Editor’s Corner

Get your 2008 calendar out and mark June 4-6 for the second annual Fordyce Forum 2008, at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. As fantastic as our inaugural forum was in 2007, this promises to be even better. FF 2008 will be another blue-ribbon gathering of the profession’s proven power players – one you won’t want to miss. Details to follow soon.

Where to find new consultants? Have you seen the stock market recently? Want someone who is already indoctrinated into the smile-and-dial world and used to being paid on a commission basis? Stock brokerages are losing good people in droves. Got the hint?

One reader wrote: “I spent valuable time, which, in the end, was thoroughly wasted, with a candidate I recruited. He was perfect for the position but insisted that, since I came after him, he should be considered not for the position I had, but for the position a step or two up the organizational chart, even though he was unqualified for that job. Did I miss something with this guy?”

Career levitation – moving to an out-of-the-box job or jumping several steps – just doesn’t happen in the real world. Unrealistic expectations are naïve and must be addressed up front unless you enjoy pain. I wrote many years ago in the Rap Session series (www.rap-session.com), “Children rarely skip grades and employees rarely skip job classifications on their way toward the top. There are good (and some not so good) reasons for this, but the fact remains that there are a lot of steps between a cost accountant and VP finance or a design engineer and VP engineering. To allow a candidate to assume that you can be the catalyst to leapfrog the normal process borders on the absurd. You might be able to eliminate one step, but that’s about it. Don’t stroke your own ego by deluding the candidate. They must agree to the reality of this situation. If they persist, forget them.”

As to moving from one industry to another, my advice was the same: “No industry exists in a vacuum. Skills are occasionally transferable. Of course, it’s easier to place someone within the industry in which their experience lies. For the aerospace engineer with 20 years of experience, it is unrealistic to attempt to place him/her outside the defense industry at the same salary. And 20 years of selling cosmetics will not qualify someone to sell industrial equipment. Along similar lines, a highly specialized employee with a very large company just may not find a market for their skills in a smaller firm where versatility is admired. These points must be made where a candidate’s only interest is in a dramatic career change.”

While watching some of Joe Pelayo’s new DVD program “21 Days to Increase Your Billings,” this old dog learned something new. Joe is a big biller in the senior-level financial area, and he revealed a reason for engagement fees or partial retainers that I had not contemplated – the initial contact with the candidates, especially for senior C-level assignments. There is no mystery about our business anymore, especially amongst the executive glitterati. The “meet me behind the potted palm” days are long gone. They are hip to what we do and how we do it, so they’ll more than likely ask, “Are you a retained headhunter?” If you’re not, the odds that they’ll take you seriously diminish dramatically.

Does that mean you need to be 100% retained? Nope! Even a small engagement fee will allow you to tell them you’re “retained” and keep a straight face.

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Next time a hirer big shot refuses a full retainer and insists on only contingency, tell them you need some sort of commitment fee for the reasons mentioned above. It eases access to the impact players you need and will result in a better talent pool.

Many have asked why the TFL archives are not available on the Internet. Well, good news is right around the corner. Stay tuned for the details.

This is the month when we traditionally take stock of the year we’ve had. Whether this look in your rearview mirror is a happy occasion or a sad one, it’s the time when many decide to stay in the business – or look elsewhere. Ours is an easy-entry/easy-exit business. For some, it’s just a job. For many others, especially old-timers, it’s a “calling.” Nothing has brought this home to me more than something written by frequent contributor Neil McNulty. I have published this inspirational offering below. I thank Neil for sending it to us.

I wish all our readers a happy holiday season and remember, December can be one of the best months of the placement year.

Paul Hawkinson is the editor of The Fordyce Letter, a publication for third-party recruiters that's part of ERE Media. He entered the personnel consulting industry in the late 1950's and began publishing for the industry in the 1970's. During his tenure as a practitioner, he personally billed over $5 million in both contingency and retainer assignments. He formed the Kimberly Organization and purchased The Fordyce Letter in 1980.