By Bill Wednieski
If we’ve worked together or you’ve known me a while then you’ve probably heard me say, “If you order a pizza on Tuesday and it arrives on Friday, do you still want it?” Headhunting is a strange and unique business, especially in today’s market with historic employment levels. With unemployment at just 3.6% there simply are not enough qualified candidates to fill every job opening. Qualified and active candidates frequently do not last a week when they decide enough is enough or they just want to do something different – they’re on to the next thing, or at the very least, begin talking to a recruiter.
Frenetic pace and the little symphony
Why do I move at this pace? I’ve always moved fast. Heck, I have a habit of just walking fast and it is even worse when I’m in groove with the little symphony playing that exists only in my head. Public accounting, and especially tax, was a great place for me as deadlines and busy seasons force you to jam more than half your work production into a quarter of the calendar year. I also spent my college years working as a waiter in a very busy and successful restaurant that frequently served over 500 people on a Saturday night. If you wanted to make top dollar tips waiting tables it required fastidious preparation, including organization, cleanliness and presentation skills all while hustling. Speed killed in public accounting and busy food establishments, and speed kills in recruiting.
A million little details
Add it up. If our firm is actively working ten searches and juggling a handful of solid candidates on every search, and each candidate has their own story and unique requirements it adds up quickly for a lot of stuff to remember. Add in sometimes having multiple hiring managers for some searches that may have inconsistencies in their individual requirements, and it gets exponentially harder to satisfy multiple decision makers.
It probably starts with my relatively clean inbox which requires near constant monitoring, and lightning-fast response times. Same for voicemails, and text messages. I had this habit before I worked at Plante Moran, but that firm had a rule that all voicemails had to be responded to within 24 hours. (It is worth mentioning that many people at Plante Moran updated their outgoing voicemails daily stating a unique message like, “Today is Tuesday and I’ll be at a client unable to respond until after 4pm.”) The hardest part of being a recruiter is keeping track of all the details for every search, every candidate, and every hiring manager.
Timing is everything
I’ve missed out on candidates by half a day. True story: we recently conducted an executive level search that took over three months to select a final candidate and extend an offer. During this drawn out process we lost four exceptional candidates to other competitive offers. The candidates simply could not wait around to find out if our client wanted to extend an offer. In today’s search market it is often difficult to present two solid candidates for an employer to choose from. Everybody has to hustle but especially the employers and recruiters. Candidates are human and only stay excited for so long, and recruiters never get a second chance to initially present an opportunity. So what do we do? We try to set expectations up front by telling hiring managers we need feedback within 24 hours, and we genuinely do our best to not send candidates into a weekend wondering if a company is interested.
Made to order and from scratch
Food from scratch tastes better. I used to think a robust candidate pipeline was way more important than I do today. Each of our recruiters, including me, has a long list of great candidates. So what? If you need a CFO for a private equity backed specialty healthcare company and I know three qualified candidates that are all happily employed at similar salary ranges it does me very little good. An awesome candidate that was looking last year and found themselves a great opportunity is akin to expired food. You can’t serve it to a customer. It seems every single search for the past 18 months has required a fresh search ‘made from scratch.’ Said differently, it is getting less and less likely that we have your dream candidate in our back pocket.
Everybody needs to hustle and avoid complacency to fill a search in today’s market. Looking back over the past year, I can honestly say our best results came from working with hiring managers with quick turnarounds and processes. Speed kills in more than just SEC football.