A Man From Cambridge

A man from Cambridge walked into a clothing store. He told the salesclerk "I am looking for a pair of polka dot pants in a size 34". The salesclerk looked at the man oddly and said "I have just the right thing!" and went into the backroom. He came out a few minutes later with a nice pair of khaki pants in a size 34. "Here you are sir, our best pants in a size 34!" The man replied, "indeed, those appear to be nice pants, however, I really need polka dot pants". "I am afraid we do not have any polka dot pants, besides, these are much more attractive" the salesclerk grumbled. The man wished him a pleasant day and continued down the street.

The man from Cambridge came upon another clothing store, and he went in. He told the salesclerk "I am looking for a pair of polka dot pants in a size 34. The salesclerk said "I have just the right thing!" . He pulled out a pair of polka dot pants that were just the color the man was looking for, however, they were a size 32. Indeed, those appear to be nice pants, however, I really need a size 34". "I am afraid we do not have any polka dot pants in a size 34, perhaps it's time to lose a little weight" the salesclerk grumbled. The man wished him a pleasant day and continued down the street.

The man from Cambridge came upon the last clothing store in town, and he went in. He told the salesclerk "I am looking for a pair of polka dot pants in a size 34. The salesman told him "I know the exact pair you are looking for sir!". The man from Cambridge had heard this before, but he said "Go on". I will be able to have a pair of polka dot pants in a size 34 in my store in three days. The man from Cambridge was very pleased, in fact, he ordered the pants, and two others in yellow and paisley.

The moral of the story is listen to what the customer (or the hiring manager) is saying. Don't try to get a hiring manager to interview a candidate he doesn't want, or doesn't fit. In many cases, pants (or candidates) that have a unique set of requirements are "special order" and not in inventory. Don't get mad at the hiring manager because he wants what he wants, go out and get it for them.

Views: 269

Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 30, 2012 at 3:29am
@paul, this should be printed, framed and put on the desk of every recruiter on the planet. If recruiters followed this we would be so much more well received by hr and hiring managers. Thank you for a clever, cute and very profound article.
Comment by Tina Guth on January 30, 2012 at 8:15am

I can't tell you how many times I've picked out, tried on and carried clothes (or whatever) through the store just to hand them back to the clerk before leaving.  When it's not right for whatever the reason, one seems to know it.  Great tale -- relatable and easy to remember!

Comment by Christopher Perez on January 30, 2012 at 10:58am

Great post, Paul. I love the "special order" method of managing expectations.

Now this may seem like apostasy, but there have been times when, because of my niche industry knowledge and particular insights into a client's business, I have suggested a dark horse candidate be considered. I have never done it as a substitute for a traditional candidate of the type they have requested, but rather as an additional option. I *always* give my rationale for submitting these folks and I acknowledge that the candidate might be considered novel for the position at first glance. More often than not these people get a good look and I have received positive feedback for serving as a consultant. That said, I only use this "bracketing" approach when the situation warrants and when my rationale can withstand a potentially skeptical reaction by the client! It's important to know when to back off and to do this only when a certain level of trust has been generated in the client relationship.

Comment by Paul Crowley on January 30, 2012 at 4:28pm
All interesting thought. I think the challenge is getting the hiring manager to articulate exactly what he is looking for, or confess to us that he needs help from us in identifying what he is looking for.

That's a blog for another day!
Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 30, 2012 at 5:16pm

I agree with Christopher.

The moral of this story is tried and true most of the time, but there are exceptions, particularly in recruitment.

Sometimes we recruiters get mixed signals from either the hiring manager or their HR rep.  When we bring them the size 34 pants with Polka Dots, they now want them in bell bottoms, or white polka dots on red (I've seen that on a golf course). 

Some will say they really love the Senior Graphic Artists presented, with awards no less, but have decided, in the 11th hour, to go with a recent college grad found through an employee referral (some executive's son/daughter).

As an internal Staffing Manager I've had, on more than one occasion, a hiring manager bring me the exact polka dot pants they wanted in the form of a candidate they were being pressured to hire.  They thanked me profusely when I blocked the recommended candidate and actually found them qualified candidates that were eventually hired.

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