How Many Parties Does It Take to Score?

Apr 20, 2010

No, not that kind of party, and no, not that kind of scoring either.  I am talking about placements!

No, no, no, not that kind of placement!! – I’m talking about headhunting.  What? Never mind…

Isn’t it interesting that we “executive recruiters” are often referred to as “3rd party “? In reality, we are the fourth, and yet in my professional experience, the most effective and impactful participant in the recruitment of critical talent for Corporate America.  So, we could correctly be referred to as the 1st party of this traditionally committee-based process.

For example, this past week I received contact via email and phone from three separate client companies indicating that they required my assistance in filling Software Sales positions.  In all three cases, this was music to my ears because the hiring authorities that reached out to me all recited the same plea.  They all had been searching for anywhere from three to six weeks via the web (LinkedIn, Ladders, their own networks, etc.) and had not come up with a winning pool of candidates that satisfied their specifications.

Alas, perhaps the demand side of the employment fulcrum is finally tilting into balance.  Maybe, as has been my perception, that layer of true “A” player supply, has been absorbed/hired by leading -edge firms to the point of creating real demand for headhunters’ services once again.

Indeed, one of the prospective hirers stated that they had not paid a fee, or contracted with a new search firm for about two (2) years.  Eureka! Hallelujah!  Well, not so fast.

In reality, I am privy to three cooperative parties that are all ready to rumble.  Me, my candidates (which I have already begun to identify) and the hiring authorities.

However, just one problem…and it is a big and real problem.

The fourth party in this case is not collaborative. This party could simply be the enabler in an otherwise seamless funnel of efficient and significant business process.  This party is gumming up the works; or in my case, the paperwork.  The consummation of a contract we use, over and above a handshake, to ensure that all three/four parties – are on the same legal and monetary page is vital confirmation of a client company’s commitment to hire.

This party that I refer to is better known as “HR.” Now, I am not an HR expert; although I will complete my 29th year of productive search and placement experience this year.  I have been responsible for employing more than 500 U.S. citizens since 1981, but I have no clue what goes on in “HR” most of the time.

So that I do not disparage my corporate brethren, I concede that the HR link in the chain is customarily helpful and necessary. Several hundred true “HR” pros have facilitated me with crucial data, approved of my invoices, onboarded my new hires, etc. But in all three of these cases, this past week, none of the HR departments, in these three companies, were able to get me the necessary documentation and therefore the peace of mind to begin an assignment.

Regardless of the fact that we, HR and me, exchanged emails at the speed of light all week, I sit here without a formal commitment, despite the hiring authorities’ desire to proceed. Perhaps this dilemma is due to the point at which we find ourselves in the cycle. I would love to believe that this is the initial burst of job-creation activity the whole country has been starving for. Perhaps it has caught the administrative side of the corporate house a bit off guard and they will be rarin to go like the rest of us ASAP.

But I have my doubts, and here’s why.

This blockage of the employment heart artery has existed since before my time in the search and placement world; which was 1981.THE very next year, I was trained by the incomparable Steve Finkel , and he schooled me on ways to avoid HR that have paid off ever since. But, oh how times and things have things changed, several times, since then! Now it is career suicide to treat our human resource partners as anything but significant to the ultimate goal of long term client retention; especially in midsize and large companies.

Unfortunately, delays like the ones I am currently subject to make these relationships feel like necessary evils as opposed to complementary teaming. But in this era of consensus decision-making and event completion, my patience is tested over and over again.

However, I read somewhere on the wonderful resource that is that one of the most important characteristics of being a headhunter now and into the future is “political savvy.” So I am open to the notion that my impatience and related sense of urgency could be perceived as part of the problem. I admit that sensitivity for the official side of the overall sphere of influencers we must coexist in is one of my glaring weaknesses, so this is a shout out for help.

Would someone in the HR community please let me know what happens in between the time that one of your colleagues, a powerful VP-level hiring authority, copies you and me to start a search process but only one of us (me!) is ready to execute the required business event? I am really anxious for answers.

Oh, and don’t tell me it’s not your department or “we have to send it through legal,” because if you do I will forever be  convinced that corporate HR departments are pretty much useless when it comes to the hiring of extremely valuable personnel.  And then I will have to write another article about the five parties required to complete a successful hire.

Actually, I have come to the conclusion my frustration is really wasteful.  What I/We search pros need to do is move on to the next prospect until HR, or whomever, gets back to us. After all, America was not built on Account Management.

The reality of the business world today is that attention to details, process, and checks and balances pervade almost every corporate culture.

So get used to it — or go to some really fun-filled parties and forget about your day job for a few hours.

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