Acing the Final Interviewing Hurdle!

These days, no one gets appointed to a job after one interview…..no matter how senior or junior the role, there is a process to follow.

Meet the line manager, meet the other ‘dotted’ reporting lines in the matrix, meet the other members of the management team (peers), meet the direct reports, meet the representatives from the divisions where there will be interaction, and then (just when you think it’s all over)…. meet a few other interested stakeholders.

Then after everyone agrees that the candidate is perfectly suitable, there is some form of psychometric assessment (these can range from a quickie online, to several days of high pressure testing). And then, if the candidate miraculously manages to pass through all of this, sometimes a final test awaits……the Panel Presentation!

The presentation topic is sent to the candidate at least a few days prior to the interview so that one can do some research and prepare ‘at leisure’. Don’t be lulled into believing that this is going to be a walk in the park, because it’s at this final phase of the interviewing process that candidates actually prove themselves truly worthy…..or not!

After some analysis of the success and failures, I can provide some pointers to candidates facing this final hurdle:

  1. It’s NOT about how great a presenter you are (although a crash course at Dale Carnegie won’t do any harm)
  2. It’s NOT about how brilliant the content is (but you will need to be above average, at least)
  3. It IS about your confidence and ease in an often stressful situation (we recently had finalist candidates be required to present to a full Board of 15 people).
  4. It IS about demonstrating your strategic thought process and ability to think on your feet.
  5. And it DEFINITELY IS about doing your research on the company, its philosophy or mission, its people, products, competitors, etc. Even if the presentation does not require you to engage on these topics, NOT knowing enough about the company could be the ultimate deciding factor.

Now go ace that final interview!

shutterstock_51521326

Advertisements

Are you losing your cache in attracting talent?

With over 20 years in the executive search business we have seen many shifts and trends in how companies are perceived by the talent they look to attract. None is more concerning than the loss of cache that seems to be occurring with some of the biggest names across many industries.

shutterstock_87641005

The reasons can be quite varied ranging from loss of leadership positioning due to more intense competition; poor stock or management performance reports; stigma by association to industries that have undergone reputational loss; lacking focus on innovation; seeming to be mired in old ways of doing things; high turnover that gives a “churn and burn” impression – and one that we are seeing more and more –  constant reorganizations that, while done for the right business reasons, are not well communicated and give the external impression that things are not stable.

A look at some of the top names in their respective industries on glassdoor.com is startling in that it reveals that the ratings for employee satisfaction are quite poor – and the reasons for the low ratings are often tied to constant restructuring.  “It’s OK” seems to have become the new acceptable standard for employee satisfaction. If that’s the best that the people working for the company can say about it, why would a high quality prospect be interested in joining the company?

We’ve seen an increasing challenge in attracting executive talent to top tier companies and have had to put much greater emphasis on selling the opportunities and dispelling the misconceptions prospects may have than was previously the case – the brand often no longer holds the same appeal that it did in the past. Often top tier companies have lost sight of how their employer brand is perceived in the market and are surprised that the calibre of people they want are not clamouring for their job.

One client that recently engaged us to find them a VP of Marketing was surprised that they had to engage an executive search firm as they felt they had a marketer’s dream job on offer. They had posted the assignment on multiple industry sites and, while receiving hundreds of applications, did not deem any of them worth an interview. They were attracting lots of people but not of the quality they were looking for. When we reached out and spoke to senior marketers the initial response was lukewarm. The market perception was that the company had gone through so many reorganizations that it was seen as no longer being a stable place to work. The question back to us was – why should I consider moving from a company where I am challenged and valued to a situation I see as risky? This was only aggravated by the “cattle call” approach the client previously took to looking for this senior executive. While we were happy to get the assignment, our work was certainly made harder by these circumstances.

We’re seeing this more and more – companies that are still trading strictly on their market dominance and not realizing that they have lost their cache as an employer. They continue to approach talent acquisition from the perspective of a “buyer” and an attitude that everyone would want to work here.  That’s why they are so frequently surprised that they are not attracting the caliber of talent they want when they go to market directly. Attracting top talent is a sales process from end to end and requires presenting a compelling story, often correcting market perceptions, about the company and the opportunity.

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.

shutterstock_149879492

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

How to Avoid Executive Hiring Mistakes

1776862

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!

The Benefit of Boutique Firms

IRC 2013IRC Annual Conference 2013 – San Francisco

Simply put, boutique firms offer a competitive advantage to their client companies.  Starting with the breadth of companies from which they can recruit from (based on conflict of interest issues at larger firms) and ending with not having to placate stock holders if they are a public company.  It is my belief that client companies want to make sure that their interests are paramount and not have to worry about search firms trying to serve their own shareholders’ needs to the detriment of the client

I’m delighted to join the Top Gun Ventures team,” said Brian Adamik. “What makes this opportunity most exciting is our ability to capitalize on the fact that the current executive search model is broken. Most of the large search firms today are faced with significant client “off-limits” issues, internal battles over account control, and an over-reliance on their databases of names that deliver the same candidates over and over again. Furthermore, given the number of searches that each consultant handles, large search firms today are simply not able to provide the level of client intimacy necessary to understand customer needs, nor the culture of the organizations they serve. The end result of this is that it takes far too long to fill the role and the placement is not always successful.”

“The Top Gun Ventures model is different,” said Adamik. “We conduct fewer searches at any specific time and we make it our business to understand our client, their culture, and the goals of the position we are recruiting for. We focus on conducting original research on every search we carry out which yields candidates who are top performing executives not actively looking for their next leadership position. Further, we have virtually no off-limits issues; our partners manage all aspects of the search including research, prospect calling, and candidate development; and our precision recruiting techniques allow us to attract the right executive the first time. In fact, we provide a 100% guarantee that our recruited candidate will achieve the strategic goals for which they were hired.”

The executive search industry can be divided into two camps.  On one extreme are a handful of mega-firms, some of them publicly-held, with big brand names and revenues in excess of $500M per year.  These large firms typically cater to Fortune 500 clientele. You may think it sounds prestigious to say “we’re using a big name firm”, but unless you’re a Fortune 500 company, your search can get very expensive, lost in the shuffle, and they will ultimately recruit from you after their hands-off time has expired.

On the other are a multitude of boutiques, most of which specialize by industry and/or function. We believe strongly that most client companies get better results by partnering with the right boutique.  Here’s why:

Is What You See, What You Get?

When you engage a boutique, you are dealing directly with the person who will work on your project.  In contrast, at big search firms, the search may be directed by a “Partner” but in fact a significant amount of the work is done by less tenured associates…people you have never met, and who have minimal knowledge of your company, your business challenges, and your goals. The results? Candidates who match the letter — not the spirit — of the job description; mis-hires who don’t fit your corporate culture; and poor performance down the road.

Access to More Candidates

Executive search firms have an ethical (and usually contractual) obligation not to recruit from clients.  Big search firms have significant off-limits constraints, which limits the pool of candidates while boutiques can access more candidates because they have fewer off-limits companies.   In addition, a little known fact is that candidates that are active on a search within a firm are also off-limits for any other search projects.  Large firms can have literally thousands of active candidates throughout the firm at any one time…all who are unavailable for your search!

Smaller Work Load

A typical search firm partner may conduct 15 to 20 assignments simultaneously, overwhelming their associates and research staff. They operate in a “book ‘em, bill ‘em & forget ‘em” environment. Unless your search is carrying the highest fees or is relatively easy to complete, it may be shunted to the bottom of the heap.  In contrast, boutiques typically work on fewer projects, devoting far more time and attention to each one.

Higher Completion Rates

Boutiques have higher completion rates than big firms.  Completion rates at big search firms are well-known to be in the 60% to 65% range.

In-Depth Knowledge of Your Company

Because boutiques have a business model that enables them to form a genuine partnership with you, they are usually better at selling your opportunity and assessing candidates. Combining its access to talent with its proven Performance Based Assessment SM methodology,

Exactly What is Their Process?

Many search firms operate on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis, convincing companies that the search process is mysterious and incomprehensible. The reality is, most big firm partners cannot explain their process, nor do they adhere to a proven methodology.

Big Fish…Small Pond

If your company plans to do more than ten searches a year, you may have enough leverage to get the attention you deserve from the big search firms.  But if your needs for search are more focused, you will get far more personalized and attentive service from a boutique.

In summary

Bigger is not better in executive search.  In fact, big search firms face significant obstacles to client service.  Large scale makes it easier for search firms to build their brands, but does not provide value to clients.

It’s important to remember that search firms are service providers. When evaluating vendors, look past the false allure of name brands and critically evaluate the quality of service you will receive. Determine the firm’s commitment to your company, assess its process yourself whether this search firm is passionate about serving your company’s needs and providing what you and your company want.

How to turn off a headhunted candidate

In the last while I’ve had some interesting feedback from candidates after their first, second, third (or in some cases sixth or seventh) interview with a prospective new employer…..along with a bit of a moan from them about ‘stuff’.

The ‘stuff’ includes such petrifying experiences as being kept waiting in the reception area before being seated in a meeting room – headhunted candidates are usually VERY concerned about confidentiality, as they should be, and it is potentially career limiting to be seen by someone you know in the lobby. Try as you will, there is no mistaking the pre-interview ‘aura’ – any alert person can pick this up – and so paranoia about waiting out in the open is a pretty valid emotion!

shutterstock_122625739Being kept waiting beyond the appointed interview time is one of the biggest pet peeves of headhunted candidates. They are business people that made the effort to be there on time and keeping them waiting sends the signal that your time is more important than theirs. And even more irritating is being blasé about having kept them waiting.

Then, there is the ‘read the CV’ grumble! By the time the headhunted candidate is on to their second or third interview with (usually) various individuals from the executive team, he/she has an expectation that a) they will have read their CV, and b) they will have conferred amongst themselves regarding which questions have been asked and answered so that the same slew of questions and answers are not repeated in each meeting. A pretty reasonable expectation, one would think?

Another little aggravation is the inevitable interview question ‘So why do you want to leave your current company?’. This particular question may seem completely innocuous and without any malicious or negative intent…but if there’s one thing that gets the headhunted candidate’s blood to boil, it’s this one! And assuming that everyone in the room (and on the interviewing panel) knows that the candidate has, in fact, been approached by an executive search firm (yours truly), this would also seem understandably annoying.

So here’s the thing – companies spend LOTS of money, time and effort trying to woo top people to their organisations. They strategise, they plan, they commit the time of their executive team to the interview process, they utilize the services of the best headhunters around to bring the best talent to them. And then ‘stuff’ happens in the interviewing process that turns the candidates from interested to off!

Of course, savvy companies have the interview process so waxed that headhunted candidates can’t wait to sign on the dotted line.

Is the executive bonus system botched?  

The executive bonus has become a somewhat controversial topic in recent years and, in some countries, even the rallying cry for those wanting to apportion blame for the causes of the Global Financial Crisis. Perhaps it is no coincidence that 2007, the year the economy began its decline, was a record year for executive bonuses.

However it is not just the ‘Wall Street investment banker’ who is the recipient of remuneration outside the traditional salary payments. Most executives today receive some form of bonus remuneration as part of their total compensation. Often it includes both a cash payout and a substantial stock award.

shutterstock_149304473The original objective of the bonus system was as a means of incentivizing performance by motivating excellence in terms of employee output. However, increasingly bonuses are associated with motivating other than excellence – the reward itself has become the motivation.

At best many would argue that bonuses seem to be delivered merely for ‘turning up’ rather than for delivering excellence. A great example is the many top executives who were fired for lack of performance that were compensated with enormous golden parachutes, the popular exit “bonus”  for having failed. At worst they can actually incentivize ‘selfish’ behaviour which may be contrary to the long term best interests of the organisation or its stakeholders. Generally designed to reward quarterly performance it actually removes the incentive to perform well in the long term, thereby having a decidedly negative impact on shareholders.

In the hunt for the best and brightest, many organisations have convinced themselves that high bonuses are necessary to attract the best talent, despite the fact that contemporary research does not necessarily support this view.

While we are not advocating the removal of bonuses, indeed this would be extremely difficult given how they appear to have permeated the executive mindset, nevertheless there are a number of ways suggested to improve their effectiveness:

  1. Bonuses are only effective in incentivizing excellence for individuals who have direct control over their own performance – ie: external factors should be limited.
  2. Bonuses should always be discretionary; a culture of automatic bonuses negates their effectiveness. An ‘automatic bonus’ is a camouflaged additional salary or fixed compensation, not an incentive!
  3. Bonuses should be associated with long term collaborative behaviour and thinking – which is much more in the organisation’s interests rather than short term individualism. One way to ensure that is to award bonuses with the stipulation that they be used to purchase company shares. That way the executives interests are better aligned with the shareholders.
  4. The allocation system should be reflective of differences between employees in terms of their performance.  Differences in skills and abilities should be reflected in performance outcomes. If the organisation is not prepared to do this it should not pay bonuses.
  5. A bonus system must be both objective and subjective. It should use an objective criteria to measure outcomes and performance and it should do so on the basis of both short term and long term performance to ensure the future health of the company as well. It should also be a subjective system which looks at how the outcomes were achieved. This will ensure that the way people achieve results will not be ignored, ensuring unethical behaviour is not motivated.
  6. Finally and most importantly, but surprisingly often least recognized, is the importance of the bonus system being clear, transparent and understood by all.

Does a Degree Guarantee Success in Business?

business-degree-madison-macarthurAs we work with many top tier global companies across many industries we routinely see a strong bias, if not an absolute requirement, for undergrad and post grad degrees. These days a bachelor’s degree is practically a prerequisite for getting your résumé read—two-thirds of employers said they never waive degree requirements, or do so only for particularly outstanding candidates. In many companies promotional opportunities are limited for staff without degrees – sometimes despite strong employee performance.
I have seen many quality candidates over the years lose out to far less accomplished and business savvy candidates, simply because the client would not entertain a candidate without an undergrad.

Although a strong proponent of formal education (as a recruiter I know how limiting it can be not to have a degree), I firmly believe that an education is different from a degree. An education can take many forms –  formal, informal, self-directed, on the job training etc. I believe that success in business and life requires a lot more than mere certificates. It is a combination of factors such as aptitude, creativity, inquisitiveness, attitude, an ability to see and seize opportunities and willingness to work hard to attain them.. and more. There are many, many creative and free thinkers that just don’t conform well to a structured classroom setting and learning by rote. They are often stifled by the environment and drop out of university.

I had a client that had a Masters degree from the top US Ivy league college that had an interesting perspective on education. She would entertain a candidate without a degree that had done some interesting things over one that had a BComm and an MBA. She felt that this combination was a waste of time as the types of case studies the student would have worked on for both degrees were all based on the same principals and reasoning – just more years of doing the same thing, that likely resulted in the candidate only having one way of thinking. Not the kind of person she wanted for her company, she wanted agile, flexible, creative thinkers.
Great examples of overachievers that either never went, or dropped out of University include multi millionaires and billionaires such as:

Daniel Abraham, founder of Slim-Fast
Roman Abramovich, richest man in Russia, multiple businesses
Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft
Wally “Famous” Amos, founder of Famous Amos cookies
John Jacob Astor, real estate builder & investor
Ronald Baron, founder of Baron Capital
Eike Batista, mining executive, one of the 10 richest men in the world
Carl Bernstein, Watergate reporter, Washington Post
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin
Edgar Bronfman Jr., heir to the Seagram liquor fortune
James Francis Byrnes, U.S. senator, Supreme Court justice, secretary of state, governor
Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist
Scott Carpenter, astronaut
Tom Carvel, inventor of the soft-serve ice cream machine, founder of Carvel
Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel
Winston Churchill, British prime minister
Jack Kent Cooke, media mogul, owner of Washington Redskins
Simon Cowell, TV & music producer
Charles Culpeper, major shareholder and CEO of Coca Cola
John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems & founder of Patron Spirits tequila
Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers
Felix Dennis, magazine publisher, Maxim, Blender, and others
Richard DeVos,  co-founder of Amway
Barry Diller,  Hollywood mogul, Internet maven, chairman of IAC/InterActive Corp
Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company
George Eastman, inventor and founder of Kodak
Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle software company
Shawn Fanning, developer of Napster
Carly Fiorina, prior CEO, Hewlett-Packard
Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company
J. B. Fuqua, industrialist, philanthropist, funded Fuqua business school at Duke University
Bill Gates,  co-founder of Microsoft
David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks
J. Paul Getty,  oilman
Amadeo Peter Giannini, founder of Bank of America
John Glenn, astronaut, U.S. senator
Hyman Golden, cofounder of Snapple
David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby
Philip Green, retail mogul, Topshop
William Randolph Hearst, newspaper publisher
Richard Heckmann, investor, CEO of U.S. Filter,
H. Wayne Huizenga, founder of WMX waste management, owner of Miami Dolphins
Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, billionaire oilman
Peter Jennings, news anchor
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers and Pixar Animation
Henry J. Kaiser, founder of Kaiser Aluminum
Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, one of the richest people in the world
David Karp, founder of Tumblr
Li Ka-Shing, one of the wealthiest investors in Asia
Kirk Kerkorian, owner of MGM movie studio, Mirage Resorts, and Mandalay Bay Resorts
Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s
Ralph Lauren, founder of Polo & Ralph Lauren
Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion
Marcus Loew, founder of Loews movie theaters, co-founder of MGM movie studio
Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke College (America’s first women’s college)
John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods
John Major, British prime minister
Hendrik Meijer, founder of Meijer grocery stores
Dustin Moskovitz,  co-founder of Facebook
David Murdock, real estate tycoon, investor, chairman of Dole Foods
David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue airlines
David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather
Larry Page, founder of Google
Marc Rich, commodities investor, built Philbro into the world’s largest commodities firm
Leandro Rizzuto, founder of Conair
John D. Rockefeller Sr., founder of Standard Oil
Karl Rove, presidential advisor
Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Vidal Sassoon, founder of Vidal Sassoon
Al Schneider, founder of Schneider National freight company
Richard Schulze, founder of Best Buy
Walter L. Smith, president of Florida A&M University
Daniel Snyder, owner of Snyder Communications, Red Zone Capital & the Washington Redskins
Alfred Taubman, chairman of Sotheby
Jack Crawford Taylor, founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car
Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s
Ted Turner, founder of CNN and TBS
Jay Van Andel, co-founder of Amway
Anton van Leeuwenhoek, microbiologist, discoverer of bacteria, blood cells, and sperm cells
Theodore Waitt, founder of Gateway Computers
DeWitt Wallace, founder and publisher of Reader’s Digest
Ty Warner, developer of Beanie Babies
Sidney Weinberg, managing partner of Goldman Sachs
Leslie Wexner, founder of Limited Brands
Dean White, hotelier and billboard magnate
Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inns
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

And this is far from a complete list!  I can’t imagine that there are too many top tier companies that would not have wanted to harness the talents of at least some of these people despite their lack of degrees.

Some companies like Google (FORTUNE top company to work for)are starting to rethink the requirement for degrees. Lazlo Bock, VP of People at Google stated in a recent NY times article that after extensive analysis of Google employees, they found no correlation between how people fared in college and how they performed on the job. He went on to state that while previously quite focused on requiring degrees, they now have units where 14% of the team is made up of people that never went to college. However companies showing this level of creativity in hiring are still few and far between.

So, while having a degree is not the be all and end all to realizing success in business, if you choose that route you better have vision, passion, and the perseverance and drive to do whatever it takes.

Time Is Of The Essence When Hiring Top Management Talent

madison-macarthur-time-is-of-the-essenceThis is pretty conventional wisdom – and you certainly didn’t hear it here, first.  No sales training session would be complete without a reminder of Time’s toxic effect on the pitch-to-close process.  In every industry, in every economy, in every region – it’s up there with “Don’t count your chickens”, and “A stitch in time…”
Whether you’re raising a fund, buying or selling real estate, closing a venture capital deal or selling your business, the old truth applies.  Hiring is no different.  Nothing makes a recruitment project as likely to fail as a significant delay in the process.  Why?  Because stuff happens.
Work issues improve, relationships heal (or deteriorate), the excitement wanes.  We’re dealing with human beings, who, given enough time, are bound to rethink their decisions.
Thinking twice (or even thrice) is good – and I’m certainly not suggesting that we should all rush blindly into big decisions.  Do your analysis, consult your advisers, get your paperwork and your background checks in order – and then propose!

We know there are lots of good reasons for delays in process, and too fast can also be a bad idea – making your move before you’re sure you even like each other is likely to result in disaster.
Am I contradicting myself?  Not really.  What I’m saying is there’s a reasonable time within which to make an informed decision.  In the world of executive search, that’s at most, four to five weeks from the first meeting with the candidate.
Any longer than that, and you’ve got to start weighing up your risks.  Circumstances change.  Fatigue sets in.  People start whisper campaigns.  “What’s up with them?”  And your candidate’s going to start wondering just how serious you are.  And whether it’s going to be less of a risk to fix their current situation than to dive into your unknown… when you finally get around to asking! After all – “Better the devil you know…”
Executive candidates can read a stalled process as reflecting negatively on the company in the following ways:

  • The company is indecisive, does not know what they want/need
  • This hire is not a priority – therefore not the kind of role I’m interested in
  • The company does not have the financial wherewithal to make the hire
  • The company’s slow movement in this process is a reflection of their overall corporate dynamic

Hiring an executive is a deal like any other – the company is selling the merits of their opportunity and the executive is selling their skills and talents to the company. It never fails to amaze me how often a company will interview a candidate, provide very enthusiastic feedback, invite them back for multiple meetings, indicate an offer is being pulled together and then… silence…! For weeks!
Too frequently the cost to the company can be, losing that top candidate.