Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Recruiter As Magician

I have always said that recruiting is like putting together a jig saw puzzle – there are a great many pieces which seem to fit, but only one is perfect.  It takes time and patience as well as a very good eye to find the right match for the company’s culture.

Clients hire us only after they have conducted their own search and networking and are not satisfied with the people they have met.  This process for them can often take weeks or even months.  And then they call us and tell us they need someone within days. We are always getting jobs which have been open for a long time and then we are given impossible deadlines.  Last week, a human resources person asked us to find someone and have him or her report for work in about sixteen days; and they would prefer someone who is currently working.  When we explained that even if we immediately found someone, sixteen days would be unrealistic because the company could not get them in for all their interviews in two days (reference checking alone could take two or three days).  And even if the company made a job offer within a week, it would then be at two to three weeks before someone could start work because they would also have to give notice to their current employer.

Every recruiter, even those on retainer, has received assignments like this (about three months ago, we were paid a retainer to identify candidates to interview within two weeks). 

What every recruiter knows, no matter how big their data base, each assignment is different, and it can take several days just to sort through and evaluate candidates who are already in our files, even before calling them to determine their interest.  Ironically, we can often come up with a candidate’s ideal job, but the timing may be wrong for them.  Perhaps they just started a new job, they may be working on a critical project and be unable to interview or a thousand other reasons.  

And if there is no one in our files, then we have to conduct a search, which may take days or weeks or even months to identify, locate, interview and introduce appropriate people for the job.  A candidate who was unable to talk in January may suddenly be available in March or, if the client was slow to act, the candidate available in January  may no longer be interested or available in March.  Often, because of changes in assignments or new experiences, candidates who might not have been appropriate a year prior may be perfect now.  All this takes time to sort out.

And of course none of this has to do with companies which give us very difficult job specs.

And more often than not, we succeed, especially when our clients partner with us and we work together; clients can be very helpful in the process, especially when they tell us who they have seen and why they were rejected.  This kind of partnership gives us invaluable insights and understanding of their specs. Even the best of us are not magicians unless we have help (ever notice that all magicians have assistants?).
Somehow, good recruiters are often able to pull rabbits out of a hat and find the perfect person for a job. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good Candidates Get Gobbled Up Fast

Despite the slowly declining unemployment rate, the job market for marketing executives – advertising, marketing, public relations, etc. – continues to be sluggish.

Existing employees are overworked and, often, understaffed.  Often, they are so busy that they have no time to interview the very people who could ease their burden.  So the interviewing process can drag on, often for weeks, sometimes for months.   The problem is, that when people take too long to finish the process, the people they liked at the beginning of the process may have taken other jobs in the interim or they may simply have lost interest based on the inactivity.

The manager who doesn’t know how to recognize good talent and insists on meeting too many candidates often loses the best ones because of their indecision. A good manager must hone their own instincts and they need to trust the human resources and recruiters who are working on their behalf. If those people have been properly briefed, the people they send should be fully capable of doing the job.

If managers are really busy and overworked, their first priority must be to hire the person or people who can relieve them.  While getting the day-to-day work out is essential, managers must make the time to interview. There must be nothing worse than meeting and liking someone only to have them take another job because the manager debated too long and the candidate lost interest.
Over years of recruiting, I have observed that successful companies tend to be egocentric, or, if you will, corpocentric.  They often believe that everyone is dying to work at their company and will therefore wait for them.  I have actually had people say to me, “Why would he/she not wait for me.  This is a much better company.”  And while that may be true, not everyone is committed to working there.

We’ve seen instances where hiring managers sit on résumés of excellent candidates for days, even weeks, before agreeing to interview.  Even candidates who are excited to interview at that company may lose their enthusiasm.  Or, at the very least, they question the commitment to hire and wonder about the focus of the manager who is to meet them.  We’ve seen good candidates actually talk themselves out of taking a job because the process took so long the candidate became discouraged and lost interest.

Every recruiter – including corporate recruiters – knows that there is a certain momentum to the hiring process. It is important for that momentum to be maintained. When good candidates show up, it behooves the company to get them through the system as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Advertising Story: Who Says Account People Have Nothing To Do On A Shoot

Account people often forget that they have a significant role to play while shooting commercials. It goes beyond just taking care of the client; it even goes beyond making sure the storyboard is covered.  This is a true story of an invaluable contribution an account person made to his agency and his client.

There was an account guy on a frozen French fry account.  The product was called Tasty Fries and it was extruded potatoes with crinkle edges, much like the way Nathan’s fries are cut.  The edges got crisp in the oven while the inside stayed moist and delicious.  The commercial that was being shot showed a demo of the fries cooking in an oven (time-lapse) with the crinkled edges browning.

The production house had to rent the only specially constructed glass oven that worked and could be shot through so the fries could be shown cooking. It was expensive to rent and essential for the time-lapse in this commercial.   When the senior account guy got to the set after the lighting was complete, it was about 11am.  He asked to see the oven. 

There was no oven.

The account guy was assured by the agency producer that the oven did not matter; they figured out that they could cook the fries in the studio kitchen and shoot them as if they were in an oven through some kind of stop motion, time-lapse photography to show them cooking.  That is where the account guy became assertive and told the producer, the art director and the production house people that there was no way they were going to fake a demo.  They assured the account person that no one would know and that he shouldn’t worry.   The account person told the production house manager and the agency producer that the shoot was over.  When they got the oven, they could re-shoot – at their expense.  Suffice to say there was a big argument, but the account person remained quite adamant.

I was the account person.  

I was cursed and yelled at and told I didn’t have the authority to cancel a shoot.  You bet I did. The production house didn't meet the terms of its contract.  I high-tailed it back to the agency as fast as I could; I barged into the executive creative director’s office and told him what I had done.  Of course, he agreed with me.  Within minutes the art director and producer showed up in his office, mad as hell at me.  They were screaming and ranting about the fact that I had no authority or right to do what I did.  The ECD calmly asked if the oven was there.  Of course they said no.  Then the ECD told them that I was 100% right and that they should have known better.  He also pointed out that I was doing my job.

Had they fudged the demo, we could have all gotten into huge trouble with the FTC.  Fraudulent demos, even if they are a real representation of the truth, are not allowed. (All advertising people should be familiar with the FTC/Campbell's Soup lawsuit  in 1968 or what happened to Volvo in the early 1990's.)  And someone would have had to sign an affidavit as to the authenticity of the demo.  And that someone, in those, days would likely have been me.  And there was no way I would have attested to the the demonstration.

Incidentally, the shoot was rescheduled a week later and went without a hitch, oven and all.

Who says an account person doesn’t have a great role to play on a shoot?  Now, this may be a once in a lifetime occasion, but one never knows.
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