When Your Executive Search Doesn’t Yield Enough Candidates
Often, you’ll hear the hiring authority complain that she hasn’t seen enough quality candidates. If the person in charge of the search is an internal recruiter or works in HR, there are several possible causes and solutions to this problem:
- Online job postings aren’t well targeted. Try using a job-posting service that specifically caters to the type of position you’re trying to fill. LinkedIn is a good choice. So is ExecuNet, which caters to executives only. Or use a search engine to find relevant associations that post jobs on their websites. (Search for the name of the function or industry and the word association.) Some sites even post jobs for free.
- The recruiter depends too heavily on Internet job postings, job fairs, and internal referrals. Launch a referral program (or improve your existing one) for employees who talk up your company to their friends, family members, colleagues, and other contacts.
Also, use resources like LinkedIn to research potential candidates. Then contact them using the site’s InMail service. Or, cold-call them. (If you go that route, it’s not a bad idea to contract with a skilled cold caller.)
- The recruiter relies too heavily on the company’s applicant tracking system (ATS). There are two problems with applicant tracking systems:
- Applicants — even really good ones — rarely know what keywords to use when they post their résumés.
- Most —nearly all — résumés you receive through an ATS for a particular position will be wildly off-target.
Identifying qualified candidates using an ATS is a little like finding your silver Toyota Corolla in an airport parking lot. It’s not easy, and could take a while. If you don’t have the time and resources to do it in house, consider contracting that function out on an as-needed basis.
- There’s a disconnect between the hiring authority and the internal recruiter. This one’s easy: The hiring authority and recruiter simply must make time early in the process to identify the exact needs required for the new hire.
- The internal recruiter is buried under other work. Sadly, many HR departments must do more and more with less and less. If that’s the situation here, then your only real option is to contract with an external recruiter — either a contingency recruiter or a retained recruiter — to complete the search. This person can be hired to work on site or off, and if you keep him busy, the rate will be quite reasonable.
- The job postings are boring — more like a to-do list than a description of an exciting job opportunity. Conduct an Internet search for “boring job postings.” You’ll find ample suggestions for writing attention-grabbing job postings!
If you have a marketing department, ask them for help writing snappier job postings.
- There just aren’t many quality candidates in the area. If the position has a base below $150,000, and efforts to fill it using internal recruiters have proved fruitless, there are contingency recruiters who will gladly try to help you. When you go that route, be sure to ask whether they’re bound by a “hands-off” list. If so, it may scuttle your ability to attract top passive candidates.
What if you’re working with a contingency recruiter? Here are a few possible causes and suggested solutions for a lack of qualified candidates:
- The contingency recruiter doesn’t have access to the hiring authority, so she has to work from secondhand information. The hiring manager needs to meet directly with the contingency recruiter and HR to review the requirements. Be sure to allow enough time for the contingency recruiter to ask as many questions as necessary.
- HR isn’t returning the contingency recruiter’s calls. This is a common grievance — one that often results in the contingency recruiter moving on to some other assignment with a more responsive client. The best way to address this is for the hiring authority to ask both HR and the contingency recruiter for a regular status report. This will reveal whether these two parties truly are working together.
- The hiring authority isn’t not returning the contingency recruiter’s calls because he has no time to provide updates, set up interviews, debrief after interviews, and so on. If the hiring authority has no time to connect with the contingency recruiter during normal business hours, he can call the recruiter in the evening or during the weekend. Almost all contingency recruiters will accept calls during these off hours.
- The contingency recruiter is bound by a hands-off list. Sometimes, whoever contracts the contingency recruiter fails to ask if she’s bound by a hands-off list. If she is, employees of any organization on that list are off-limits. In that case, you may need to contract with one or two more contingency search firms. Just be sure to verify that they aren’t bound by such a list!
- The contingency recruiter accepted too low a fee. If you’re paying the contingency recruiter less than some other client is, you can reasonably assume he’ll prioritize the needs of that other client over yours. With the exception of high-volume recruiting assignments, contingency recruiting rates are around 20 percent to 25 percent. This normally includes a guarantee period of between 30 to 90 days or even up to one year. If you’re paying less than this, you’re not your recruiter’s priority — and you shouldn’t be.
- There just aren’t many quality candidates in the area. If a general contingency recruiter comes up short, find one who specializes in recruiting the function in question and has successfully recruited candidates and relocated them to your area. Or, opt for a retained recruiter.
If you’re working with a retained recruiter, there are a couple explanations for a dearth of qualified candidates:
- There’s a disconnect between the hiring authority and the retained recruiter. You fix this the same way you fix a disconnect between the hiring authority and an internal recruiter: by making time early on for the retained recruiter and hiring authority to meet to identify the exact needs required for the new hire.
- The retained recruiter is bound by a hands-off list. Like contingency recruiters, some retained recruiters are bound by hands-off lists. If the person who secured the retained recruiter failed to inquire about this, and the recruiter is bound by such a list, then you may find yourself unable to recruit top talent. If you find yourself in this predicament, consult with your legal team to negotiate your way out of the contract and select a new search firm. (Again, be sure to verify that the new firm isn’t bound by such a list!)
Finally, regardless of who’s conducting the search — HR, an internal recruiter, a contingency recruiter, or a retained recruiter — a lack of acceptable candidates may be due to multiple hiring authorities being involved in the project, each with a different idea about the ideal candidate. If this is the situation you’re in, don’t proceed with the search until all hiring authorities reach consensus regarding the candidate’s must-haves.