Take My Advice

Over at Ask Inc. we find the following exchange:

My company needs to hire a senior executive. Where do the big corporations find their leaders?
Jack Scalfani, GiveMe Inc., Los Angeles

Small companies will likely feel scalped by headhunter fees, which run about $100,000 at top firms such as Russell Reynolds Associates in New York City or Heidrick & Struggles in Chicago. Even independent recruiters charge up to one-third of a new executive's annual salary -- an arm and a leg, if not the whole head.

A cheaper alternative is to scout the talent yourself. Forget online job boards and the soda fountain at Schwab's. Instead, cull a list of industry superstars from news archives, advises Geoff Smart, CEO of management consulting firm ghSmart. Competitors' websites are another good source (that button labeled Meet Our Management is practically an invitation to Steal Our Management). Ask clients, vendors, and business associates for referrals, of course. And generate demand by speaking to large groups at industry events and teaching a continuing education class at your local university. If you promote yourself well, the best heads will come hunting for you."

Some interesting advice here. Some good and some not so good.

The good: Competitors websites absolutely are good sources of leads for management talent. Most recruiters know this.

Yet knowing someone's name doesn't mean you can be successful. Headhunters are hired often for their ability to approach people who aren't looking and turn them into candidates. It is foolish for someone to assume that if they call someone out of the blue they will drop everything and run into your open arms. Candidate development is a skill that takes time to hone. Good headhunters have it. That's why they are worth money.

The bad: Culling a list of industry stars to recruit.

Industry stars are tops in their field. The company in question (GiveMe Inc.) is a smaller firm who can't afford a high level recruiting firm. Why then would they be able to afford the industry "superstar" and in turn what do they have that can attract one? A dangerous assumption that I have seen companies make is that a superstar will jump to their firm just because they want them to. I have had clients who were 8th in their industry in a field of 8 and expected people from the top firm to be attracted to their company. This doesn't happen very often.

In attracting candidates ask yourself why would someone want to work here? Not: why do I want them to work here? That is two different questions. The candidate doesn't care why you need them he/she cares about what you can do for their career.

Also not all recruiting firms charge one-third of first year salary. There are plenty of smaller recruiting companies out there that will do good work at a lower rate. If your company is growing then the volume of business you give them will make up for the lower fees. A strategic relationship with this type of firm will pay dividends.

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