DIY Executive Search – is it a good idea?

Executive search is the same as any other professional service.  It’s about the value, not the cost – after all, isn’t that how you make other business decisions?

Do you do your own legal work?

Of course not.  There is too much risk and too much you don’t know.

It’s not that you couldn’t do the research and figure it out. It’s that there are experts who are easily available and can draw on the experience they have gained from working through hundreds of similar situations.  Not only will they will be faster and more thorough but you can yell at them.clock

Don’t underestimate this.  When you do your own research and come up with a solution that does not work out, you only have yourself to yell at.  Not very satisfying at all.  And ultimately, you have to call an expert to bail you out.  A bitter pill to swallow.  Scotch might make this a little more palatable but not by much.

Do you do your company’s taxes?

Nope, this gets sent off to experts as well.  Changes in both legislation and your business make it pretty tough to keep up with what’s current, acceptable and advantageous.

When it’s audit time, you want to have a firm that you trust with a strong leader and good support staff.  You know it will cost money but you will feel confident about the results and the advice you get along the way.

So what about executive searches?  Many leaders feel that these should be handled in house.  But why?  Can you really get on LinkedIn to find who you need?  There are 450 million members.  Talk about finding a needle in a haystack.

How much time will it take to find five candidates you want your senior team to interview in order to find the right person?

  • Research – 50 hours
  • Set up and conduct phone interviews – 30 hours
  • Set up and conduct in person interviews – 30 hours
  • References and offer negotiation – 10 hours

That’s about three weeks if all you did was work on this task.  Can you put aside all of your other responsibilities for three weeks to work on this role?  Can anyone else in your organization afford this kind of time?

Say you can focus on this task, do you know the best way to interrupt a candidate’s life to tell them your story? Phone, text, email, skywriting?  You will only get one shot.  You have to make the most of it.

Is there really value to keeping executive talent acquisition in house?  Especially when you know you could hire a firm that would provide a shortlist of qualified, interested, assessed candidates in a set time frame.  Really?

Base your decision on value, risk and time – just like when you decide to use your lawyer and your accountant.



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Recruiting to Broaden the Applicant Pool

One of the best ways to change up your work groups and increase the diversity of your company is to use external recruiters and I am not just saying that because I am an external recruiter.
When you work with someone outside your company, you are focused on describing what the new person is going to do and where they fit into the greater scheme of things.
Your talk about the activities and leadership style, their technical knowledge and priorities.

The external recruiter does not know that people in your organization all went to Stanford and all play broom ball.

So they hit the candidate marketplace and start talking about your company and the great things that are happening and within a few weeks, you have a new group of candidates who would not have applied to your posting or been a part of your employees’ networks.

There is gong to be some fresh new thinking in that group. It can be a pretty interesting experience to interview someone who understands the role but is from a different environment.

They have credibility but none of the baggage. This can be a tremendous help with innovation based roles or where a group has become a bit stagnant.

The key is to keep an open mind when you are interviewing. Review your questions before hand. Be sure to remove things that contain company specific acronyms or personalities.  

When you find the gem and hire them, Make sure you have a very inclusive on-boarding process. Hiring managers and peers alike sometimes need to be reminded that even though someone can’t play broom ball, they still contribute some great ideas.  

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Solve for x (where x is a great job)

We all want the best job, right?  We spend more time with our work partners than our spouses so time at work should be pretty satisfying.  And rewarding.  And sometimes fun.

But how do you get to this place?

The most important factors of great work are:

  • Scope
  • Manager/Team
  • Location
  • Money

These are like legs on a stool.  They are all important but sometimes you can get away with one leg being a bit shorter than the others.  If one is way too short, then you are sure to fall on your ass. (in a career sense)

Scope really is the most important.  What do you do every day?  I am not talking about having coffee or reading the paper.  Who do you help?  What do you solve?  How does your activity move your group ahead?

If you are firefighter, it’s pretty easy to figure this out.  If you are one person in a team of fifty, it can be trickier, especially if it feels like you spend all your time in meetings about nothing!

Think about the main objective of your job.  Is it to support someone?  To make something better?  To create something new?

Once you can hone in on your day to day objective, you can decide if this is what you want keep doing.  Sometimes you realize that you are no longer doing what you signed up to do.  This happens often in companies with rapid change (growth, decline or acquisition) and sometimes the changes are subtle, slow and kind of creep up on you.

This takes some time.  Be prepared to do some walking and thinking about this.  Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night with a flash of realization that you need to quit your job and start a brewery but this is not how it happens for most of us.  We slowly come to the conclusion that we need a shift, not a complete flip.

Now you can start to target places where you can be better and more satisfied.

More on that step next week.

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Pokemon for Jobs

Are you playing Pokemon?  If you are not, you probably know someone who is.  It’s pretty fun to stumble across a little digital creature, toss a few balls at it and add it to your collection.  I am at level six which, apparently, is pretty good for someone my age.

Part of the reason kids are successful with this game is that other kids tell them where to look.  I was parked in front of a store yesterday and was not allowed to pull out of the spot because the folks in the back seat heard there was a rare Pokemon in the parking

Imagine if we were this vigilant in helping people find jobs.  When was the last time you forwarded a job posting?  When you see roles open up at your company, do you pause for a moment to think about anyone you know who might be interested?

You should.  You would want your friends to think of you, right?

Most of us stumble across interesting corporate information all the time.  We are usually going too fast or too inwardly focused to think about others.

Let’s take a lesson from the kids.  You don’t have to go to their extremes.  I am not suggesting you end up on private property or jump in the lake in search of a great job lead for your brother-in-law, but you could certainly be more open and more thoughtful.  We could all do that.

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Looking for a new job? Don’t wait until you are miserable.

I had an interesting situation this week.  One of my candidates, who had been on a long and successful interview journey, ended up with several offers in his inbox.

He was really stressed.  He said he could not understand how this happened.  He was not even looking.  He really likes his job and his team. 

How did this happen?

First of all, he is an interesting and curious person.  When I told him about my client and what they needed to do, he thought it made sense to explore the opportunity.  He felt that it would allow him to build up his skills in a new area.

The first two interviews went really well.  He and a couple of senior managers had wide ranging conversations and he felt really good about it.

Guess what?  After that second interview, he was walking around with just a bit more confidence.  He had third party validation that he was doing some really good work in a really good way. 

It’s not as noticeable as a haircut or new glasses but that kind of confidence shows.

Seemingly out of the blue, he got a couple of networking requests and coffee invitations.  Those led to more casual conversations. Casual, because he had moved beyond the “interview panic prep” and into “this is just a business meeting”.

On top of that, his boss started to let him know about a some longer term projects that he be leading. 

To be clear:  he was not a disgruntled employee complaining about things at work.  No one was trying to placate him or keep him in order to get though the busy cycle.

I suggested that he look at multiple offers as a positive thing not a stressful thing.  It’s a successful measure of how he is navigating his path through the industry.

After weighing the teams, the work, the manager and the future possibilities, he chose.  I think he is going to be very happy. 

So, get off the merry-go-round of your job and take a look around.  Because looking when you are not looking may the best time to look.

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Back Door References – Just Another Form of Gossip

In most searches, the final step is reference checking.  The candidate provides three or four people they have worked with or reported to.  Those people are asked a series of questions about the candidate’s work style and reliability and if the references are done right, they are also asked about areas of improvement and for an explanation of why they left the company.

This exercise is not meant to confirm that the person can do the job.  It provides verification of the good things you saw in the candidate.  And when you see common themes in what people have said, it’s a pretty sure thing.

Sure, this can seem like a bit of a rubber stamp.  But that’s okay.  If every reference check gave you crappy feedback, then you would soon realize have a major problem with your vetting and interview process.

Sometimes impatient or unsure hiring managers take this into their own hands and call people who have worked with or know of the candidate.  Many industries are small enough that this is possible.  This is called back door reference checking.

From a privacy standpoint, this is totally wrong and really crosses the line.  There is a reason we ask a candidate for people to call.

If you hear something bad, what will you do?  Call the candidate and tell them that their former manager said they were unreliable?  What if that manager was on leave for harassment?  You don’t know.  You have no context.

What if you call a former colleague and they happen to mention it to someone else in the organization?  What happens to that candidate who was quietly exploring a new role and all of the sudden everyone knows?  Bad news.

Do don’t play fast and loose with people’s careers.  If there is a particular point of view you want included in the reference, just ask.  That’s the best way.

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How to Finish a Great Interivew

Picture this: you are at a job interview and things are going really well. The hiring manager leans back in her chair and asks if you have any questions. Bang! Here is your opportunity to cement everything and nail the job.

So, what do you ask?

Hint: Do not begin with when does the job start. If they really want you, they will have already asked that question.

There are a couple of ways to go. One is to focus on the hiring manager. When did they start with the company? What do they like about the organization? What is the most meaningful part of their work?

You can also dig deeper into the company and it’s culture. What challenges does it face? What sets them apart from their competitors? What is the style of the senior leadership team?

Or you can ask about the role itself. You can ask about the compensation. Careful though. Sometimes employers don’t want to talk about that until quite late in the process. You could ask about whether there is variable compensation and how it’s tied to your performance. The answer to that could be quite insightful. You could also ask for more detail about other other
perks such as savings plans, company discount programs or tuition reimbursement. This one is nice because you could get a follow up question about your future goals around learning.
( so be ready for that).

There are lots of choices. The important thing is to think about it before you get there so that they are ready at hand. You don’t want to end an interview with a blank look and a shrug.

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