How to Spot Hiring Authorities With Higher Priorities, Part 1

May 24, 2010

“Getting a job order.”

“Obtaining a search assignment.”

The very words imply that you need to talk someone into something. Or even worse — out of something. The object is writing up the almighty JO. Some offices even have quotas for them. Contests. Awards.

But are they hot? Are they even real?

Let’s look at a few other reasons you might have received one:

  1. The hiring authority wants to get you off the phone.
  2. The hiring authority is “window shopping” with the idea of hiring if Beyonce Rambo Einstein, M.B.A. is recruited.
  3. The hiring authority is “always looking for the best people.”
  4. The hiring authority wants to conduct a little industrial espionage on the competition.
  5. The hiring authority is looking to network with colleagues without leaving his office (on company time).
  6. The hiring authority thinks a contract won’t be awarded, but wants to have qualified candidates available if it is.
  7. The hiring authority is just trying to impress you with his power.
  8. The hiring authority is looking for a job and wants to draw you into presenting him.

Higher Priorities of Hiring Authorities: Certainly Higher Than Hiring

There are hidden agendas you’ll never write on your JO. You, everyone else in the office, and even your networkers will waste an incalculable number of hours only to discover that the hot new JO is cold and old. But you were told — you were just too bold and sold to listen.

“Hiring authorities” — it sounds so official. Maybe one of our trade associations should make up badges so we could deputize them, swearing them in formally at meetings.

In fact, maybe we should certify them like we certify recruiters.

They’d have to adhere to a code of ethics and pass a test like this:

To be answered with a YES or NO answer:

  1. Are you ready to hire or are you just checking the labor market, appeasing management, or trying to cover yourself if someone quits?
  2. Are you consistent in your fee policy?
  3. Do you make sure not to tell recruiters they have an “exclusive” when others have been given the same search?
  4. Do you communicate promptly with recruiters once you place job orders?
  5. Do you communicate candidly with recruiters once you place job orders?
  6. Do you avoid changing the specifications arbitrarily, after placing job orders?
  7. Do you have a reliable procedure to ascertain whether a candidate was referred through more than one source?
  8. Do you have an objective, disclosed, policy of honoring referrals based upon time, presentation or interview arrangement?
  9. Do you treat recruited candidates with the courtesy they deserve?
  10. Do refrain from avoiding or reducing an agreed fee after you’ve hired the candidate?

Anyone who could answer “Yes” to those questions deserves a badge!

I remember sitting in a brainstorming session at an association meeting where someone suggested we require employers to sign a code of ethics before working with them. Everyone laughed.

No — there won’t be any tests to find out if they’ll hire, or any rules to make them do so. You’ll just have to know how to spot hiring authorities with higher priorities. Preferably no later than after the first phone call.

Here are a half-dozen ways (we’ll cover three today and three tomorrow in part 2):

1. The One With A Bad Reputation
Of course, you don’t ask him. In fact, you don’t even have to call him in the first place if his name (or his employer’s) has an unsavory aroma. Ask around.

A favorable reputation is the result of dealing with recruiters openly and honestly over an extended period of time. Almost everything in the placement process is fraught with opportunities for misunderstanding (non-exclusive assignments; contingency fees; “temp-to-perm” conversion fees; raiding client companies; violating confidences about impending hirings, firings, and cutbacks, etc.).

It takes an open-minded, PR-oriented person to keep our industry happy.

It also takes an unusually secure one to walk that line, since well over half the time the requisitions are impossible to fill or the company isn’t serious. Sometimes they know it, sometimes they don’t. Faced with that decision between their job and yours, most hiring authorities don’t even see a conflict of interest.

Consider the source. Most people don’t.

Is it a competitor or someone who can’t be trusted? Is the bad rap based on hearsay or direct experience? Is it based on one incident or a course of dealings? Does it present a challenge to you to change the hiring authority’s mind about our industry?

Our best clients through the years have been the ones who have been burned by other lawyers. They know the difference, and (unfortunately) their negativism is sometimes justified. The chances are someone who’s been victimized by a recruiter will have a bad reputation — it usually can be traced to a fee dispute or anger over an attempted raid.

So look for a good reputation, but if you proceed with caution don’t automatically avoid a hiring authority with a bad one. They’re easy to get when you’re responsible for hiring humans through humans.

Now let’s see the personality types you can spot when you don’t know a thing about them.

2. The Chatterer
Hiring honchos who talk incessantly usually don’t act instantly. Even worse, they’re extremely poor listeners — it’s physically impossible to talk and listen at the same time.

Chatterers are avoided even by subordinates who want to get their job done. Other supervisors tune them out, stop listening to them, and resent expending the incredible amount of time and energy necessary to pay attention to them.

Another difficulty with chatterers is that they invariably gossip. If you reduce your fee, recruit from a competitor, or send out a candidate he doesn’t like, you’ll be on his lively lips every time another recruiter calls, candidate sits or peer group meets.

The sign is obvious — he just won’t zip the lip.

3. The Procrastinator
Procrastinators surface in the first conversation. And the second, third, and fourth. Consider these unspoken excuses that make “hot” JO’s frigid:

a. It’s easier for me to hire when the work is backed up. I’ll wait until management panics.

b. I don’t have time for the formality of interviewing. I’ll let the headhunters pre-screen and then if there’s someone I really like I’ll have them send a resume.

c. I might get blamed for making the wrong decision.

d. I really don’t want to spend the time training someone now, but screening will keep management off my back.

e. The last thing I need is some outsider telling my people how great things were somewhere else.

f. I’ll wait to fill the job until after (insert one or more):

i. my vacation
ii. the holiday
iii. my pension plan vests
iv. my review
v. my boss returns.

Heard enough? You asked for it. Sometimes literally. Just listen to your recruiters. They pry open JO’s with classic lines like:

a. “It costs nothing for you to look.”

b. “Well, would you pay a fee if the right person came along?”

c. “We’ve just completed a retained search and have some excellent candidates who are interested in talking to you.”

And the Beethoven’s 5th of all time:

d. “Our fees are ne-go-ti-a-ble.”

So procrastinators are given every opportunity to hide behind the bureaucratic, administrative delays inherent in every organization.

Look for Part 2 tomorrow!

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