Welcome to the Next Level

Hello, I am Jeff Kaye, the CEO of Kaye/Bassman International and, recently formed, Next Level Recruiting Training. It is a true honor to write the first of many future articles for Paul Hawkinson and The Fordyce Letter. To become a columnist in The Wall Street Journal is what every accomplished business reporter strives to achieve. In the recruiting world, it is The Fordyce Letter. With that honor comes great responsibility. The responsibility is to ensure that the material presented is fresh, educational, and ideally inspirational! A reader should expect new perspectives developed from proven success, not repackaged or stale content. It is from this foundation that I accept this challenge and make a commitment to exceed your expectations.

When I started in the recruiting industry in 1989, I was initially exposed to a number of trainers and programs offering their then current best practices in an industry that was really still in its infancy. While many of the fundamentals in this field have not changed, there are always new ways of executing on those fundamentals.

Every few years a training “guru” emerges with some new insights and some new twists on old concepts. This is what keeps our industry fresh! However, there tend to be some unfortunate outcomes. The first is that many of the perspectives shared are based on a training perspective that his or her way is the best way (or sometimes even the only right way) versus simply one possible approach. Training should teach many different approaches, methodologies, and best practices that al-low the reader/student to select the best approach appropriate for his or her competency, comfort, industry served, geography covered, and function and level handled. To teach a person who places construction superintendents in Alabama to deliver the same style recruiting presentation as someone who places investment bankers in New York is arrogant at least, and dangerous at worst.

The other issue when a new trainer “hits” the scene is staying power. Once we have heard their “best” we tend to yearn for someone else’s “15 minutes of fame.” Next Level Recruiting Training is committed not only to presenting multiple approaches and techniques but also by many other successful practitioners.

A good question that needs to be answered is, “Why me and why Kaye/Bassman and Next Level Recruiting Training?” What is it about our track record that gives us credibility?I will share some accomplishments not to boast but merely to provide anyone interested with a reasonable level of comfort and trust. The story is as follows:

I joined Management Recruiters International (MRI) in 1989 and in 1990 was named the Rookie of the Year (Southwest Region), #2 Rookie of the Year (nationally), and Top 10 Account Executive (recruiter) in a field of over 4,000. In 1991, my second full year and during a nice recession, I was named #1 Account Executive of the Year (nationally) at the age of 25. In 1992, I was #2 Account Executive of the Year (nationally) and soon after became a producing manager (player/coach), and was named Producing Manager of the Year. In 1995, I turned my practice over to two very capable recruiters who today are partners in our firm. From 1995 to 2005, our single site office in Dallas, Texas grew from under $2 million to over $12 million in 100% organic growth search revenue. We became the largest MRI office and frequently posted revenue twice that of #2. We became #1 in the 90’s and held that ranking until our very amicable departure in 2005. To this day, we remain close with many from MRI and celebrate this as a very important part of our history. From 2005 until 2007, and still a single site firm, we grew an additional 50% and just crossed $18 million in search fee revenue. There are 30 people who have generated in excess of $400,000 in search revenue in a calendar year at our firm. In 2006, we had 100% retention of this group and since 2000 we have had 95+% retention of this same group. Eleven of those 30 people have generated in excess of $1 million dollars in search revenue in a calendar year. Most of them have done so though various team models involving researchers but some have done this solo. Our company has been named The Best Place to Work by The Dallas Business Journal for four consecutive years and The Best Company to Work for in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine for two. We have won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility and the Hearts of Hope Award by the Volunteer Center of North Texas for our charitable efforts. We specialize in 14+ different industries and place at virtually all levels within specific verticals of those industries. We are 99% permanent search and utilize an approach we pioneered referred to as Client Focused Searchâ„¢. Simply put, we customize our search process, relationship, and financial terms around the unique needs and expectations for each individual client and search. We have been published in virtually every national magazine and major newspaper and have appeared on programs ranging from CNN and CNBC to Fox and CBS. This is the last you will read about what we have done in the past!!! Again, I share this merely to demonstrate credibility. Our true test will be in the quality of products that we produce and the services that we offer. To that end, we recently released the first of our ongoing DVD recruiting training series that focuses on candidate identification and recruitment and have received rave reviews from dozens of respected industry veterans.

Some have asked why we want to share so much. For starters, in recruiting there is no secret sauce! Our industry is highly fragmented and filled with high dominant, ego-driven persuaders with a high sense of urgency and low tolerance for conformity who love giving opinions!!! What could be more fun? I do not believe that Next Level Recruiting Training can revolutionize our industry but I do believe that we will achieve our vision of elevating the overall perception of the search industry by improving the competencies and capabilities of all search professionals, both within search firms and internal recruiting departments.

In keeping with this objective I would like to provide you with a discovery that I believe could make a very positive impact on your firm and close out this first article with a tip from the trenches to help you enhance your recruiting skills.

The profound discovery occurred in 1995 when I transitioned out of my personal production practice into a leadership role at our firm. The history of our firm was like that of many others. Many people were hired. Most people failed. Some did OK and a few succeeded who funded our continued attempted growth. Those who succeeded loved the accolades and the riches of success — for a few years anyway. What soon followed were the cries of “Thanks for hiring me and training me but the value proposition associated with being here is just not worth it any more,” “I want 100%, not 30% or 40% or 50%,” and “If I had my own firm . . .” Some left testing non-competes or solicitations, some changed markets, and some worked out amicable arrangements for departure. No matter what, they were gone! I used to think the model of search firms was to go work for a good firm, get trained, and leave and start your own firm (maybe with the same franchise, if relevant). Then, hire people to be recruiters to supplement your own production. They then leave and do to you exactly what you did to someone else when you started your firm! This must be why even at a giant like MRI there is an average of about four people per office in a field of 1,000+ offices. I heard a stat once in the industry that there are 16,000 firms with 32,000 recruiters, which is 2:1. Many people recognize this, which is why many of you remain a solo office producer. Who needs those headaches?!

When I moved into leadership I remembered that I had built my recruiting career on client retention. If I could really SERVE my clients well, by working with them in the way that was best for THEM, then they would always use me no matter if they needed to hire twenty people in a year or just one! If I could keep those clients and just keep adding a few good ones each year, my practice would grow. If I could not, then I would simply trade one good old client for another good new client, if I was lucky, and maintain rather than grow. So, I decided to SERVE those whom I hired, and train them the same way I did my external clients. Abbott Labs was replaced by Betty Wong and Christine Allen. Bristol Myers soon became Bill Baker and Mike Kittelson. The list goes on and on. I had to SERVE them the same way that I served those companies that paid my fees. To do so, I determined that there were THREE main pillars that I needed to provide. The first was RELATIONSHIPS. I needed to develop relation-ships with these people so that we could all grow personally and spiritually as well as professionally and financially. In turn, this created a culture where people GOT to go to work rather than HAD to go to work. There are dozens of tips I will share in future articles on this pillar. The second pillar was INFRASTRUCTURE. No recruiter should ever be able to say, “I would have been more successful had they only provided me with more____ or a _____!” I believed that no one should ever be able to fill in that blank. Computers, phones, office, training, models for growing a business within a business, etc., are all part of this pillar. The third and final one was Economics. I needed to create pro-grams that allowed people to earn more money by being part of us rather than by being on their own. Compensation, benefits, equity programs, perks, etc. are all part of this pillar. I view these three pillars as fires that need constant stoking. “Wood” needs to be constantly added to each of these three fires in the form of new programs, approaches, and efforts. I will amplify on this issue by sharing specific recommendations in future articles. Making a positive impact in the hiring and retention of your office is one of two goals, not only for this column, but also for our entire new organization. The other is clearly to enhance your skills in recruiting so you can quite simply: BILL MORE! In that regard I close out this first (and longer than normal, I promise) column with a tip form the recruiting trenches from Susan Fishlock. Susan joined Kaye/Bassman in 1995. She generated search fee revenue (billed and cashed) of over $1 million dollars in 2006 with one researcher (who was hired in the middle of the year). Her tip follows:

As search consultants, all of us have had experiences in dealing with HR departments. Some experiences have been good; others, not so good. In our position, it is imperative to be able to convincingly convey to an HR manager the value of using search versus handling an assignment in-house.

Recently, I was in conversation with a Senior VP of HR for a major banking institution who discussed an internal hiring strategy for bringing senior level lenders to their organization. The individual hiring managers within the bank were asked by the president to develop lists of individuals at competitor banks that would be likely candidates. The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote outlining compelling reasons for using our firm over their internal recruiters and why we would have a significantly higher success rate.

1. It is not merely enough to simply contact potential candidates. Is it fair to expect an HR recruiter who has such diverse responsibilities to have the level of expertise necessary to make a presentation that is compelling enough for a qualified candidate who is not looking for a position to consider a move? Will that individual know enough about the candidate’s present company to provide comparisons between your bank and the candidate’s bank? Will the HR recruiter be able to “dig” into motivations, aspirations, career goals, etc. to have the candidate even contemplate a job change?

2. When an HR person from your bank calls a potential candidate, a vast number of candidates are fearful of confidentiality. They are not familiar with the caller and immediately have apprehension. Many lenders are aware of me in this market because we have had conversations previously and, in many cases, multiple conversations. There is a level of confidence in sharing information with me as a third party. Many candidates will say “no” to a call coming from your recruiter, when they actually mean “yes” because of fear of reprisal.

3. What happens when a potential candidate says “no” for various reasons? Will the HR person know how to turn this around to convince the candidate that some of the candidate’s perceptions may be incorrect? I have been dealing with your organization for a considerable time now, having many discussions with executives about dealing with negative perceptions in the marketplace. I have been able to turn a “no” into a “yes” in many situations, and a number of those individuals are now happily employed with your bank.

4. When an individual says “no,” how hard will the HR recruiter push to engage the candidate in dialogue? Do you even want your HR recruiter viewed as aggressive by your competition? This is an extremely candidate-driven market now, and banks are in a frenzy for top talent. Persistence is the key. Will the HR recruiter simply mark the candidate off the list, or will he/she make another call to the same candidate in a few days? What will the HR recruiter say to differentiate your organization in the marketplace? The top candidates in the market receive calls frequently. They are not going to make a move just to make a move. As a veteran in the search field, I can bring the level of expertise needed in the market today.

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5. How willingly will a potential candidate reveal his/her personal information, including true motivation for making a move, troublesome issues within his/her workplace or home life, etc., to an HR person? Will your recruiter even ask questions relative to these issues? Candidate responses to these types of direct questions are clear, early, indicators as to whether we can “land” a particular candidate. I do this on a regular basis and am not at all apprehensive about asking tough questions.

6. If you engage me on this project, there is a fixed cost associated with bringing top talent to your organization. If you don’t, consider the cost of filling your positions with a qualified candidate versus the “best” qualified candidate. The better the candidate, the harder to recruit; there is a higher level of competency needed to recruit the top-tiered candidate. Basically, not all fishermen are the same. Fishermen have different levels of expertise. Some bring in the big fish while others can’t.

7. Since the HR recruiter will be getting voicemail most of the time, how compelling will his/her voicemail presentation be? What is the likelihood of a return phone call? How persistent will the recruiter be in making contact with the candidate? It is infrequent that I do not receive a return phone call. I would say my average is 95%+.

8. When receiving a call from an internal recruiter, many candidates are paranoid that it could be an internal loyalty check. In other words, they think someone within their own organization is trying to obtain information about whether they are considering looking elsewhere.

9. How well does the HR recruiter know your geographical marketplace (institutions, practices, issues)? Does he/she have the expertise to engage in complex dialogue with senior level candidates?

10. HR recruiters are generalists, placing all types of individuals within banks, including people in administration, finance, retail, etc. My background and expertise is in recruiting potential candidates that are primarily associated with commercial lending who earn salaries of $90,000+. Also, HR recruiters are involved in “passive” recruiting versus “active” recruiting. In addition to their responsibilities in recruiting, they are also involved with many other facets of HR, including EEOC, benefits, etc. It is unrealistic to expect them to be specialists in recruiting individuals within this targeted search in commercial lending.

11. By hiring our firm, you will have consistency of the message in the marketplace from one person (me).

12. Will the internal recruiter be able to obtain a number of referrals as a result of his/her presentation?

13. Our firm can handle this assignment in a very timely manner. My report will be 95% complete within ten working days.

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. 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 send Jeff an email with a thought or question to jtk@nlrtraining.com.

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