Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Problem for Agencies Not Using Outside Recruiters

During this economic crisis, many agencies have been forbidden by either their CFO’s or their holding company to use recruiters for any level of hire.  It is a false economy.  And it makes both employees and clients angry and frustrated.

Every executive I know complains about the dearth of good candidates.  Recruiters, unlike their Human Resources counterparts, normally have any number of excellent candidates who will deal with them on an exclusive basis.  These candidates may not necessarily be “looking” but would be receptive to appropriate opportunities; and the recruiters know what is appropriate for them.
The bean counters believe that saving money on recruitment fees will help the bottom line.  Actually, it is just the opposite.  When jobs are open for long periods of time because agencies are not using recruiters, clients get antsy and often angry at the agency lack of staffing.  And agency internal staff becomes disheartened because they are overworked, tired and desperately need a break.  A client, whose account recently shifted agencies, told me that one of the catalysts to the change was the failure of the previous agency to keep her account staffed.

If an employee leaves and there is no one to replace him or her, why leave the agency and the account in a vulnerable position?  Some agencies simply leave the recruiting aspect of it up to their human resources department.  Some are just arrogant enough to think that they get enough résumés through the mail and through their own contacts to handle the issue based on who or what may be in the files. Every company always checks its own data base and applicant pool before hiring a recruiter.  And they should.  Why spend money on a recruiter if it can be done internally?  Most agencies offer incentives for employees to recommend friends.  The issue there is just that.  They often send friends who have no relevance to open positions.  But agencies should be doing this.

Some agencies resolve this problem by bringing in contract recruiters.   Many companies will hire contract recruiters (people who ostensibly know the market and get put on staff to develop candidates). I have nothing against contract recruiters.  Many of them are quite good.  But few, if any, come with a data base.  And more importantly, most are unfamiliar with the culture of their new agency.  So they join a firm and start making calls to try to find candidates – same as we do, but without the data base and without knowledge of agency or client cultures.  And, of course, they don’t know the nuances among account groups.  Some of these contract recruiters get lucky and can bring in people.  But most will quietly admit that it takes them a lot of time to get up to speed,

After twenty five plus years of recruiting, there is one thing I know: The issue in recruiting is always candidates.

I have thousands of candidates in my database.  The irony is that when I conduct a regression analysis (as all searches are) and it is filtered by background, title, interest, location, salary and, finally, availability, there are often only a limited number of candidates for any given job.   More often than not, I have to conduct a search to ferret out appropriate people.

Advertising is a service business.  Its first obligation is to its clients followed closely to  its own employees.  Hiring good people quickly and efficiently is very much part of that obligation. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Adventures In Recruiting: I Hate Being Dumped On

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be nice and upfront.

The first time I learned this was almost 30 years ago.  I had an account director working for me who was simply incapable of follow up.  He was a wonderful strategist, but just couldn’t get the work done on time.  I had been coaching him for months, but finally came to the conclusion that I would have to let him go.  It was early December. I mentioned it to the president of the agency I was working for and told him I would let the account person go right after the first of the year.  The president insisted that I do it immediately.  Truth is, the account person would have been useful to me for the next couple of weeks (I was head of account management and he ran a particular account).  The president insisted that I do it that very day.  I refused – among other things, the account person was a religious Catholic and had a child with problems;  I wanted him to get through and enjoy the holidays.  While I was sitting there, The president picked up the phone and called accounting and told them to prepare the account director’s final check immediately.  He then told me either I should fire the account person or he would.  Since it was my responsibility, I reluctantly said that I would do it.

When I went to terminate the account person, I was not going to lay it back on the president in terms of the timing.  I felt that the account director worked for me and so I should be the one to fire him.  I have a great deal of disdain for the wimps who allow Human Resources to terminate the people who report to them so that they can play all apologetic and surprised once the deed is done. This account person, to this day, tells people I am heartless.  But I guess that comes with the territory of being a leader. 

It happened again last week when I thought I was doing the right thing.

I ran a listing on a job board.  I identified myself (rather than running the listing anonymously).  Sometimes I do this to shake loose a candidate I might know but I may not have seen for a while who suddenly has developed the right credentials and I didn’t know to call him or her.  However, the issue with doing this is that inappropriate candidates contact me demanding to be submitted.  I ran a listing saying that appropriate candidates had to have current agency experience and had to have worked on a major package goods account.  I got an off-spec résumé from a purely client side person who had only worked on very minor brands.

I also know that when submitting résumés to a job board, most go unanswered.  I thought it would be nice to acknowledge the submission.   Because my name was identified with the listing, I thought I would write him to tell him he had great credentials, but not for this job.  Rather than thanking me, I got a kick in the pants.

 Following is our verbatim email exchange (these are direct quotes):

My first email:  Dear Henry: Thank you for responding to our listing.  However, you lack the necessary ad agency experience which this job demands. We will keep you on file in case something more appropriate comes along.  Sincerely, Paul

His response: I have been working with and directing ad agencies for over 2o years..in any case thanks for not reading my resume carefully

Me: Thanks for not reading my job specs carefully.  The job clearly calls for someone currently working on major package goods at a major agency. There is no reason to be belligerent. 

His answer:  I have over 20 years of package goods experience and that’s why we get so upset because people like you blow good people like me away 

My final response:  You are rude.  I thought I was doing you a favor by responding.  You do not work for an ad agency and your background doesn’t match the listed specs. Stop writing to me. 

I hate it when I get wrongly accused.  And I really dislike it when someone dumps on me for being nice.  I just don’t get it. 

Thanks for letting me vent.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Negotiate the Salary You Want in a New Job

I have literally negotiated thousands of salaries and jobs over the past twenty some odd years.  I can only think of a handful of cases where a negotiation failed to produce a happy candidate and a happy client.  In order to be successful in negotiating, you have to approach an offer and potential negotiation with the correct mind-set.  In almost all the cases where there was a failure, either the candidate (usually) or the company (occasionally) approached the offer as a take it or leave it affair.

Start with a premise.  There should be no winners and no losers in a negotiation.  A negotiation should merely be a buyer (company) and a seller (prospective candidate) who are looking towards the same goal - a successful hire.  The buyer wants you to work at his or her company; the seller wants to work there.   While I recognize that there are bean counters, some HR people and some candidates who insist on “winning”, they are approaching the negotiation in the wrong way.  I always think that an offer should be accepted with the company thinking it is paying a bit too much and a candidate feeling that he or she is making too little. (I have never understood why a company will give me a job with an initial a salary range and then come in with an offer at the low end of that range; at the same time, candidates always want more than they end up making. I always give the range, knowing that the candidate will generally only hear the highest number.)
The truth is that by the time a company decides to hire a specific candidate, they are very much committed to him or her.  And, at the same time, a candidate who decides that the company is right for them is equally committed.  So why should it be unpleasant with winners and losers?

The ideal negotiation, if there is any, should go like this: the company offers x, the candidates wants y and they meet in the middle.  It should not be protracted or difficult.  And there should never be ill will. Let the company make the offer.  There is a rule in negotiating that says the first person to name a number looses.  If a candidate names a number first, they have locked themselves in and are somewhat precluded from negotiating.

Candidates sometimes they have to give themselves permission to accept a job. What I mean by this is that the candidate has committed to himself or herself at a certain financial or title level.  They may have even told their spouse how much they think they are going to get (often, far more than may be realistic).  And with that number or title in mind, they go job hunting.  When an offer comes for less then they previously thought they would get, they have to find a way to accept the job and not lose face to themselves or their family. There are lots of ways to do this.  Scheduled salary reviews, signing bonuses, guaranteed bonuses, guaranteed salary increases, extra vacation, better titles, spousal accompanying on business trips are all methods companies can use to get people to say, “Yes”.  These things should be part of a negotiation. 

Once an offer has been made, one of the best ways I know for candidates to get more money, a better title or other perks is to tell the company (or recruiter) that you really want the job but that you need more and if they give it to you, you will accept on the spot. This commitment before actually accepting works 90% of the time.

One of the perplexing things about recruiting is people who have been interviewing at a company for weeks, even months, who then receive an offer and ask for the weekend (or longer) to think about it.  They have had the entire time they have been interviewing to think about it already.  I certainly understand discussing an offer with a spouse or family.  Hopefully, that has been done long before an offer comes in so that accepting is merely a formality.  Accepting with enthusiasm is a positive way to start a relationship.

One piece of advice.  Before resigning, must have an offer letter.  The letter should spell out the full agreement of employment – title, responsibilities, salary, reporting structure, bonus, reviews, and any other understanding of the job which was discussed that is be relevant.  An offer letter is not a contract but it spells out your mutual understanding of the deal.  Remember, if it isn’t in the offer letter, it isn’t part of the deal.

When the negotiation is over, both parties should be happy and positive. 
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