Diversity In Recruiting – ABN: Airborne/Special Training

Nov 1, 2004

“Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world. Small companies don’t have time for analytically detached experts. They don’t have the money to subsidize lofty elites, either. The president answers the phone and drives the truck when necessary; everyone on the payroll visibly produces and contributes to bottom-line results or they’re history.” Sound advice from General Colin Powell (The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by Oren Harari). Most TFL readers who are business owners will offer a hearty “Amen.”

When I first started out in the placement industry in 1973, I didn’t have a clue. You don’t get much business training in theology and jumping out of airplanes. Then I met Irving Sands, a Boston giant in our industry. Irv started in the placement business in the late 1940s and was the first or one of the first to promote changes from candidate fee paid to company fee paid. He was also the sparkplug for developing a Code of Ethics, a founder of Massachusetts Professional Placement Consultants, and one of the first to promote the career development approach in candidates he represented, and probably the first member of our industry to develop a specialty practice in placing human resource professionals. Let me tell you how I met him and what I like best about his approach to our business.

I started my business in Providence, RI, had been in business about two months, had not only not made a placement, I had not even set up an interview. Pretty disconsolate, I was re-reading the Sunday Globe Want Ads and there were big ads placed by a Boston placement firm, Rogers and Sands. I thought that these guys must know what they are doing and maybe I can learn something from them. I called and asked for Mr. Rogers, Irv picked up the phone I found out later that there was no Mr. Rogers and I told him my sad story. His reaction: “Hey, how about I come down and spend some time with you tomorrow?” He did and became a lifelong friend and coach. I told that story at the first of his many “retirement” parties.

His approach to the business is simple and profound: complete respect for the candidate and client, honesty and fairness in everything, loyalty, always do what you say you are going to do, love life, have a sense of humor, and do lots of favors for people.

This month some special tools of our trade will be front and center: candidate research, keys to diversity recruiting, and red flags in diversity recruiting.

HTC Research (, a provider of passive candidate research, in a recent newsletter presented ten reasons why recruiting firms should use candidate research:

1. Need to spend more time doing sales and less time talking to the wrong candidates.

2. Unfamiliarity with specific geographic region, target company or industry.

3. Need to reduce internal cost of finding qualified candidates.

4. Need qualified candidates quickly.

5. Placing ads on job boards was unsuccessful.

6. Client has agreed to pay for research costs.

7. No time to do the sourcing internally.

8. No resources to do the sourcing internally.

9. Want to build a database of “hot” candidates for future needs.

10.You’re a little rusty on the phone skills needed to find candidates effectively.

Candidate research offers many benefits to clients and recruiting firms. Here are a few:

  • Reduces recruiting costs, and allows companies to control the costs
  • Provides an inexpensive method of building and enlarging candidate databases

  • Increases candidate flow; builds pipelines of candidates

  • Provides a slate of candidates in a brief period of time for presentation clients

  • Builds databases of candidates in marketable disciplines for present and future use
  • Enhances networking capabilities and company name recognition
  • Identifies the key players and industry leaders
  • Gathers data about the feasibility of entering new markets

  • Gathers intelligence about your company’s reputation among potential candidates; amasses market information, and provides data on how you and your competitors are viewed in the marketplace
  • Enables your recruiting staff to handle more projects in a more timely fashion
  • Assesses the availability of candidates in specific disciplines and what they are earning
  • Saves time and facilitates quick turnaround

Candidate research firms abound throughout the country. I’m sure that Ken Cole’s national directory, The Executive Search Research Directory, slimmed down during the recession, but you will be amazed at his lengthy list of research firms. Recruiting firms throughout the country use candidate research. The following guidelines for selecting and evaluating candidate research firms resulted from conversations with many recruiting firms. Companies are definitely interested in candidate research. A few guidelines for selecting and evaluating research firms:

  • Interview the person from the research firm who will be responsible for your project. The interview does not have to be in person but make sure that all your questions are answered and that both you and the researcher agree on the objectives, time frames, and details of the project.
  • Describe your project in detail. Ask the researcher whether a similar project has been completed. If the answer is yes, get the details. A negative response is not necessarily a red flag; it means that you have to do more probing. Ask questions and then make your evaluation.
  • Find out if there are any companies that are “off limits” to the candidate research firm.
  • Ask if the researcher would be willing to work with you on a test project. You design the project and get the firm to work on it for ten hours without any cost to you. Make it the actual project that you have in mind. Do not give the firm any target companies; ask them to develop a list of companies that they feel are good target companies. Tell the firm if the test project is successful, you will pay for the ten hours and roll it into the contract.
  • Get a detailed listing of their recent research projects. Ask how many hires resulted from the projects; how many projects were successful; how many were unsuccessful, and why?
  • Ask about their process and how you will work together. Insist on timely and frequent progress reports. Set due dates and turnaround time. Get references. Negotiate a mutually beneficial contract.

At least once a month I get calls from other recruiters who ask about diversity recruiting. Many of the calls go like this: “One of my best clients wants to fill a job with a diversity candidate, should I take the search or try to split it with someone else.” These calls reinforce the fact that diversity recruiting is back on the table. The remainder of this article will give you some information you can use when clients pose questions about diversity recruiting. For your clients to be successful recruiting diversity candidates, ten key elements must be in place. I’ll list them briefly but if you want a more detailed description, email me ( and I will send the Ten Keys to you.

1. The most senior executives of the firm must establish a clear business mandate that diversity recruiting is a business necessity with clearly defined objectives and measurements.

2. Diversity staffing must take careful aim at business goals. Successful diversity recruiting initiatives are tied to the business objectives of the company.

3. The recruiting process must be efficiently planned, effectively implemented, managed, and measured. Minimize surprises. The diversity recruiting plan must receive input from all stakeholders.

4. All obstacles must be eliminated at the beginning of the recruiting process. Get rid of lame excuses for not hiring talented diversity candidates. Before the recruiting begins, get closure on issues such as relocation, job level, reporting relationships, sign-on bonuses, title, etc.

5. Human resources and company management must assign their best, most respected leaders to diversity recruiting projects.

6. The company must establish and strengthen cultural competency and multicultural respect. Cultural competency means the ability and skills to work with diverse people and to manage the process.

7. The staffing leaders must cast a broad net to find diversity candidates.

8. The company must provide timely feedback when working with recruiting firms.

9. The organization must plan, implement, manage, and measure effective retention programs.

10. Companies must tell their diversity success stories.

What are the red flags in diversity recruiting?

  • The company has no diversity recruiting strategy in place, lacks knowledge about diversity, does not link diversity to business objectives, and does not have a clear understanding of diversity staffing.
  • The interviewer is not culturally competent and does not know how to interview individual candidates from different cultures.
  • Stereotyping is commonplace.
  • Company representatives who make hiring decisions based on their own racial and ethnic biases.
  • We would like to hire people of color but there are none out there in the disciplines we are seeking. Such statements encourage belief in a long-standing and repudiated myth.
  • The demographics where company installations are located suggest a diverse workforce but the management levels are homogeneous all white.
  • Senior management has no understanding of the business case for diversity and the resulting consequences to their marketing and growth objectives.
  • Corporate thinking seems to be limited to complying with the law, heading off lawsuits, and staying out of trouble. There is no recognition of diversity or inclusion as strategic and imperative business issues, no commitment to equal treatment, and no desire for a level playing field.
  • The rigid adherence to job descriptions and promotions from within are obstacles to recruiting of highly qualified diversity candidates.

Next month we will complete this series by discussing leadership, being involved, some business axioms, and tips for success.

As I write this, today is a crisp, invigorating October day in New England. It is a happy day because last night Curt Schilling worked his magic on the Angels, and the Bronx Bombers bombed! Next Sunday, the Patriots will be going for their 19th consecutive win against Miami and I will be there. Rest easy, non-Boston sports fan, I will not conclude by bragging about our home teams.

On a recent sales call on Merrill Lynch in New Jersey, their five principles were posted in the lobby:

1. Client focus

2. Integrity

3. Respect for the Individual

4. Responsible Citizenship

5. Teamwork

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