Are You Hiring for One Year Or 10?

Kenworth and Executive Search
What has a classic Kenworth W900B semi got to do with Executive Search? Find out.

Back when the earth was flat, I created commercials for Kenworth trucks.  The Kenworth was a beautiful, superior quality truck a cut above the market.  And more expensive.

So our strategy was to sell the lifecycle cost of a Kenworth, versus a market staple, say a Ford.  Because it was better built, a Kenworth was hands down a better purchase over 10 years, despite costing more at the outset.  It was a better value.

And this has to do with Retained Executive Search?

Actually, it does.   If you are just looking for something that will get the job done, buy the Ford.  In the executive recruiting world, that’s the Contingency Search recruiter.   No insult implied. He or she might often seem to be less expensive than a Retained Search consultant, but that is mainly because of the working method. (For a refresher, read our classic: Retained Search vs. Contingency Search)

The contingency firm may charge less and is paid the moment you hire the person they find for you.  Rapid turnover in this game is profit, so you will receive dozens of resumes very quickly.  They’ll all be qualified on paper, but the contingency guy hasn’t got the time to dig too deep. So, fit might be among the things you’ll have to figure out for yourself.  And that directly impacts the stick rate.


There’s a better way

But when your hiring horizon is 5 or more years and you are thinking strategy and not next quarter, you want another approach.

The Retained Search firm goes about the process differently. You sign a contract that ends when you are satisfied. The consultant is focused on finding the one person, anywhere, who is best for the position you need to fill.  He or she is going to do all the heavy lifting for you.  When you get a short list, they are candidates who have been thoroughly reviewed and assessed, not just for skill and experience, but also attitude, compatibility and fit with your organization.

Because retained sets the bar higher, they make a point of getting to know where the high-value people are while they are still employed.  They don’t rely only on the job-seekers; they know who might be interested enough in your offer that they would consider a move.  These are often the best people.

So, if you need to do more than just plug an empty square in the org chart, here are six rules to follow when recruiting high-value people.

  1. You are not in this for 1 year, you are in it for 5 or more.
  2. You only want to do this once. It gets very expensive when the newbies don’t work out.
  3. Don’t settle until you’re certain. You are looking for someone special, capable of impacting the bottom line.  You retained the search firm to find that person.
  4. Even the best candidates need to learn your style. Have a solid on-boarding program waiting to give them a great start.
  5. Shoot high. Hire the person who can make the changes you want but haven’t managed yet yourself.  Better yet, the person that can help you see the changes you should make.
  6. Be open to diversity. It’s the most under-utilized strategy for success.
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