In the off season leading up to the 2011 Major League Baseball season, Clifton Pfifer Lee shocked the almighty bottomless pocketbook bearers of the New York Yankees and the down home, feel-good Texas Rangers by signing a below-market-value deal to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. The move was not solely motivated by money or warm fuzzy feelings. He took less money and moved to a city with a traditionally aggressive fan-base where players with large contracts who don’t meet expectations are vilified. Philadelphia won because they did a better job of recruiting Cliff Lee. They were able to dial into what was important to him on a multi-faceted platform.
The losers in this transaction used familiar approaches to patch the hole created by the loss. The Yankees went on to “hire” from the unemployment line, bringing on such players as former stars Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and even clear has-beens Kevin Millwood and Carlos Silva. The Rangers decided to go the route of succession, attempting to restructure the organization by moving closer Neftali Feliz into the spot Lee would have occupied, and when that failed, promoting Alexi Ogando to the role. Both have had mediocre results and are still in search of someone like Cliff Lee. Philadelphia now has the best pitching rotation in baseball and are chosen most as the odds on favorite to represent the National League in the World Series. I’m not a sportswriter. My job is to deliver performance to my clients in the form of the Cliff Lees of the Internet, Digital, Mobile, and SaaS world, but I can tell you with certainty that the analogy here is applicable to the entire business world and how recruiters approach their job.
Recruit or Hire? That is the question.
There are organizations that are so solid top-to-bottom that hiring is the best route. When a fortune 500 giant needs 125 admins, they simply cannot efficiently deploy a recruiter to get out and headhunt. They need resumes in bulk, they need them fast, and they need to plug in people with basic skill sets to roles that are so systematic and defined that the likelihood of complete failure is next to nil. And if failure happens it is inconsequential to the company as a whole.
Let’s remove those enterprise size companies from this dialogue, because I don’t deal with those companies very often. Not because I’m anti-big business, I’m not. I love big businesses because they’re totally adept at what they do well. Our group is better suited to have a true impact on the process of recruiting and signing the best free agents in our clients’ respective space because we only take clients that value the recruiting process and have a clear understanding of what sort of value the right person can add to a relatively young organization. Our clients are early to late stage start-ups in innovative and rapidly changing competitive landscapes. They often are playing with borrowed money and failure by a key person can result in failure of the company’s ability to realize their vision and deliver their products, or ultimately land them in the start-up graveyard.
Regretfully, they don’t always get it. Occasionally the internal recruitment executives of an early stage company will be so drunk on their own early success and their multiple “Best Places to Work” awards that they believe the candidate should feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to even talk. The result, they send a junior administrator in to handle the first rounds of interviews, or they set a series of procedures that encumber the process so severely that any employed executive who’s currently delivering the goods under a different brand couldn’t possibly have the hours in the day to effectively navigate. The same folks who built a system based loosely on the “top-grading” (http://www.smarttopgrading.com/) philosophy for hiring have created a self-serving process designed to eliminate top-grade candidates as opposed to recruiting them. I wonder if Philadelphia made Cliff Lee complete an online assessment that included middle school math problems and didn’t allow for a calculator. If (and that’s an enormous if) the right candidate tolerates the early stages of the interviews, the tone of the process shifts from that of two mutually excited parties working to form a partnership to two combative entities competing to prove their grit. These early mitigating procedures, which have very little to do with a star candidate’s ability to excel in the hiring organization’s open role, inherently draw egos into the process.
Important information about the candidates’ needs should be extracted from every step of the process. How do they feel about relocation to your city? How do they balance their personal/ work lives? Is the challenge of an incentive based package exciting to them or do they prefer the stability of a base only package? What non-financial perks excite them? Does your Foosball/ video game room have any value to the candidate? How many times has this candidate been given stock options that never produced any monetary return?
The answer that the candidate provided in the little tiny text field on your online “application” to the question, “What are your salary requirements?” is a grossly inadequate amount of ammunition about a candidate’s thresholds for pain in areas applicable to successfully closing the deal once we arrive at an offer.
If you get to the offer stage and haven’t extracted all of the data that is important to this candidate throughout the process, you’re afforded two options:
2) Deal with a rejected offer
Go through this with an entire pipeline of ringers and you’ll find yourself hiring out of need and lowering your standards. That confidence you had in your company’s “Thirsty Thursday” has wavered. Now you’re posting jobs all over the job boards looking for anyone who will enthusiastically take your position. I don’t suggest to my clients that they eliminate processes employed to determine the viability of a candidate while spending enormous amounts of valuable time wining and dining everyone who walks through the door. That would be horribly inefficient. I suggest the opposite. Clearly define your target and go after them. Recruit fewer candidates but spend more time recruiting them when they’re right and less time qualifying them. If you don’t have the internal bandwidth to do this make sure your contingent recruiters are providing results.
Alternatively, I’ve heard that Pedro Martinez is still technically a Free Agent and Jose Canseco has been working on a knuckleball in the independent league.
BY TYSON SPRING
VP & Sr. Search ConsultantOriginal Entry available at:Élever Professional