We’ve got a saying in Texas — “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” We are KILLING it this year, on pace for 300% growth year over year, and over 50% more than my career high from 2005. We have more business than we can possibly handle, and I just recently hired another two project people to meet the demand.
So I asked myself recently — what’s different? What am I doing this year that’s kicking it into high gear and taking my search practice to the NEXT LEVEL?
I have been working both harder and smarter. I regularly put in 12-15 hours per day, including planning, and commit to hitting 6+ hours a day in connect time. If it’s 6:30pm, and you are at 5:52 in phone time, you call some people on the west coast. If it takes seven phone calls to get that eight additional minutes, you do whatever it takes. Commitment! Remember that this is a phone business. When on the phone, you are open for business. When off, you are hanging up the closed sign. I try to be open for business 30+ hours per week. Sound unattainable? Not if you start every day with a great plan and eliminate all the distractions that keep you off the phone. More about this later…
Work 12-15 hours per day consistently? Yeah, I know, work/life balance is important. Before recently buying a house, I’d spent the last four years recruiting out of an RV while traveling North America. The life part of the equation was my priority. So now, my motivation to work my freaking ass off is sky high.
In addition to hard work, I believe the biggest differentiators are the Systems we’ve put in place to take advantage of the principle of Recyclability.
Recyclability of your efforts is the biggest benefit of specializing in a niche. I’ve written before about why you NEED to focus on a niche, and how to go about dominating your market (see my article in the February 2011 issue of The Fordyce Letter). Here I’ll take it a step further, and discuss strategies and processes you can implement tomorrow to start maximizing your efficiency.
Recyclability means never starting from zero. Every search we get, we already have anywhere from 50-1500 people doing that exact job with a competitive company in that geography. This comes from doing the same searches in the same major markets over and over again for the last eleven years. It also comes from having a great researcher who is constantly filling the database with passive candidates from top companies in our niche. Always utilize their standard company email formula when uploading these candidates, so they have a chance to receive and respond to mass emails.
Here is the workflow we go through from the moment I get a Job Order:
Jordan gets a Job Order.
Recyclability starts with choosing the work with the highest probability of making a placement. Assess — can we fill this, and fill it fast? If I can’t recycle the efforts from past searches, and recycle current efforts again for future searches, I turn it down. If we are going to have to start from zero, or it’s in a location in which we never do work and likely will never be able to use the recruited candidates again, I will turn it down. Is it a smooth process we want to work with? Do they have a burning sense of urgency to get this filled ASAP? If it’s going to be extremely difficult or time-consuming, or the client isn’t committed to getting someone on yesterday, I will usually decline it. I can ask for a retainer so they have skin in the game, but then I’m just handcuffed to a search that will prevent me from making multiple other placements in the same time period. There is just too much low hanging fruit out there for which we can leverage past efforts. It’s interesting, but not a coincidence — I’ve mysteriously gotten much stronger in my negotiations when I have a stacked hotsheet. I am much quicker to turn down work for low fees when I have a plethora of good work at good fees.
Sometimes, when you are very well niched with great relationships and market knowledge, you have a chance at a “one-and-done.” As you are taking the Job Order and listening to what your client wants/needs, your brain is already processing who might be “The Guy.” You might share bits of the individual’s background with the hiring manager to whet their appetite while also getting them excited about partnering with you on the search. When you finish the conversation, you call your target and encourage them that it’s worth having an exploratory conversation with this company/individual. You likely have a relationship with this candidate, maybe have even placed them in the past — you are recycling your past recruiting efforts. There is mutual respect, and they value your advice, guidance, and counsel. Align the opportunity with solving their motivation for change and giving them what they’ve previously shared they truly want as a next step in their career. Ask them to trust your judgment, and that it’s worth 15-20 minutes of their time to explore this opportunity, which could be a significant advancement in their career. Let them know you will set the expectation with the client that they are happy, doing well, but open to an exploratory dialogue (they will appreciate this). Call back the client, maybe even within the hour, and present your A-player. Explain the situation, and then coach them on the candidate’s hot buttons and motivation for change, and what they need to focus on to get the hook in this candidate. At the end of the day, it has to be a true win-win for it to be a successful match, but you shouldn’t under-estimate the impact a skilled recruiter can have on that matchmaking process.
Does this immediate turn-around lessen the value you provide in their eyes? I don’t think so. My clients would strongly prefer I find them the right guy in a day, as opposed to a month. That’s why they keep working with me.
Your one-and-done attempt will also serve as a great litmus test to the quality of your Job Order. You are hoping to get this person in process and place them, but at a minimum, it will instantly test just how serious your client is about making a hire. If they are too busy with travel and other priorities to make time to interview your perfect candidate for several weeks, you should push that search way down the priority list. On the other hand, if they answer, “That candidate sounds awesome! Can I talk to him today? If not, what about tomorrow,” that’s the type of client I want to go out and recruit for. I know that I’m going to see a return on my effort invested.
Assuming I don’t already know the ideal candidate right away, that night, during planning time, I assign the Job Order to either Amy (my PC) or myself. If assigning to Amy, do a full knowledge transfer, so she will be as effective as I would be at filling the search. Who works each search is dependent on our current workload, but more so on recent relationships with the target candidate pool in that specific location. As an example, if Amy has recently worked on four Account Executive searches in NY in the last quarter, it wouldn’t make sense for me to dive into NY and start from scratch. She already has recent relationships with the A-players in the market. She will know the 5-10 people to call that will yield 3-5 qualified and interested candidates.
Christina (my admin/researcher) will add the new position to our hotsheet and ATS and post on our website. We already have our database broken down into rollup lists based on the FILL methodology (function, industry, location, level). Christina will usually build a rollup list to send out a mass email. Each geography (NY, Dallas, LA, etc.) has five separate rollup lists — direct sales, channel sales, presales engineers, post-sales engineers, and management. When we get a new search, Christina copies the coordinating master rollup list to a new rollup named for that particular search. All mass emails and marking up of the rollup will be done with this new list, so that if you make any mistakes and remove people, the master list stays intact. If we happen to be light on candidates for a certain role, Christina will add people to these lists before we send out a mass email. These searches are almost always similar to ones she’s done in the past, so she knows exactly which companies to target, which keywords to search for, which titles to look for, etc. Recyclability of her efforts on the research side.
Amy or I write the mass email. It needs to be ALL SIZZLE — what’s unique and exciting about the company and the particular opportunity. Focus on lucrative compensation (while not giving specifics), equity, growth opportunity, freedom and autonomy, local territory with little to no travel, and other highlights that will pique a candidate’s curiosity. It should NOT be a rundown of the position requirements or the job specs. You want to give them every reason to respond wanting to know more, and little reason for them to rule themselves out.
Again, we are recycling our efforts here. Usually, we are doing work with existing clients on similar searches to what we’ve worked and placed in the past. The mass email for a systems engineer in Denver is almost identical to the mass email we wrote for the same search in Atlanta. The mass email for a sales executive search will use the same company sizzle as for that company’s systems engineer search. We are mostly just copying/pasting prior mass emails, and just changing a few details. Therefore, the mass emails generally take no more than 5-10 minutes to write.
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Christina sends out the mass email first thing the next morning. On average, this email goes out to 500-1,000 prospective candidates. We typically get 20-30 responses day one, half of whom are interested, and half of whom say they are happy but keep them in mind. All responses come back to her (not recruiters, who should be busy making phone calls). She sometimes will have an email dialogue back and forth with candidates asking them for their resume, and letting them know that Amy or I will be following up with them to discuss the opportunity further. Christina categorizes all the responses, with the top prospects ranked higher than the likely “can’t help” candidates. We almost always get a couple of referrals from these respondents, and those fresh new candidates are often the ones we end up placing. Christina also adds these folks to the master and target lists and prioritizes them accordingly.
We give Christina a day to collect and categorize these responses. Sometimes, additional candidates trickle in after that, but the majority of folks who are interested email us back or call us in those first 12-24 hours. At the end of that day (again, during planning time), Amy or I will open up the rollup and review the backgrounds/resumes of those at the top of the list. It might take an hour at most to look at twenty or so candidates and make the determination of who we feel is the best potential fit for our client’s requirements. We usually put the top 5-10 candidates on our schedule for the next day. If there are more solid looking candidates, we might call more, but we want to focus our time/efforts on the strongest potentials first. At the end of the day, our clients usually want to see 3-5 candidates to make a hiring decision. So if we can accomplish this by only making ten calls, that frees our time up to work more searches at a time and build a larger activity pipeline. The candidates we deem as “can’t help,” we have Christina send a follow up email to, letting them know our client has several candidates in consideration they feel are a closer fit for their requirements, and we will keep them in mind as future opportunities arise. I never make a single call to these people, as they are not leading to revenue. Christina takes care of everything.
We make the calls and, trust me, it is the easiest recruiting call you will ever make. You are calling people that already responded to your mass email that they are interested in hearing more, and have most likely already sent you their updated resume, provided their cell number, personal email, etc. They’ve probably even tried convincing you why they are a great fit in their response, doing all the work you need to potentially present them to your client. These aren’t warm calls — they are HOT! Additionally, if you do get their VM, they almost always call you back quickly. Here’s what I use:
“Hi ____, Jordan Rayboy w/ Rayboy Insider Search. I’m calling to follow up on the email exchange you had w/ my partner Christina Martin. Is now an okay time to discuss this in a bit more detail?”
Then it’s right into your Candidate Data Sheet (CDS), getting the info you need before making a decision on whether or not you want to proceed with presenting them to your client.
This is working smarter. Usually after ten or so calls, we have our 3-5 qualified and interested candidates, with updated resumes, ready to present.
Present the candidates to your client. Send resumes with write-ups in bullet point format. The bullets should align the candidate’s experience to your client’s requirements, so that it’s a no-brainer to want to move forward with an interview. If they want a track record of success exceeding quota, show the candidate’s quota attainment. If they want relationships with enterprise accounts in the territory, list the candidate’s accounts. If they want certifications, list their certs. List any advanced degrees or awards they’ve received, such as President’s Club. We do a lot of work in Federal, and if someone has a clearance, we list it in the write-up as well. Send them by email, and follow up by phone 5-10 minutes later, so they’ve at least had a chance to receive (but not necessarily review) your email.
Walk them through each candidate, talking not only about who they are on paper, but also getting them excited about who they are as a person. Talk about their motivation for change, what they are looking for, and why this opportunity aligns well with their career goals. Talk about how well you believe they will hit it off personally with candidates. Again, don’t be full of crap. It has to be a good match to start with. But assuming it is a good match, your job is to be the executive match-maker and set these two up on a date! This is where you can literally put deals together. Get the candidates excited about the opportunity, and get the client excited about the candidates. At a basic level, it’s what we as recruiters do.
So there it is. Most of the time, we are presenting a short list of 3-5 qualified and interested candidates to our client in 48-72 hours. You can’t beat speed. It’s what your clients want, and it’s something your competitors, both internal and external, can’t touch, if you truly dominate your niche. This is what you can sell to prospects, and it’s the reason your key accounts will keep using you for all their search work. You need to provide access and speed — access to the top talent and the passive candidates from their direct competitors, and speed to bring those individuals to their doorstep as fast as possible.
At the end of the day, your success will depend on picking up the phone and being open for business. That’s what all these systems are about — recruiters making phone calls and outsourcing everything else, or at a minimum, doing it all during planning time. Shoot for 6+ hours of connect time a day, and commit to it! If I can do it, so can you. Let it rain, baby.