My client, the owner of a small service organization had come to the realization that it was time to focus on growing his organization. Thinking strategically, he decided that he could best set the stage for future organizational growth by hiring a ‘right hand’ person, who could handle a range of technical responsibilities in the immediate term, who would have a longer term commitment to the organization and who had the potential to grow in performance capability over time. Knowing that his organizational growth would be directly influenced by this individual’s ability to grow their capability, he was determined for me to help him to find the right person. Similar to most business owners, and senior managers, he understood the critical importance of surrounding himself with people who perform.
The Search Process
As always, this was an exclusive, retained search, with total responsibility, except for the final decision, being left to me. After completing the usual bureaucratic arrangements, the owner and I then had our initial meeting to define the performance expectations of the role, and the technical and non-technical skills that would be required to meet them. As part of this process, knowing that candidates are attracted on the basis of the type of manager that they would be working with, we did some brief personality assessment work with the owner to better understand his personal performance capabilities, managerial approaches and leadership style in order to help identify relative ‘fit’ in potential candidates. Finally, having acquired a better understanding of the current, and potential, organizational environment and culture, I was armed with the performance ‘model’ that would be used in candidate evaluation.
Since this search was a little different in position type than my typical (although when I think about it there NEVER is a typical), I decided to adapt my search strategy away from my usual pure sourcing and headhunting methodology to a more hybrid approach where there would be some distribution of the position description to potential ‘referring’ personnel. So, within a defined geographic area, I sent a position description to numerous appropriate contacts, all of whom occupy various employment-related roles, and who in turn shared it with other contacts and potential candidates (thank you all for this). As well, I did what I NEVER do, I posted to a couple of specific websites (not LinkedIn) that were appropriate in this instance due to the nature of the position. With this distribution completed, in order to establish a wide reach foundation, I spent the majority of my effort researching, sourcing and pure headhunting.
Within a relatively short period of time the response from our distribution channels was pretty good and, combined with my headhunting activities, we had identified a number of people who brought various appropriate qualities and experiences to the role. After reviewing numerous resumes and data on identified candidates, I conducted about 20 forty-five minute technical telephone interviews, which resulted in me conducting 9 two hour personal interviews (on site, enabling the owner to meet each candidate in person for a few minutes), which resulted in me distributing and evaluating a range of assessments to 4 candidates. After providing interview and assessment feedback and input to the owner, it was decided that he would personally interview and administer a technical ‘test’ to the lead candidate. (He could have interviewed a few more, but we did not see the need at the time). As a result, the ‘best fit’ candidate was found, and so I then assumed responsibility for the employment offer and acceptance process. When this final phase was completed all of us were excited that a great match had been achieved.
Value in the process
I hope the reader understands that, in an attempt to contain this article’s length, I am really just providing an overview of a fairly extensive process. The reality is that a lot of effort is necessary if you want to ensure a quality long-term hire. And while I purposely included the ‘resume funnel’, where a great number of candidates at the start of the process get reduced to the most appropriate few at the finish, there is a lot more to it than simply finding a lot of resumes and picking ‘the best of the bunch’. By putting in the effort to increase the number of truly strong candidates at the front end of the process (initial identification), you increase the number of high quality selection options at the end.
It is also important to understand that a lot of effort is devoted to building the original wide reach foundation. Knowing that almost anything can happen in a search process, doing so provides a degree of safety in never having to totally restart the process from scratch. This enables us to save valuable time should there be a need to resume the process at any stage when we feel that we had not yet found the right person. In this search example everything went smoothly from start to finish, but since this is not always the case, we need to have quick response contingencies in order to keep the process moving forward in alignment with the client’s hiring schedule.
Crucial to success is the accurate evaluation of a candidate’s performance capabilities and multi-level ‘fit’. If you are not hiring with this as the top priority you should not be hiring at all. The inclusion of appropriate personality assessments, and the skill set necessary to properly evaluate the results, is the difference between simply filling a vacancy and hiring a high performing manager or staff member. Knowing that candidate evaluation is a big part of what I do, the owner was open to my input and suggestions. Like all of my organizational clients, he understood that my contribution should be much more than simply forwarding resumes. And by personally completing some of our assessments as part of the initial process, he was much more informed and aware of what to look for in a high performing candidate, and thus more able to make a wise selection decision.
While I rarely interview at a client’s location, taking advantage of this helped to not only move the process forward more quickly, it created the opportunity for the owner to briefly meet each of the ‘high potentials’, thus helping him to put a face and personality to my individual candidate feedback. As well, it permitted quick access so that he was more available for immediate input and discussion, thus ensuring that we were both on the same ‘evaluative page’ throughout the process. Collaborative clients make all the difference.
Finally, it is interesting to note that the selected candidate was found via my headhunting activity, not through the various distribution channels. Although we did see some very appropriate people through our network, the ‘rightest’ person in this case came from going beyond simple distribution and the ‘hope’ that the best person would happen to be available, or find us. When conducting a retained search your client is relying on you, so you need to ensure completion by ‘covering all the bases’. Anyone can ‘hopefully’ post positions – not everyone can properly source and headhunt.
But there is even more value to be found
Now that the search has been successfully completed, the owner has decided to go even farther in order to support overall performance. Armed with the assessment work that we completed with him, he sees value in engaging me to help him enhance his personal performance, and his managerial and leadership capabilities. With the initial assessment work providing a ‘snapshot’ of his current performance attributes, we can now identify where he wants to go, and what he needs to do to get there. By providing practical learning activities and ongoing support, my role now becomes that of helping him to be successful with this progression.
And since the assessment process has provided us with a strong understanding of the capabilities and preferences of his new hire, we can integrate this information into the owner’s personal developmental program and identify ‘best practices’ approaches to communicating with, managing, and developing this newest staff member. We will also expand his practical in-house development by including other select staff members in this process as well.
So, by his being open to added value, the owner has benefited from not only an effective quality-oriented recruitment result, he has also taken advantage of performance enhancement, managerial and leadership support that will benefit him personally, will benefit the people around him, and will help him to facilitate positive organizational growth.
I need more clients like this!