A Predictable Train Wreck

If you’re like me, you never want to think that bad things are going to happen, especially if – like me – you have an incurably optimistic streak. I like that glass-half-full approach to the game of life (and always have).

Of course, that’s all subject to change when a (she thought) super-knowledgeable hiring manager decides that executive search should be an easy to pick up hobby and talks HCIT circles around me on subjects like what technology will someday soon replace cloud computing, etc. In this case, things started to look even less promising when that hiring manager went one step further and took over the search she was paying me to do.

Now you might think if someone’s going to do my job for me and pay me at the same time, it must be a “good thing”, right? Nope. Not at all. Why, you might ask? Well, let’s just say I’ve seen this movie before and can whiteboard the ending (and I mean every single time).

The Readers Digest Version:
1. Hiring manager introduced to a candidate from my firm and falls in love
2. Hiring manager begins social relationship with said candidate
3. Hiring manager stops returning my phone calls and e-mails
a. Attempts to continue vetting candidate fall on deaf ears
b. Hiring manager elects to extend offer and leave my firm out of the loop
4. Candidate who was engaged by my firm stops responding to us and instead only communicates with their soon-to-be new boss
5. Candidate starts to get cold feet and begins to disengage while (clueless) Hiring Manger (now an expert in search) never detects an issue
6. Offer made and (tentatively/reluctantly) accepted by candidate
7. Candidate decides to opt out at the last minute
8. The search (painfully) starts over

Get the picture? I know I certainly do. Please make it just go away.

Please?

Pretty Please???

C Suite Hiring on the Rise – Finally!

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

It’s no longer me or my optimistic friend Gwen Darling shouting good news from the rooftop! Nope. It’s everywhere!

Recent data tells the true story.
The mid-year executive search industry outlook is positive according to a majority of consultants polled recently by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). The survey reveals that 67 percent of recruiters expect to see revenue growth in the second half of the year, while 27 percent predict revenues will stay the same. In total 94 percent are confident that they will see no decrease in demand for the remainder of the year. Nearly half the respondents plan to hire more consultants in the second half of the year. China, India andBrazil are expected to see the greatest scarcity of talent in the latter half of 2010, according to respondents. Functions continuing to see the greatest talent shortage are chief executive, chief operating officers andgeneral managers. “The latest results are indicative of an industry regaining strength following the downturn,” said Peter Felix, AESC president. “Client organizations are beginning to think more strategically and are working with our member search firms to draw senior executivesourcing plans for the future.

Once again there is talk of a talent shortagein certain industries and functions, even though unemployment levels remain high.” Healthcare/life sciences and energy/natural resources are reported tobe the strongest two sectors and are expected to see the most growth – followed closely by the industrial and financial services sectors.

Let the hiring begin!

What are You Worth?

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

I’m a huge Brian Tracy fan – always have been. I’m sure I’ve read a dozen or more of his books on motivation, and the human growth and potential we all have inside of us. It’s there. Trust me. In this ever changing HCIT market we live in today it’s probably a good idea to step back and assess our value and determine exactly what we bring to the table.

Sound fair? Let me do this with a story that Brian illustrates in his powerful book Focal Point.
So the story goes…Years ago a nuclear power plant had a malfunction that caused the entire plant to shut down its operations. This was costing millions of dollars a day in lost revenue and productivity. After several days, the plant engineers could not find the source of the problem and decided to call in an expert to assess the situation. The expert flew into town, arrived at the plant and put on a white jacket and went to work. He spent most of the day looking at the equipment at the plant, making various measurements and taking notes as he conducted his evaluation. Finally, at the end of the day, he crawled up a ladder took out a red marker from his pocket at placed a large X on a valve in the plant. “This is your problem he said. Replace this apparatus and your problem will be fixed”. He took off his jacket, walked to his rental car and drove back to the airport. The plant manager ordered the replacement apparatus and the engineers quickly installed it as soon as it arrived. Sure enough, the apparatus the expert drew the X next to was the problem. Soon, plant was back up and running at full capacity and the problem was solved.

A few days later the plant manager received a bill from the expert. The invoice simply stated “For Services Rendered – $10,000. The plant manager was shocked at the size of the bill. After all, he reasoned, the expert arrived, took a few measurements, made a few notes and placed a big X on the broken apparatus with his red marker. Surely their must have been a mistake in calculating his bill. He wrote a letter to the expert asking him to please itemize the bill since $10,000 seemed a bit excessive for the amount of time he spent at the plant. A few days later the plant manager received a new bill from the expert. He itemized the bill as follows:

For placing X on broken apparatus – $1.00

For knowing where to place the X – $9,999

Here’s the point. Your value equation in this space is increasing based on the knowledge you have in your HCIT niche and the shortage of people in the market that do what you do. It’s pure supply and demand. Companies will be competing for you, your talent and for what you know. And very soon… Make sure you understand what you are worth and begin thinking about where you place the X in your value and what you bring to the table.

You may be worth a lot more than you think.

Catch and Release…. A Good Policy

You have a big fish (passive candidate) on the hook for a difficult search assignment. It takes lots of cycles to convey why your search is a good fit and all of the accolades about the client and culture. Especially in this economy! It takes multiple conversations to get candidates to warm up and take the bait. After weeks of building trust and rapport with the candidate you finally get a bite. YES. They have given the green light on their interest and they are…yes “on the hook”.

AWESOME NEWS! Well, maybe not…

Not if your client wants to drag you and your endangered species through weeks and weeks of one delay after another. C’mon people! Maybe it’s a sign of where we are in this market and how supply and demand have changed the behavior of hiring managers and executives in a given search assignment. That has some merit – no doubt. It could be that hiring managers are especially nervous about every little detail about every candidate they interview in an effort to cover their own hind quarters. Perhaps they just take more time to make up their minds to make sure the rest of the team is on board even though its their go no-go decision. Procrastination is somehow justified in this market I am seeing this behavior exercised by more and more hiring managers. No need to hurry-(

Well, the market is changing and we heard recently that many economists are predicting that the economy will pull itself out of the current recession sometime over the next quarter or two. Worst case – maybe three. This great news will have a major impact on hiring over that same span of time and candidates will once again be in demand (some much more in key growth industries). I’ve already seen more activity in 30 days than in the prior 2-3 quarters. Good news for all.

Dragging out search assignments and holding up the search process will backfire in the months ahead. It might be a good idea to adopt a “catch and release” strategy in your company. Catch and hold is not a very good plan at all. Nope.

Pitfalls of Taking a Shortcut

It never ceases to amaze me how some clients or prospective clients expect immediate results in the search for new executive level talent. Recently I spoke with a CEO that told me in a phone conversation “I need this senior level search completed in three weeks”.

What?

The conversation did not last long. We always set expectations that are in line with reality and it’s not always what hiring managers want to hear. Our process usually (90% of the time) takes 8-12 weeks from the time we sign the engagement letter to the day the new employee commences work. If we set an unrealistic expectation in an effort to make a quick fee – we have to live with the results of trying to expedite the search process. The results can be…well not very good. That’s not what we get paid to do and I want no part of sending half-baked candidates into the line of fire. It’s not fair to the candidate, the client or the firm and in general – it’s just not a good plan.

Our process includes going through multiple “touch points” with each candidate to validate their skill-set, experience and real motivation for their interest in making a move. That takes time. This includes multiple conversations by phone, in depth interviews written feedback from the candidate, video interviews, psychometric testing, reference and background work and a whole lot more! Skip any of the steps in the process and you have a real train wreck in the making. I can almost predict the outcome if we attempt to meet an unrealistic timeline just to deliver A candidate that has not been fully vetted. I’ve seen the movie a time or two. Not interested. Nope. As a candidate, you should be very suspicious of any search consultant that attempts to convince you that their search assignment is a 2-3 week engagement and unless you “jump in” you will be missing something big. What? What you may experience in dealing with an abbreviated search process is wasting a lot of your valuable time. Who needs that?

As a client what you will not be getting is a slate of highly qualified and motivated candidates that thoroughly understand the position profile, the culture of the organization and a real sense as to why they are qualified to do the job. What you may get instead are candidates that are ready to jump because of reasons unknown or worse- non-performing B-players. Without the proper vetting cycles we may not be able to uncover all of the details and validate their background, previous performance history and a whole of host of other key elements we learn about in the search process. Again, who needs that?

So I think you get the picture here. I made up my mind a long time ago that I do not want to conduct a search assignment unless we have the chance to do it right! As hard as it is (especially in this economy) I actually walk away from many search assignment if the client has unrealistic expectations. It’s a lose-lose-lose proposition. The candidate – the client and our firm all lose. It makes no sense to me to deliver a service unless I can do it the right way and deliver real value.
I’m just guessing as a candidate – that’s what you want as well. Right?

Eeny-Meenie-Miney-Mo

I know it’s hard to believe but we engage in multiple search assignments every year where the employer struggles to make a decision on which candidate to hire. Nobody wants to make a bad hiring decision. It’s always an interesting dilemma when you have multiple (did I say excellent) candidates to choose from and yet you struggle to make a choice. It’s a compliment to the search consultant every time. The final slate has completed the entire interview process and its now time to declare a winner. Each candidate is qualified to perform the duties as outlined in the job spec.

However, there is usually only one winner and well….you get my point.

So what does an employer do to make sure they are making the right decision? I always start by going back to the job description to make sure we have checked all of the boxes against what we were trying to achieve in hiring the ideal candidate. Assuming all the boxes are checked for the candidates in play, the hiring manager has to look at cultural fit.

Cultural fit in most cases represents 50% of the hiring equation. The question you have to ask yourself is “How will this person fit in with the existing team and culture”? I have seen my fair share of great candidates who have all of the requisite skills, experience and educational credentials – but are a complete mismatch when it comes to cultural fit. I always recommend that each person that participates in the hiring process uses a grading tool to rate each candidate in multiple categories – including cultural fit.

Always make sure that the person you hire will be an excellent fit culturally to give them the greatest chance to succeed.