Publisher’s Corner

July is my usual time to jump in the trenches and I know many of you look forward to my trials, tribulation, successes, and failures.

Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, I will have to postpone this activity for a month or two so, stay tuned.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a boss during my rookie years was to “match the warts.” A well-promoted fact promulgated by and about our industry is that we earn our money because we “quest for the best.” But “the best” means different things to different folks. We would be better off telling clients that we’ll find “the best” person for the situation at hand.

Not every firm is an IBM, Microsoft or a P & G, nor do they require (or hire) IBM, Microsft or P & G “types.” Firms with warts hire candidates with matching warts.

This notion was reinforced when a practitioner told us that her lengthy search effort was drawn out even further because her client was a certifiable dummy … albeit, a dummy with money. She presented the cream of the crop for months until she finally figured out that the client wasn’t about to hire anyone who was smarter than he was … and he wasn’t very smart. So she re-romped through her rejects and found the hirable dullard her client was really paying her to find.

Her story reminded us of “Smith’s Management Corollary #5 – Ineptitude Seeks Ineptitude” from one of our favorite books, Donald G. Smith’s And They Also Kick You When You’re Down:

“The most predictable action of any inept manager is that he will not go for the best of the available talent pool, but will surround himself with the least capable, most mentally deficient associates that he can possibly find. His handpicked staff will always be a basket case of human intellect and talent.

From a logical standpoint, we would guess that the manager who is in over his head would build the most capable staff possible and let them carry the weight for him. Oddly, it never works this way. Even when the managerial misfit has the good fortune to inherit a capable staff, he will begin weeding out immediately and never rest until he has assembled the coterie of incompetents that he feels comfortable with.”

When discussing this syndrome with another one of our readers, he said, “First, you are right on target about some consultants’ tendencies to overqualify and overscreen for fear of sending less than a superstar to a company who probably doesn’t deserve one and who wouldn’t recognize one anyway.

Secondly, it brings to mind a call I received from an Executive V.P. of a mid-sized (700 employee) firm to have lunch. Thinking he was going to put the touch on me for a new job for himself, I was surprised to learn that he was one of the top three stockholders and had no intention of leaving. His problem, simply put, was that they were unable to attract decent talent and, if they did succeed in hiring an above-average employee, they lost them quickly.

Although the firm paid fees, almost no recruiter would work with them. The whole company was one big wart and considered by one and all to have a horrible reputation and be a lousy place to work.

Having nothing to lose, I told the E.V.P. exactly what everyone else was saying about them. The management was autocratic, the work rules were militaristic, the salaries were sub-par and the attitudes of all but a few of the inner-circle were dreadful.

When asked how this might be corrected, I suggested bringing in a task force of management consultants (through my firm, of course) to assess the problems and propose solutions. I required that the meeting be with the Board of Directors (4 insiders, 5 outsiders).

Without going into details, we made our study and walked away with a $300,000 pure consulting contract. Things are now on the mend with the firm and the wart-removal cosmetic surgery we suggested and implemented is bringing an about-face in attitudes and productivity.

A serendipitous occurrence we plan to build upon in our future plans for growth. In this business, you never know where your next buck might come from.”

In researching our cover story on turndowns and falloffs, we ran across a reader who though he placed a candidate with a major company. He had already signed off on the offer letter and signed the company’s Relocation Agreement which read: Whereas, [Company] and the employee mutually agree to all the relocation terms and desire that the employee’s place of employment be relocated from ______ to _____. In consideration of [Company] agreeing to make certain payments in connection with my relocation expenses, I promise to pay [Company], on demand, an amount equal to the actual relocation expenses paid for and/or reimbursed to me by [Company], if I should voluntarily terminate my employment with [Company] within 365 days from the date of my physical relocation to the new place of work. I understand and agree that my consent to and execution of this Relocation Expense Agreement shall not be construed as in any way obligating [Company] to continue my employment for 365 days or any other period of time whatsoever. I further understand that the amount of actual relocation expenses paid for and/or reimbursed to me by [Company] will be provided to me after such actual relocation expenses are incurred and are known.

Almost a bankable fee, right? Wrong! Here’s the letter from the company’s hiring honcho to our subscriber.

As you are aware, I was extremely disappointed to learn that [candidate] had accepted a position elsewhere, apparently rescinding an earlier signed acceptance with our company.

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His signed acceptance was dated April 25 and subsequent to his acceptance, we held several conversations relative to short term housing, transportation for his family, etc. A start date of May 9 was agreed upon and I subsequently closed this position relative to recruitment efforts.

As both you and [candidate] were aware, this position represented a critical hire for [company].

The net result to [company], due to this unanticipated turn of events, is a loss of a minimum of 4-6 weeks. With respect to this situation, I am respectfully requesting consideration from your agency for the minimum amount of monetary expense related to [candidate’s] airfare – $1,336.

I’m sure you will agree there is no way we can be compensated for loss of productivity associated by [candidate’s] move. In light of the above facts, I believe this is a reasonable request.

A couple of our HR contacts have mentioned that they’ve given some thought to instituting a policy requiring a full or partial payback from recruiters for candidate interviewing expenses when the deal goes sour through no fault of the employer.

Although the recruiter in this case won’t be paying anything to the hiring firm, it’s doubtful they’ll remain on good terms with the employer.

This employer plans to go after the recanting candidate for the expenses sought from the recruiter and, although they probably won’t be able to collect, it would serve him right for torpedoing an agreed upon deal. But to ask our industry to indemnify employers against pre-hire expenses is absurd. A ?Hoo boy! to be sure.

We field dozens of calls a day ranging form “What’s the phone number of ____?” to “How can I convince a reluctant candidate to accept the job?” to “I’m going to court tomorrow to try to collect a fee and need you to fax me all the relevant information about _____.” In addition to our monthly publication, we are viewed by most as an “insurance policy” and the “information source of last resort” and 99% of the requests are for information that is needed “yesterday.”

These calls keep our finger on the pulse of the marketplace. We are happy to oblige. But a number of these calls are from people who claim to be subscribers (and aren’t) or from folks who say things like (1) I plan to subscribe, (2) I used to subscribe, (3) I got a copy of your newsletter from a friend, (4) The check’s in the mail so could you fax or Email the information today.

As thousands will attest, we’ll bend over backwards for subscribers, but many years ago the decision was made to ignore requests from non-subscribers.

I personally take most of the calls and initially handle all the written requests. I used to know immediately whether I was talking to a subscriber. This is no longer true so I pass all requests to the appropriate researcher for action. If they don’t find the name on the active subscriber list it doesn’t get a response.

So, if you need information from us, we prefer an email or a fax outlining your request. If it’s critical or urgent, feel free to call me at (314) 965-3883. I appreciate your subscribership.

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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