Editor’s Corner

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”

I recently thought of this quotation from George Eliot when one of our readers asked me why they should consider attending the next Fordyce Forum. After almost five decades in and around the business of placement, recruiting, and search, I am still somewhat mystified as to why some people soar and others fail in this business.

For a profession whose foundation is built around our ability to find exceptional people for others, I am at a loss to explain why we do such a lousy job of talent selection for ourselves. I suppose that’s why doctors are cautioned against treating their own relatives – but that’s another conversation for another time.

I know it’s heresy to point this out, but it’s a problem worth mentioning here since many of our readers have expressed an interest in expanding their consulting staffs. I am certainly not exempt. I have hired hundreds of people for this business. I can count on both hands and one foot those who have made it long term.

There is no proven template, although I have seen dozens of attempts to construct one. I once managed an office where the owner had a series of tests that had to be passed before consultant candidates could be considered. He had been a high-ranking sales executive with an office equipment firm prior to buying the franchise, and he assumed that if these “tests” were good enough for hiring Dictaphone salespeople, it should be good enough for the recruiting business. It wasn’t! In fact, the best hire I ever made was a guy who flunked every one of the tests. And the mediocrity of the pretested consultant staff I inherited should have convinced him of the error of his methodology.

While I’m not totally against tests, I usually don’t much care about the actual test results. There are other reasons to use them.

Dale Dauten, syndicated business columnist also known as The Corporate Curmudgeon, had a column wherein he differentiated between “work” and “job.”

Perhaps we spend too much time extolling the “job” and the magnificent benefits it can bestow on the successful practitioner and not enough time focusing on the “work” involved in achieving that success.

That’s the philosophy we’re following in putting together Fordyce Forum 2008. The speaker group will concentrate on the “work” involved – tips, techniques, tactics, and strategies that have made them the power players they are, proven success formulas that will help you to personally move up the performance ladder and give you an insider look at the types of people you should seek for your own firms, if and when you decide to expand. Their wisdom will undoubtedly make you a better performer as well. Fordyce Forum 2008 is designed to give you a “master’s degree” in our business. Although we don’t want to discourage the many rookies in our constituency, because they can also profit from their attendance, but they should know that this program will not be the ABCs of Rookieville. This is a serious conference for serious practitioners. No matter how you spend your off hours in Las Vegas, this is knowledge you won’t want to leave there.

For those who are seeking a blueprint for hiring newbies for your staff, I recommend “So You Want to Be an Executive Recruiter,” written for a Dow Jones publication. It is one of the better selection tools for recruiting recruiters. It provides a realistic view of the expectations and can be accessed at http://www.webco.cc/recruiterarticles/So%20you%20want%20to%20become%20an%20executive%20recruiter.pdf.

For a more specific column on Recruiting Recruiters, I have included a reprised TFL column later in this issue.

I recently asked a number of practitioners for their prognostications on the business for 2008. Although a few noted some slippage during the last quarter of 2007, most were sanguine about the future of their business despite the emergence of the economic gloom-and-doomers who always come out during an election year.

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A few mentioned that some of their smaller client companies have put things temporarily on hold because of problems getting business loans due to some financial market uneasiness over the subprime difficulty, but overall, things are looking rosy – at least to those who answered my inquiry.

Persistence, perseverance, and determination. Once you have decided to “go after” a particular company (or companies), how diligent are you in your attempts to succeed? How soon do you give up?

A guy with whom I once worked made a list of the 10 companies with whom he most wanted to work. He had called all of them many times with no success, but he was steadfast no matter how many times he got rebuffed. I left the firm but we kept in touch, and every time he put one of those companies on his client list, he called me. Some of these companies were worth the effort, but a few were not. Nevertheless, it became a challenge to him for them to come aboard – and after a couple of years, he had done some business with nine of them.

Forty-two months after he had constructed his list, he called to tell me he had finally cracked Company #10, a small but well-regarded company in the financial services business. He had been wooing the CEO and told me that the CEO had finally called him in for a personal meeting about a VP-level search (which he got). The CEO had called him and said, “OK, I give up. You have contacted me every two weeks, either by phone, mail, voicemail, or email, for over three years. If you are that persistent with me, I have to assume you are equally tenacious with potential candidates, so I’m going to give you a chance to prove it.” He found the right person within two weeks. His stubbornness got him a check for $76,000 and two more senior-level openings.

Worth it? You bet! He has a plaque over his desk that reads:

Don’t stop trying: remember, it is always the last key that opens the lock.

Dr. Phil opines that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Even when you’re moving forward, it’s a good idea to glance occasionally in your rearview mirror. There are a number of ways to move forward. Some think it is training, some think it’s a new job, some think that God is the best co-pilot. Others rely on planning, tactics, and techniques, and still others feel that future success is a combination of life ingredients lived up to this point in life – a firm foundation for achievement to come.

This month, we have the views and philosophies of a number of high-impact recruiting stars. Some may work for you and your staff; some may not, but this issue gives you a diverse number of strategies to ponder.

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.