The THINK 360° Philosophy

About six months ago I received an email regarding a potential acquisition from someone who once ran a “competing” search firm in Dallas. He had spent five years building a team in Atlanta at Lucas Group and then five years basically building the Dallas office from scratch to almost a two-million dollar unit. During this time, he attempted to recruit people out of our firm to join him! We communicate from time to time about it, and I told him I wished him luck but also shared why we just might be a better choice for him and his team to join! After all, we are recruiters and who was I to judge anyone for trying to do to us what we do for our clients for our business? Well, he ended up leaving the organization and started his own firm that he built up over an 18-month period.

After doing so, he realized that although he could be successful on his own, he could accomplish so much more quickly and profitably by building “his business” within the framework of Kaye/Bassman. We laughed at how ironic it was that he ended up on a path to partnership with the firm that he first tried to target! The recruiter became the recruited, and as a result, he has made a significant impact in a very short time at Kaye/Bass-man. He is building up a very capable team that will soon dominate this space. The synergy has been tremendous and he brings a tremendous amount of search knowledge, proven search leadership, and solid training expertise.

So, for this month, I have asked him to write an article about his approach of “thinking 360.” His name is Ira Bershad, and he is now the Practice Leader for Kaye/Bassman International’s Consumer Products Specialty Practice. He has been in the Search business since 1996 and his teams have produced over $10 million career cash-in. He has been a producing manager and trainer and has appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box and has been quoted in numerous national business publications, including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal Online, Sales & Marketing Management, and HR.com. If you have questions about this article you may email him at ira@kbic.com. I know you will get tremendous value from reading and applying this approach. Enjoy!

THINK 360°

New ways to gain a competitive edge in our business are always evolving. Technology, better databases, PDAs for instant access, and even the ability to email your voicemails are all parts of that. One factor, however, that has never changed, nor been more critical, is your ability to be aware of, and to manage, all of the parts of the process. This total awareness and mastery can be defined in an approach called THINK 360°.

THINK 360° builds off a recruiting philosophy called the Relationship Approach and implies that you should think about all elements of the business from every participant’s perspective. No matter what industry you recruit in, you are dealing with people. Regardless of how tenured you are in your recruiting career or how much time you spend on the phone in your market each day you are still dealing with human beings. Consider for a minute the value of treating each and every one of the people you touch each day as you would any other relationship, personal or professional. This approach requires you to approach recruiting from a different perspective and not as much from a “numbers game” perspective, but rather a “quality numbers game” perspective.

The search business is very simple to understand conceptually, yet much more difficult to implement. Seems simple, right? Find a client with needs, search for a matching candidate pool, connect the two, and make deals. If only it were that simple from the execution side.

THINK 360° is based on mastering a total awareness in eight key areas of the business. The areas are

1. Profiling
2. Presenting Candidate to the Client
3. Briefing for Interviews
4. Debriefing
5. Pre-Closing
6. Offer/Acceptance/Counter-offer
7. Time Between Acceptance and Start Date
8. the After Start Date period

Differentiate yourself from your competitors and apply the THINK 360° approach to each element of your business daily. Candidate profiling is one of the most basic elements of the business. All of us know how to interview to find out work history and compensation information. Find out why a candidate may be interested in exploring an opportunity at all. Is the timing right, even for the “dream opportunity”? Are there unexplained gaps in their resume? Ask about them; your client will. How do your candidate’s career goals match the opportunity? Is this going to equate to a short-term job change or a career-move? Find out how active your candidate is and assume nothing. Do not get surprised at the end of the process. Are they interviewing? Have they recently turned down another job offer? Why? Does your opportunity present similar problems or challenges? If the candidate has a spouse, significant other, and/or family, are their career factors or special circumstances like special needs or no relocation restrictions that you should be aware of? If you do a thorough job of profiling your candidates, you will be able to answer all of the questions and not get caught off guard.

Present your candidates to your clients with knowledge of more information than just a resume and compensation information. The THINK 360° recruiter is more thorough than that. Make your client smarter by providing them more information than just the basics. Tell your client why the candidate is interested in the company and the position. This will allow them to recruit more effectively once they meet and decide they like your candidate. If the reasons are cultural reasons vs. job spec reasons, this is even more important. Many times the first meeting between hiring manager and client sets the tone for the rest of the process. You may not be able to impact the chemistry, but you can provide your client the selling points he needs to close the deal. Is there negative information or rumors about your client circulating in the marketplace? If there are, and your candidate has addressed this with you, let your client know. This will not be viewed negatively by your client, but rather as useful intelligence that they can have to address these rumors. If your candidate is interviewing with other companies or even internally, you should let the client know. We have all had the “shot clock” expire without our client even taking a shot. Translation, it may not be your client’s fault solely for not keeping the process moving or even making an offer if you did not inform your client that they had competition for your candidate’s services. Finally, as part of your thoroughness, be sure to communicate if your candidate has financial strings attached to them in the form of education or relocation expense paybacks. These can be addressed many times in the form of a sign-on bonus, but clients will not appreciate you bringing them up as last minute information.

The THINK 360° recruiter looks at briefing & interview prep as THE most significant part of the placement process that can have the most direct impact on your business. All of the parts of the process are important, but placements do not happen without interviews. If you have left your interviews to chance in the past, stop today! I would rather have 3 great interviews than 10 average ones. I would ideally like to have all 10 interviews go great, and they can! The THINK 360° recruiter schedules a time to brief candidates and never leaves it to chance. We never say, “give me a call Tuesday” but rather we set up an appointment to brief and prep our candidate. Proper briefing goes way beyond giving out agenda and logistics information about the interview. The best briefing is designed to prepare your candidate on HOW TO INTERVIEW. You should imagine your candidate has the necessary credentials and qualifications to be in front of your client, but you should never assume that they are good at interviewing and conveying their strengths and assets to your hiring manager. Get really good at briefing candidates. Be sure they are prepared to answer questions directly and with specific and measurable results. Be sure they are able to convey that they can be an individual contributor, a strong team player and an effective leader. Make sure your candidate is aware of the importance of being consistent throughout a multiple-interview day. In other words, if they are asked the same question by more than one interviewer, they key is to give the same answer. The interview team is looking for consistency and this is exactly why several people may ask the same question during the day. If your candidate is not prepared for this, they may outsmart themselves by trying to be overly creative in this instance. Finally, the number one reason for failed interviews typically occurs in the last 30-60 seconds of the interview when the candidate does not CLOSE. Many professionals, particularly those not in sales, have no training in closing. They may believe it is overly aggressive or improper to tell an interviewer they want the job. However, one of the main reasons hiring managers do not pursue candidates is exactly when the candidate does not convey this interest in the interview. Let your candidate know it is not only ok to close, it is imperative to close if they are indeed interested in the position.

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If your post-interview debrief consists solely of the question “‘how did it go?” then you are not getting enough key information. How did it go is a good starting question because it will set the tone for the rest of the debrief. Take the time to go person-by-person and find out how the chemistry was and how the interview went. Most of us are good at finding out what the candidate liked, but many recruiters are less likely to ask what the candidate’s concerns or unanswered questions are for fear of it being a deal-breaker. Many times the information that surfaces here can be addressed if uncovered in a timely manner. However, if you do not ask, you will never know and that may turn out to be a silent killer. Do you debrief with your clients? Ask them about your candidate. What did you like? How do they compare to other candidates in the mix? Once again, ask about questions or concerns as these may be able to be addressed if they are brought up in time.

If you are approaching the business from a THINK 360° mindset, you will Pre-Close your candidate before the offer is formally developed and presented. You should always do this and never assume that you have a done-deal. If you do not have a detailed compensation worksheet for your candidate to complete, I can provide one (ira@kbic.com). Compensation is much more complex than base salary and bonus information. Know all of your candidate’s compensation information and be prepared to present it to your client and to be able to knowledgeably discuss it, too. Get a clear understanding of what the candidate is looking for and know how that compares to the client’s ability and willingness to offer it. Do not assume that just because a salary range goes to a certain figure that the client will offer a salary that goes to the top of the range. Talk to your candidate about the ethics and commitment of accepting an offer and do all the counter-offer counseling you have in your arsenal. The subject of counter offers is an entire article by itself, as we know.

We could write a book on all the elements of the Offer/Acceptance and Counter-offer Counseling. If you now are thinking that the THINK 360° philosophy is one you can operate on, then you know that we have to read between the lines in our total awareness approach. Listen for what you are NOT hearing when you are closing the deal. Is the candidate’s spouse on board? Are you sure? How do you know? Is your candidate telling you they will accept the offer at an agreed upon point, or are they saying they “think” they will or they “probably” will. These are very important things to listen for. Once the offer is presented, make sure you have them sign the acceptance and send it back to the client. This is an important psychological step and it really makes the mental separation from the current company seem more real. If you client does not require this for some reason, have your candidate sign the offer and send it back to you. Would you consider a house contract fully executed and binding if it were sitting on a table in front of you, unsigned? Watch for signals of uncertainty and change during the time between the acceptance and the start date. Today, most companies require a drug test and background check. Have your candidate schedule these and keep in contact with them to make sure they are getting these done. If you start to feel the candidate is avoiding you all of a sudden, stay persistent in your contact. The shorter the time between the acceptance and start date, the better. If your candidate wants to give their current employer more than two weeks notice, remind them about their loyalty shifting to the new employer, your client, and not remaining with the company they are leaving. Aside from the joy of making a deal and getting paid, be sure to capitalize on the loyalty of your recently placed candidate by getting rosters, lists and org charts from them. There will never be a better time!

Relationship is defined as a “state of connectedness between two people.” Stay connected! It has amazed me for 12 years how I work with so many hiring managers who were placed by other recruiters. Perhaps the recruiter was successful not because of what they did, but despite what they did. You can make placements not following this approach, but will you be able to maintain the long-term relationships that are necessary for long-term success? Become a value-added resource. Offer to help. Become an industry expert and go-to person. You may not make money on every single thing you do, but they will build your image and your credibility within your industry. Finally, be sure to stay in touch with your candidates. Check in with them before they start and after they start. Filter some of your findings to the appropriate person at your client company. Good hiring managers want to know how they are doing and what they can do to get better. Ask your candidate if the company, the job, and the people are what they expected. You are the professional recruiter and search consultant. This is your expertise. Do not assume your client is better at recruiting or onboarding simply because they have done it longer.

THINK 360° is a state of mind and a broad-scale approach to total awareness in recruiting. Master it and you will find that surprises will be few and far between. Your candidates and your clients will notice that and appreciate it, and your results will be impacted accordingly.

Ira Bershad is Practice Leader for Kaye/ Bassman International’s Consumer Products Specialty Practice. He has been in the Search business since 1996 and his teams have produced over $10 million career cash-in. He has been a producing manager and trainer and has appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box and has been quoted in numerous national business publications, including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal Online, Sales & Marketing Management, and HR.com. ira@kbic.com

Jeff Kaye is president and CEO of Kaye/Bassman International and Next Level Recruiting Training. This former Management Recruiter National Recruiter of the year has helped build the largest single site search firm in the country with annual search revenue in excess of $18M. His firm has won national awards for philanthropy and workplace flexibility as well as having been named the best company to work for in the state of Texas in 2006 & 2007. Kaye/Bassman has retained over 30 search professionals whose annual production exceeds $400k. The same training that helped build this successful firm is now available through Next Level Recruiting Training. They are making a series of DVDs for training. The first series was on the candidate side, and the four hours were dedicated to marketing. The new series, on the client side, is dedicated to marketing, effective search assignments, and fee clearing. It is over seven hours in length. To learn how to take your practice and business to the NEXT LEVEL, please visit www.nlrtraining.com to view their product and service offerings. You can also email Jeff a thought or question at jtk@nlrtraining.com.

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