How top recruiters win by educating their clients
Recruiting today is experiencing a significant market shift. As talent demand continues to increase and the talent pool shrinks, it becomes much more difficult to locate and persuade A players to take a look at new opportunities. We hear from clients across the country that job boards aren’t working anymore and that recruiters are not successfully identifying and delivering top talent. While the problem starts with the clients themselves – they have not changed their belief systems and hiring cultures to accommodate this new paradigm – the solution lies with us.
As professional executive search consultants, it is our responsibility to educate our clients about the best ways to achieve success in 2007 and beyond. A high-demand, low-supply market means that clients must whip themselves into fighting form to win the battle for top talent. That is where we come in. We must make sure our clients are the winning teams, the ones who can beat not only competitors in their industry but also local companies vying for the same A players.
Playing the Field is a Losing Strategy
Many hiring authorities believe that more is better. As in, the more recruiters a company works with, the more candidates they will be able to choose from. But the reality is that clients who partner with a single recruiting firm will net the best results overall. Do you want three recruiting firms giving you 30% of their time or one giving you 100%?
When companies turn a search into a race by working with multiple contingency firms, they lose. Because as with any race, the participants are focused on one thing: speed. Most contingency recruiters will try to cut corners to be the first to present a candidate. Many times, basic and essential steps in the process are ignored. Something as fundamental as making a phone call to a candidate to present the opportunity doesn’t happen. Recruiters shoot over database candidates to a client and if there is interest, then the recruiters – the ones who give us all a bad name, by the way – belatedly make the effort to reach out to the candidate. No pre-qualification. No quality.
What clients must understand is this: in the end, quality control still happens. But in this type of search, the client, not the recruiter, is the QC Mgr. When 10 times more candidates are presented to a client, it is 10 times more work for the client. The hiring authority has to weed through the candidates and actually do the recruiters’ job for them. The result? Offer the job to the least offensive person from a lackluster pool of candidates and hope for the best. It is a process that simply doesn’t work in today’s marketplace.
The bad news is that one out of every two hires in this country today is a mishire, thanks in large part to outdated hiring practices. The good news is that this is where top recruiters break away from the pack. They educate their clients about the many benefits of partnering with one firm, as opposed to playing the field. It is a partnership you are selling. When a professional relationship is developed between a recruiter and a client, there is time to gain a complete understanding of exactly what the client is looking for. A targeted, detailed plan can be executed. The recruiter can develop a healthy brand identity for their clients in the talent marketplace, as opposed to sabotaging it by presenting the same opportunity to the same candidates in different ways. Michael Eisner said: “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.” In no profession is this truer than ours.
The best recruiters pay attention to the many, many details that every search entails and deliver the best talent. The end result is higher-quality talent being hired, happier clients, and more successful business partnerships.
A Players Don’t Hang Around Forever
It’s a candidates’ market. With the high demand for good talent, A players can choose their team carefully. That is why our clients’ hiring processes must be reasonable. We live in an Internet world where information is at our fingertips and communication is instantaneous. Hiring processes that take six to eight weeks don’t cut it. Streamlined hiring processes do. To top talent, a bogged-down hiring process represents the decision-making process for everything else in the company. They see an organization not nimble enough to compete.
One of the most important things a good recruiter does is consult with clients to help develop a healthy hiring process. The goal is to trim the hiring process to a lean and efficient two weeks once the candidates have been submitted. Anything longer than four weeks and the A player will be gone. Only the B and C players will remain. Not a championship team in the making. It’s critical to streamline the hiring process to appeal to top talent and be ready to opt out of the game if the client clings to a drawn-out process.
Offers Should Not Go Out Without Knowing They Will Be Accepted
Recently I was asked by a major banking institution to help with a commercial lending VP search. In our discussion, I learned that the bank had sent out five offers, with not one being accepted. I was surprised but not shocked. Many companies are experiencing the same problems in today’s talent-driven market.
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Still, most hiring managers think it is perfectly okay to send out an offer without knowing it will be accepted. One hiring manager said to me, “Let me give him something to think about.” Good idea. It did give him something to think about: which trash can to toss the paperwork in.
Candidates know whether they will accept the job before the final interview. As long as there are no surprises in that discussion, the decision should be a done deal. The candidate has already been thinking about it for up to four weeks based on the interview process. Good recruiters set expectations up front, addressing any concern, compensation, vacation, title, responsibilities . . . nothing is left to chance. Because the recruiter has qualified the candidate, there is no need for a candidate to think about it overnight or over the weekend or the next week. It is your job to help your clients understand why the commitment of acceptance should be in hand before any offer goes out. It saves a lot of time, aggravation, and wasted paperwork.
It’s True. You Get What You Pay For
I see this everywhere. Companies that are unwilling to pay for an A player struggle along with teams composed of B and C players. In a high-demand, low-supply market, companies like this really suffer. Candidates think if you are cheap with people, you will be cheap with everything else. Companies can’t afford this perception.
Statistics show that an A player (top 10%) candidate is five times more productive than the average B player. The Pareto Principle – 80% of the result will come from 20% of the people – is something you should discuss with every client. Put it to them this way: “Would it be worth that extra 10% to 20% more in compensation to add to that pool of 20% of the people who actually produce 80% of the results?” Sure, top talent costs more, but you don’t get a Mercedes for Taurus prices.
But your clients should also understand that this principle applies to their relationship with a trusted recruiter. When clients pressure recruiters to discount their fees, they do not value their services as they should. It will be a problem. If companies want the best people, they partner with the best recruiters and pay them a full fee. Many successful recruiters refuse to discount fees, and even if they did, would not spend any significant time on the search. How could they justify it? If you have 20 great search assignments on your desk, why make time to work on a discounted search? What your client needs to know is that the best recruiters don’t discount fees. They don’t have to. It is the individuals who are new to recruiting or without a strong value proposition in our industry who begrudgingly discount fees – the recruiters who have nothing else to work on.
In today’s business climate, it isn’t enough for us to be good at what we do. A great recruiter must focus on educating every client about the importance of developing the right belief system and hiring culture to be successful at hiring the top talent in today’s demand-driven market. This requires superior communication skills, a strong belief in your own professional worth, and the confidence that you – and you alone – will deliver the top talent available in the marketplace.
Jon Bartos is a premier speaker and consultant on all aspects of human capital. As CEO of Jonathan Scott International in Mason, Ohio, he has achieved industry-leading success. He is one of an elite group of executive recruiters who year after year have billed over $1 million annually. Jon has also established JSI as a top executive search and contract-staffing firm. The office has won 14 international awards in the MRI franchise system, including International Billing Manager of the Year and Top 10 SC Office. He runs an executive-coaching program called Magnum Program and also hosts a career-focused talk show on Fox radio, Talent Wins with Jon Bartos, Your Personal Career Coach, every Sunday at 2 p.m. EST. Jon can be reached at (513) 701-5910 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.