Jump Balls And Other Misconceptions
Tuesday last week, I had lunch with my friend Ned. I have known Ned since 2008 when he was a candidate for one of my CEO searches. I came to know him better when he became a client. We scheduled our lunch to check in and catch up. I am actively recruiting him to join our consulting group as well. Our discussion was far ranging, mostly focused on his recent consulting experiences. We talked about people the other should know, and noted to make introductions. He mentioned that one of his clients needed to recruit an operations executive. That comment moved us onto the subject of recruiting. Ned said, “I don’t know how you do it. I don’t think I could ever be successful in your line of work.” I did confess that it had its ups and downs with the occasional weird moments. I was immediately reminded of a call I took the day before and began to tell Ned that story.
My call was the president of a local quick casual chain looking for a recruiter to help him with a senior operations search. It was largely a 'getting-to-know-you-call.' He wanted to know about me and how I operated. I recapped my history and explained that I work on an exclusive basis with my clients; offering a variety of fee structures and terms to suit their needs.
He said he was looking to give this assignment to a number of recruiters because it was an important search which they needed to complete quickly. I call this situation a "food fight." Others have called it a "Jump Ball." I am not completely certain why a company thinks this is a good strategy. They might think that it spurs competition among the recruiters to present more candidates quicker. As if we aren’t motivated to do good work. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It is disrespectful of our profession and works against the reputation of the client. I politely declined to consider this assignment on those terms.
He went on to say that they had initiated the search on their own by posting it to a number of job boards. I told him that if that's the case, he shouldn't be talking to an executive recruiter anyway. This move adds further confusion into the search and diminishes the likelihood that the executive recruiter will be paid for his work.
Ned told me that he had not considered that before. He opined that many employers may not understand the value of executive recruiters.
Recruiters, as with any profession, expect to be compensated for their effort. They will put in the requisite time commensurate with the likelihood of a payout. In the example presented above, the client may receive a number of resumes but they probably won’t be vetted properly, creating more work for the hiring manager. You could call the recruiter's attitude; "fire and forget." They will put in some effort but since the likelihood of a payout is low, they will not waste much of their time. Instead, they will move on to more lucrative prospects. I don't get involved in these situations as it is a waste of my time and tarnishes my reputation.
My best clients work with me as a business partner. We develop a good rapport with open communications. Over time, I learn about their culture, their decision process, and their business strategy. This helps me find candidates who will best fit their needs, improving my effectiveness on their behalf. They come to trust me and value my counsel. We develop a win-win relationship. Employers who don’t have an appreciation for this dynamic will continue to struggle with their recruiting efforts, especially if they follow a multiple-recruiter, “food fight strategy.”
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Jim Weber, President
New Century Dynamics Executive Search
Author of: Fighting Alligators: Job Search Strategy For The New Normal
1. COO- Atlanta-based Casual Dining Restaurant Company – New
2. Director of Business Dev, Atlanta-based B2B Professional Services Company: Complete
3. Payroll-Benefits Manager, Atlanta-based Retail Company: Complete
4. Senior Accounting Manager – Atlanta-based Manufacturer. Complete
5. Controller – Atlanta-based Restaurant Company: New
6. Outplacement Assignment – Atlanta-based Manufacturer: New