A few years ago, when this business of search and placement was simpler and easier, most of my clients would say “why not” when considering the hire of a strong IT sales pro that I had referred to them. After all, they had an open head count, they were selling products left and right, their quotas had just been bumped up again and my candidate was deemed solid after their interviews. Although this happened regularly to me and my then staff of 7 or 8; it seems like an entire era ago.
It was. Today, we work in the era of “why?” Regardless of how bonafide my candidate or how real the personnel requirement is, employers all over America are still asking themselves if they really need to hire this particular human resource at this particular time. Perhaps, that’s why national employment numbers continue to lag despite the mass media’s expectations.
Almost every company with whom I interact is asking themselves… “Could we live without this candidate?” And answering with a resounding “Sure!” “Would my P&L look better with one less salary for one more quarter? Absolutely.” “Do we have 100% complete consensus from every one of the seven (or more) interviewers on this candidate?” Or “Let’s look at some more talent before we pull the trigger. Why rush into this important decision?” Why? Why? Why?
That’s the word that most accurately describes how my customers are feeling in today’s environment of what I call “pervasive reluctance.” So, even though the economy appears to be stabilizing and search activity increasing it’s best to be forecasting more of the same. The plain reality is that in corporate boardrooms in the United States of America the top dogs are unanimously in favor of more productivity and less perceived fat.
So what’s a well-intentioned recruiter to do? Fight fire with fire! Fight productivity with even more productivity. To me, that means good ol’ fashioned cold recruiting. The only placements I expect to make currently and, in fact, have successfully completed, are based upon truly gritty headhunting. Today, more than ever, phone skills and numbers of efforts to connect with genuinely excellent candidates are all that produces results.
Companies strong enough to be hiring with a sense of urgency, willing to engage a search consultant, have a better understanding of our business and higher expectations than ever before. Short cuts won’t work. If a hirer is putting his neck out on the line through a substantial fee, he will scrutinize every move we make and has the right to demand candidates that are pulled aggressively, but professionally, away from his competition for interviews.
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I find that my best clients are expecting me to produce “the genuine article” and it is implicit in our discussion regarding profile specs that they will not pay for anything less. So activity, if it’s increasing, is a good thing. But don’t let the number of assignments lull you into lazy habits. We’re dealing with a very well educated post-boom marketplace with a myriad of resources at their disposal.
Don’t let them dispose of you! Do what only true search professionals can and will do. Take your clients’ assignments and their story directly into the lion’s den of the competition, find a star who’s got some pain and then facilitate the matching process with consistent care. And keep digging, find a back up, and don’t rest easy until you hear confirmation from both sides.
Then all this talk of activity won’t just seem good; it’ll feel great! One deal at a time