Is there such a thing as an Executive Bargain?

So….you’ve been looking for someone to fill a key role for months. Your budget is tight, but you’ve been holding out for Mr or Mrs Right  – the perfect candidate with the perfect experience, but someone who would be willing to accept the role for a bit (maybe a lot) less than what they’re earning now. Which is a reasonable expectation, because after all, there will be some great opportunities for long term wealth creation in the future, if the market turns and the company finally starts to show a profit – right????

And then it all happens….a great candidate comes along – excellent experience, super talent, will really add loads of value, and BEST of all – they’re willing to accept your package offer (which is significantly less than what they were ideally looking for))!! Amazing, right????

No –  wrong! wrong! wrong!

In the real world, unless there are some truly compelling wealth creation or career development opportunities on offer, when a seemingly great candidate is willing to take such a significant drop in package, you should be asking some serious questions.

Very possibly, the candidate really IS excellent, and for some reason or another is in a financial situation where he/ she is willing to accept a job that is paying substantially less than their previous one. The danger in this scenario is that this is most likely to be an interim stop-gap, allowing the individual to earn a salary whilst continuing to look for a job that offers a package more in line with their ideal expectations. A quality executive, no matter what the immediate circumstances are, knows their true worth and will not make a long term commitment to a company that does not recognize it.  Is there any real economy in spending the time and money to bring someone in, integrate them into your business, and have them leave within a year?

So if it feels a bit too good to be true, and you think you’ve just signed on the ‘bargain’ of the year….think again.

And I’d say, if it works out for the long term, congratulations! But then, I’ve never actually seen that happen.

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Global Executive Placement Trends….turning away at the altar!

One would think that in a time of tough-ish, tight-ish global markets, where GREAT executive positions with fantastic companies, excellent prospects, and wonderful career challenges are not exactly hanging on trees, that executive candidates would be lining up, desperate to sign on the dotted line when a really GOOD opportunity arises.

Well, think again!

It seems that while high level candidates are as willing as ever to play the dating game, and invest time and energy in the courting process, when it comes to actually taking the plunge and accepting a job offer, execs are  often taking an approach of ‘better the devil you know’, and remaining with their current employer.

WHY is this happening, you ask????

It seems that the impact of the ongoing (it’s been 5 years or so, now) tough-ish, tight-ish global markets is a high level of fear and uncertainty amongst those who have the most to lose by making the wrong career move – senior managers, directors and other C-suite professionals.

And considering that most top players are in senior roles at the time of engaging with a new prospective employer – ie. they have jobs! – when it comes down the wire, they are often either accepting counteroffers, or outright declining a new offer, more frequently than has happened in the relatively recent past.

Interestingly, it became evident at a recent IRC Global Executive Search Partners conference, that this trend is not limited to Canada – it’s global!

More importantly, though, is what we and our corporate clients can do to deal with this trend, and ensure the successful conclusion of top appointments?

The following will go a LONG way to reversing the trend:

  1. Make a GREAT offer – not just a marginal one!
  2. Ensure that the interview process is thorough, but also swift, seamless and faultlessly executed.
  3. Keep ‘selling’ the opportunity – this is not the time to be expecting headhunted candidates to tell you why they so desperately want to work for your company.
  4. Go the extra mile – invest in the process personally, and do not outsource the final stages to administrators alone.

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With these strategies to counter the counter, we’ll win this battle together!

How to Avoid Executive Hiring Mistakes

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Let’s face it – making the wrong appointment at any level is costly and frustrating. But at a senior management or executive level, the wrong person in the wrong job in the wrong company is just….well….VERY wrong!

Which everyone realizes, hence the laborious rounds of interviews, the psychometric assessments, the risk profiling, the reference checking, etc, in order to avoid expensive and potentially destructive mistakes.

The reality is – none of the above is a perfect tool for successful hiring. Of course, we know that both interviewing and reference checking are relatively subjective activities. And psychometric assessments….well, the companies that sell these would have us believe that their assessments can provide scientific answers about potential hires. But let’s think about it – if this was possible, there would never be any issues with under-performance, poor fit or lack of management and leadership skills.

So the bottom line is, there will always be a measure of risk when you take on a new hire. Here are some tips on how to minimise these risks as much as possible.

  1. Accept that there are NO PERFECT PEOPLE

Once you’ve stopped looking for the holy grail, you can manage your expectations. Because one of the biggest risks to a successful appointment is the gap between the wish list and the real thing (a live human being with imperfections that will require a measure of compromise).

  1. Look for patterns in performance, both good and bad

By the time a professional reaches senior management, he has usually had a few jobs in a few companies – so he’s moved about a bit. Which is a good thing, because you can then ask him the golden question – why did you leave? Ask this question for each career move or role change, and you’ll start to see some interesting and insightful patterns. You’ll spot the people who chase money, who leave on good or bad terms with their previous bosses/ companies, who have ‘issues’ or success stories. And when the answers don’t add up, there’s probably something fishy. So keep asking until you’re satisfied. Because the greatest chance of future success is determined by past success.

  1. Let candidates talk

Particularly when you’re not entirely sure. My strategy is to give candidates ‘enough rope…’ so to speak – and then wait for clarity to reveal itself. Which it will, if you have a bit of patience and time.

  1. Don’t be intimidated by great CV’s

I can’t recall the number of times in my very early career when I would be ‘impressed’ by a candidate prior to even entering the interview room. For some reason or another – usually their seniority, the amount of money they made, the prestigious companies they’d worked for, etc. And this would result in me NOT asking all the questions, NOT getting into the substance, and accepting weak or general answers instead of pushing hard for detail and specifics.

  1. Make sure that the appointment will be MUTUALLY beneficial

The key to a successful appointment is when both parties – the employer and the candidate – can see what’s in it for them, respectively. If you start wondering why the candidate is keen on the role (it’s a sideways move at best, the package upside is not going to be all that competitive, the challenges and growth may be limited, the demands of travel are going to be excessive, etc), you should be on the high alert for an appointment that will be short-lived. So the fact that a candidate may be able to ‘hit the ground running’ may not be as brilliant as you think….in the long term.

I hope you get some value out of these tips and that you never make a hiring mistake – ever!