The Anatomy of a Search, Part 2

Aug 5, 2004

We’ve just finished the first week of our search for a Director/VP Operations for a $300 million medical services company. I’ll be documenting the results of this search over the next few weeks. The overall project plan and how we got the business and prepared the performance profile were summarized in the kick-off article. This week, we prepared the sourcing plan and began our advertising and networking program. Of course, we created a semi-sourcing program to find top people, but more about this in a moment. As part of this search, we want to avoid a major problem that recruiters often encounter: lack of time. This is one complaint I hear from corporate recruiters all of the time, and lately I’ve been hearing it from third-party recruiters as business picks up. From what I’ve seen, lack of time is more a matter of not being efficient rather than having too much to do. There is a difference. In this search, we will take steps to minimize the big time-wasters which cause inefficiencies and which must be avoided at all costs:

  • Doing searches over again. This problem is largely caused by the hiring manager and the recruiter not being in total agreement with respect to the job description. Too much time is wasted by recruiters looking in the wrong places for the wrong candidates and then hoping against hope that one will stick. Part of the solution to this problem is the preparation of a performance profile, the preparation of a candidate profile, and a targeted sourcing plan.
  • Looking at the resumes of unqualified people. As a recruiter, I don’t have time to look at every resume submitted. If you’re a corporate recruiter, your candidate tracking system must be able to search, filter, and put resumes in rank order. If your system or you can’t do this, you’re wasting your time. First, review the top 20 to 30 resumes ranked as the best. If they aren’t any good, don’t look at any more. It’s a waste of time. If you’re a third-party recruiter, use an administrator to separate the good from the bad. From our audits of corporate recruiting departments, we find that as much as 50% of a recruiter’s time is wasted looking at the resumes of, or talking with, unqualified candidates.
  • Talking with unqualified people. This is the networking part of the recruiting process. Here’s a good rule to follow when networking: pre-qualify every name you get, talk only to the best people, and then ask these best people who the best people are that they know. You must be an expert networker to get names, and the key to this is to network only with top people.
  • Less-than-competent interviewers assessing candidate competency. Don’t trust your clients to assess your candidates properly. We train our clients, we lead the initial interview, and we lead the debriefing session to select the finalists. The worst part of doing searches over again is having a top candidate excluded because someone on the interviewing team made a bad call. You must do everything you can to prevent this.

With these ground rules set up, let me describe the semi-sourcing plan we just put in place. Semi-sourcing is the concept that the best people to recruit are semi-active and semi-passive candidates. A semi-active candidate is a person who looks infrequently but will respond to compelling advertising. A semi-passive candidate is a person who has a good job but is looking for a better job, and who will respond positively to a recruiter’s call to explore a possibly better opportunity. We started the semi-sourcing plan with the preparation of a candidate profile. While a performance profile defines the actual job, the candidate profile defines the actual candidate. Not only does it list the typical experience and background requirements; more importantly, it describes who might know the candidate, where the person might be working, the associations the person could belong to, and possible vendors and customers. In this case, the Director/VP Operations we’re looking for probably works for or knows people in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and a few of the health services organizations we identified. With this information, we’re now in a position to begin semi-sourcing candidates. Our multi-level semi-sourcing plan consists of the following major steps:

  1. Preparation of a compelling advertising program. We wrote a very compelling ad with this title: “Director/VP Operations: Fast-track to COO ? Healthcare Services.” The copy was focused on the challenges and opportunities in the job, with a minimal list of requirements. These were at the end, with a request for a half-page write-up to accompany the resume describing the candidate’s most significant management accomplishment. In addition, we converted the performance profile into a marketing piece to give to selected candidates who make the first cut. We know that top people seek advice and counsel from family and friends, and we want to make sure they have appropriate information to share. We’ll post the ad on CareerBuilder, 6FigureJobs, and a few niche sites and healthcare organization websites.
  2. Networking using resume databases. We’re using three over-the-counter databases ó AIRS Oxygen, Eliyon, and SearchExpo, a national database listing the top executives. We’ve already conducted a number of searches in all three, and each has proven extremely useful. We identified over 200 people who either could do the job or know the person who could do the job. Next, we’ll contact them using a scripted networking approach. The idea behind this is to quickly call people, identify the strongest, and then begin a deep networking process with this selected group. This is how we minimize the time spent with less-qualified people.
  3. Networking using competitive intelligence. I was surprised at how good the databases we used were in identifying potential candidates. If necessary, we’ll use a competitive research company to break out target organizations more completely. Successful networking actually relies less on the name generation piece and more on the quality of the recruiter doing the networking. Who you call (only pre-qualified candidates) and what you say is how you convert these raw names into highly qualified candidates.

Results so far have been very positive. In two days, we had over 200 people respond to our ads. Of that 200, 15 were worthy of a phone screen, which is now underway. I’ll tell you next week how many of the respondents actually submitted the half-page write-up. This is usually a good way to quickly separate the candidate pool into a manageable size. While AIRS Oxygen and Eliyon seem useful, SearchExpo so far is yielding the best results. This could be a result of this being the type of search that is targeted to more senior-level people who are quite visible and easy to find. The proof, however, in using these types of products is the accuracy of the data, and then what you say and how well you network. My guess is that we’ll get one or two viable candidates from the ad, two or three directly from the database, and another three or four though networking with people found on the database. From this group we’ll select the best four to present to our client. But more about this next week. We’re now training a strong researcher to do this. In fact, this was someone we located on the ERE Job Board, which is a great tool for finding recruiters and researchers. Our objectives for next week are to begin the screening of candidates and the initial presentation of results to our client. So far, we’re ahead of schedule with the search. The upfront work in preparing a performance profile and candidate profile were the keys to this. The extra two hours upfront have already saved us many hours by developing a targeted marketing program, more accurate preliminary screening, and the instant identification of 200 semi-passive candidates. As this search unfolds, you’ll discover that these profiles are the keys to not only hiring great people every time, but also to making sure you don’t ever do another search over again. Stay tuned.

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