Fordyce Forum: Learning From Differing Management Styles

What’s the best way to lead? By example.

The Fordyce Forum kicked off today with an overwhelming theme of practicing what you preach, and there is no better way to exemplify good practices than by how one manages employees. During his keynote presentation, Jeff Skrentny challenged attendees to apply the same practices they require from their clients to their own hiring practices.

This morning, Conference Chair Jenifer Lambert led a panel of recruitment managers and business owners — consisting of Michael Gionta, Jordan Rayboy, Adam Dalva, and Carolyn Thompson — in a lively discussion around best practices for running a recruiting business.

In a room filled with recruiting firm owners, there could not have been a better discussion. The 60-minute discussion ranged from topics of when to hire to how to compensate and left attendees hungry for more — which of course they will be getting over the remainder of the conference. The following are just a few of the areas that were covered by the four panelists, who each approach managing their employees from very different angles.

How do you find your people?

The panelists all agreed that a huge source of hiring is referrals — though they come from different places. For example, Thompson receives referrals from vendors, clients, candidates, and employees. Gionta said that while he did get referrals, he used a local recruiter to help staff his business since he was a national recruiter and had not developed his local networks much. Dalva said that all of his hires were ‘strangers’ before they were brought on; while some of his hires were from employee referrals, he blanketed the Internet with ads and looked to develop a candidate pipeline. And Rayboy’s office, which is completely virtual, is made up of individuals who are family (his wife, sister-in-law, and soon to be brother-in-law work for him) or people he trusts (his researcher started with him when he was 20 and she was 18).

What do you look for when hiring people?

Gionta spoke for the group when he said that there is no ‘ideal’ background. He affectionately referred to his hires as the “Island of Misfit Toys.” He has hired people with sales/marketing experience, but ultimately he said he looks for individuals with a passion to make something happen in their life. Dalva shared that his must successful recruiter has a law enforcement background. He looks for people who take their career very seriously — no matter what that career is. Interestingly, he also only hires individuals who are interviewing with other recruiting businesses — he said that it is an indicator to him that they are serious about pursuing a career in recruiting. Thompson’s highest producer was formerly a caddy at a very expensive golf club and was referred to her by a client. And Rayboy looks for individuals who are “magnetized” for working with a virtual company — he said that he models his business to fit his desired lifestyle and looks for individuals who do the same.

How do you screen and assess potential employees?

Three screening and assessment tools were mentioned from the panel: the Drake P3, the Wonderlic (a crowd favorite and one that I’ve personally had to take as well!), and the SelecSys assessment. Each panelist works their business differently and thus has a different goal in mind when making quality hires for themselves — Rayboy referred to himself as the ‘head rainmaker,’ so when he evaluates possible hires, he looks for a good cultural fit as well as the ability to be independent, follow directions without having to be hand-held through the process, and be a supportive team player. Thompson joked that she asks potential hires to share with her what there is about themselves that they don’t want anyone else to know — she said it reveals true personality. She shared that she looks for individuals who can work well as a team, since in her office they are monitored and held accountable not as individuals, but as one cohesive unit.

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How do you train new employees?

Training begins with setting appropriate expectations for what needs to be accomplished. The panelists agreed that setting expectations at the point of hire is the best way to ensure that they will be met. Clear expectations — as well as rigidly enforcing them — make efficient recruiters. Gionta goes so far as to set expectations of new hires before they are even hired. This way, he said, they are clear on what they are responsible for before they consider taking the job. When he trains, early on, it’s like bootcamp — new recruiters do nothing but make calls. He sets clear yet achievable goals and makes sure new hires meet those goals. Dalva trains in a ‘watch, learn, do’ method — he is attached at the hip to new employees for the first several months, setting the example to them of how business is to be conducted. He said he essentially becomes a brand-new recruiter all over again — which in turn renews his love for the business. Since Rayboy’s office is virtual, his training is slightly different. He expects his new hires to be proactive and invest time on their own to ramp up. He gets involved to provide industry training and help them set financial goals for themselves and has his admin/researcher teach them about the ATS and other technology. But as all of his employees work on their own, he expects them to be independent and proactive in their learning.

How do you compensate your employees?

Here’s where things were very different amongst the panelists. Compensation structures ranged from full salary to recoverable draw plus commission. Thompson noted that compensation depends heavily on where your office is located as well as what the goals of your business are. In her office, recruiters are salaried and provided with excellent benefits packages — she is located in the D.C. area and these are standard business practices in the area. For Gionta, his employees receive a $25-30k salary and commissions. He said he does not refer to this as a ‘draw’ because of the negative connotation that word has in his location — he is based in New England and has studied compensation structures of other local professional services companies extensively. Rayboy’s employees are compensated almost entirely based on performance. His admin/researcher receives a small salary and gets bonuses based on placement of candidates she sources. As she is also responsible for collecting on invoices, she receives a $100 bonus for all invoices that are paid on time (he noted that she is excellent at collections!). His recruiters receive a $2,000 monthly draw as well as commission on placements — he said that in his office, “you eat what you kill.”

Lambert asked each panelist for a “final thought” to share with the audience:

“Set specific expectations, and STICK TO THEM. But don’t set people up to fail. Real numbers are based on real metrics.” — Mike Gionta

“Don’t build your business based on what everyone else tells you it should be like. Build it based on how you want your lifestyle to be. Fit your hiring and your business into how you want your life to look.” — Jordan Rayboy

“The root of all conflict is unmet expectations. Decide what your expectations are that are not getting met. You can only change how you interact with people. Monitor and be consistent with how you interact with them to achieve what you’re looking for.” — Carolyn Thompson

“When it comes to hiring — only hire if you are ready to work harder than what you do on your own.” — Adam Dalva

Stay tuned to more words of wisdom from Day 2 of the Fordyce Forum!

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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