Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adventures in Recruiting: I hate your Candidate

I thought I would start the year with a little levity.

All recruiters, whether on my side of the aisle or recruiters who work for companies, share one thing in common.  We often like (or dislike) people who are then seen by other people who have the exact opposite opinion.  This is a funny story about that.  

When Scali, McCabe, Sloves was in business, they had a wonderful HR Director. Al Swann was one of the best professionals I ever worked with.  We worked as partners.  Al gave me an assignment and often told me to deal directly with the hiring manager since he knew that I knew them all and he trusted my taste in people.  Once, he told me he was going away and that I should send candidates for a job directly to a new group head.  I didn't know the group head well, but I certainly knew Scali and who they hired. 

I sent the group head, we’ll call him Robert, a résumé of an account supervisor I really liked.  Robert liked the resume, called me and we arranged an interview.  We will call my candidate Peter.  Robert saw Peter a few days later.  Peter called me as soon as the interview was over.  I looked at my watch and saw that the meeting had started only a few minutes before. Because the meeting was so short, I knew it probably didn't go well..  Peter confirmed my hunch. The interview only lasted about twenty minutes and my candidate did not feel that he and Robert connected.  He said that it wasn’t a bad interview;  but there was just no chemistry.  We all know that that happens from time to time.

Within minutes my phone rang. It was Robert.  He bit my head off,  literally screaming and cursing at me.  He absolutely hated my candidate. As I recall, he didn't give me a reason, but he had a visceral negative reaction.  He was furious at me for sending Peter and told me that he was ripping up the résumé and would not tell Al Swann that I had sent him.  I was very perplexed by the reaction which was, to say the least, very strong. I really believed in the candidate and though he was perfect for Scali. 

I simply told Peter that there was no chemistry.  I was not going to tell him how I got lambasted.  It is a good thing I handled it that way.

About a month later, Al called me with another account supervisor job.  I thought Peter was even better for this one than for the first.  Robert’s rant did not deter my belief in the candidate nor did it dissuade me from thinking that Peter was a great match for Scali.  Al saw Peter and his comments justified my belief in the candidate.  He passed him to the account group and, within a couple of days, he received and accepted an offer.

However, Peter was concerned about bumping in to Robert and how he should handle it.  Based on what I know about recruiting and about people,  I counseled Peter that he should not let on that he had met Robert and that Robert would never remember him.  I was right.  There was no recognition the first time they passed in the halls or any time after that.

Now here is the best part.  Peter remained at Scali for many years; he was promoted a couple of times and was a star (I knew he belonged there).  Peter and Robert somehow met over the course of time and became really good friends. They had lunch together frequently.  Their first meeting was never brought up.

It was a good placement for me and a great placement for the candidate who went on to have a very successful career.  All professional recruiters know that this kind of disconnect happens frequently.   We just rarely have an opportunity to send the same candidate twice to the same company.

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