law calls a conspiracy. Even then, the employer needs to connect the calls with some other civil wrong like invasion of privacy, unfair competition, inducing breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, interference with prospective economic advantage or fraud.

If it can connect them you could be liable for compensatory (actual) damages by loss of the employees. Then unlimited punitive (to punish) and exemplary (to make an example) damages can be awarded in the discretion of the judge or jury.

This is one time when it pays you not to have a retainer. Even so, victim companies can make life miserable and it’s better not to participate in direct “lift-outs.” Better to just go after the lead dog of the team and let them do the dirty work after they leave and join their new company. Getting compensated for this type deal requires a wink and a nudge that can backfire against you later.

I’m pretty sure nobody checked into whether the team leader had signed an employment contract with his current employer containing a ‘bad boy’ clause. We haven’t seen many of these since the early 90’s when, after the last recession, companies were afraid of losing key employees to the expanding job market, much like is happening today.

These are usually small-print clauses in the severance section of their employment agreements precluding them from soliciting or recruiting subordinates to their new employer. These can include the loss of special pension provisions, deferred bonus evaporation, lost stock options and other perks which are vested unless the expatriate toes the mark and refrains from poaching.

Is ‘meat sheet’ marketing making a comeback? You know the method where a practitioner with 20 or so credible candidates with similar backgrounds in a specific niche prepares a small brochure presenting the mini-resumes of their inventory to mail to companies who normally use this type of individual.

While many purists look upon this practice as demeaning, it seems to work for some. One reader, specializing in the technical placement of beverage industry candidates, made up an 8-page catalog of beverage production professionals with from 3-8 years’ experience (coded, without names) and mailed it to the head of manufacturing/processing at over 500 companies involved in beverage production.

So far, it has produced interview requests from 38 firms and resulted in two placements with several others giving him assignments for people other than those encapsulated in his brochure. He plans to continue this practice and, although he requested anonymity, he has agreed to send us the format that we will show you in a subsequent issue. He said, “I used to use Email almost exclusively, but only about half of the legitimate Emails even get through anymore. While the postage stamp is more expensive, I have found that a well-produced and targeted piece of mail has a far longer shelf life than an Email which can disappear with the flick of a mouse.”

While this may seem to be step back for some, Email marketing results have plummeted in recent months. Worth a try? Up to you. Just reporting results.

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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