Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Why The Internet Can Never Replace Recruiters

There is no question that to save companies money, many have eschewed their recruiting relationships in favor of electronic recruiting.  It is a trend which will last for a while, but will ultimately decline.

Nothing can replace the personal relationships companies and executives have with their recruiters. Recruiters who know companies intimately and know the people and issues within the company cannot be replaced by a job board.  Personal knowledge makes recruiting faster and far more efficient.

I have yet to see an electronic recruiting board that deals accurately with real job specs.  Many job specifications actually should not be published publically no matter what level the job (these kinds of things may include the reason the job is open, the problems with other employees, clients or suppliers, as well as the business situation).  Nor have I seen a job board which can deal accurately with candidates’ accomplishments, strengths (and weaknesses) that are totally relevant to the listed job; these are things which can only be determined through a thorough interview – whether in person, via phone, Skype or Face Time.  The essential elements of personality can only be determined through interface and observation. Impersonal job boards can only select applicants based on what the applicants have submitted to them, which rarely approaches the essence of a job.  

Nothing can replace eye contact when it comes to hiring.  And while 99% of people hired will eventually be interviewed in person, those interviews come after candidates have been identified and preliminary interviews have taken place, mostly on the telephone.  The trick is to identify the right candidates in the first place so that the people being interviewed and going through the process are all “right” candidates.

A president of a major company recently told me that his turnover, particularly among juniors, was very high and he couldn’t understand why.  I told him it was largely due to the quality of the candidates his company received through the internet.  They are not using recruiters.  There is anecdotal evidence, although I have not seen a study, that people placed by a recruiter have greater retention in their jobs than those recruited online.

I firmly believe that the best candidates do not use the internet.  Every recruiter has a stockpile of successful executives who will only deal with trusted recruiters; these executives, even when actively looking for new employment, simply do not use public job boards.

The price that companies are paying for their penny wise strategy is very high.  At some point, the CFO’s who control acquisition costs by forbidding the use of outside recruiters (except in extreme cases), will realize that their savings are actually not savings at all.  The cost of excess turnover is extremely high – lost time, time spent recruiting and screening, client dissatisfaction, retraining – and cannot be compensated for by continuously making the same mistake.

Personal relationships count for a lot.  There are many companies that every recruiter works with where those companies trust and rely on their recruiters to send them only appropriate candidates. Those recruiters and companies understand each other – the culture, the work environment, and the kinds of people who succeed.  The internet cannot make up for that kind of personal knowledge relationship.

The efficiency that comes with that knowledge cannot be duplicated by impersonal web-recruiting. 
That is why this trend will not continue.  Many “job boards” have already disappeared or diminished and more will go away soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Adventures in Recruiting: Five Final Interviews That Ended In Disaster

I learned very early in my recruiting career that final interviews, which are often called a “courtesy”, can go awry.  Final interviews are generally saved for the most senior person in the company or the person who has the hiring authority to sign off on the hiring of a candidate.  But they should never be taken for granted as there are often surprises.  I thought I would share five stories – some quite funny, some really strange – of how they can end in disaster. 

All these stories were with candidates I represented.

1      1)    A young man was interviewing for an account supervisor spot at the old Bloom agency (Bob Bloom’s shop was bought by Publicis and was, for a while, called Publicis Bloom. Bob Bloom was a notoriously tough interviewer.  The account supervisor, who was interviewing on a difficult, fast-moving retail account, was told by the people who wanted him hired to just be himself and to be honest with Mr. Bloom and that he was a shoo-in for the job.  I think he took the interview for granted.  During the interview, the account supervisor was asked by Mr. Bloom, “If I called your current supervisor – which I wouldn’t – what would he say about you?  Without missing a beat and, apparently without thinking, the account supervisor said, “He would tell you I had a messy desk and was disorganized.”  End of that candidacy.

2      2)    An account supervisor was interviewing for a management supervisor spot at a small but well known creative shop. He had interviewed with everyone except the president of the agency.  The president of that agency did not like the large but well-respected agencies where the candidate had previously worked; nevertheless, the candidate was perfect for the job and had been told so.  The people who wanted to hire him had warned the candidate that the subject of big agency creativity might come up. At the very beginning of the interview, the president looked at the candidate and said, “When are you going to work at an agency that does good work?”  The account supervisor gave a great response, “When you hire me, sir.”  The president of the agency thought that the response was arrogant and brash (so he told people afterwards) and immediately dismissed the candidate saying, “At your level, I am not going to teach you about good work.”  He simply told the applicant to leave.  The interview did not last five minutes.  It left the agency’s staff astounded.

3      3)    An EVP was interviewing at a major agency to run account management.  He had already met and had been interviewed by almost every department head; they all liked him.  He was now meeting with the chairman.  Within a minute, it became clear that the chairman had not prepared for the meeting, had not looked at the candidate’s résumé and hadn’t a clue why he was seeing this person; I have always wondered if he even knew they were looking for a senior person.  Anyway, his first question astounded the prospect.  The chairman asked him, “Why are you here?”  The account person became unhinged. He opened his brief case, which contained a sandwich which had been purchased just prior to the meeting.  The account person looked at the chairman (a well-known person to everyone in the business) and said, “I came to deliver your lunch.”  He dropped the sandwich bag on the chairman’s desk and walked out.

4      4)    A senior group head was being interviewed for a job at a well-known creative shop.  He had already met two of the three founders of the agency.  This was his final interview and it was with the general manger, who had a reputation for giving strange interviews.  The applicant entered the office and found the general manager standing by the window looking out, with his back to the door. The candidate was not sure how to handle it when the GM started asking him questions without turning around. In fact, the interviewee had not been asked to sit down, so he was just standing by the doorway.  After about ten minutes of questioning like this, the prospect said to the general manager, “Sir, is there something out there that I should be seeing and sharing with you?”  The general manager, turned around and said, “Clients do strange things.  I wanted to see how you would act.  It took you ten minutes to deal with me.  That is too long so we are not going to hire you.”

5      5)    An EVP and head of account management at a major, large creative agency was interviewing to be hired by the chairman and owner of a small agency to be his successor.  The chairman was well into his seventies.  The EVP worked for a larger, multi-national agency which probably billed about $530mm domestically; the smaller agency had 15 employees and billed about $20mm.  They had been meeting for months, including several dinners and a lot of interaction with lawyers over the contract, which was finally drawn up and agreed to.  The EVP went to the small agency to sign the contract and to be introduced to the staff.  The staff knew about the new person and arrived early to have coffee with him. There was an air of excitement.  Just before the contract signing, the chairman asked the EVP which of the accounts at his current agency he would be bringing with him.  It was a subject never discussed.  The EVP said that his current contract precluded him soliciting existing business. The chairman, essentially, threw him out saying, “Why else would I hire you?”  That was the end of that.  The chairman was never able to hire anyone during the next three or four years he was alive.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

After 30+ Years Recruiting, Eleven Things I Still Don’t Understand

Thinking back on my still active recruitment career, I am puzzled by a number of things which constantly occur both with candidates and with hiring companies.  I thought I would share this list with my readers.  These are in no particular order.

1)     Why companies tell recruiters that they are in a hurry, but obviously are not
 All too often, I have received panicked calls from clients begging me to work over the weekend to find someone.  After working over the weekend and finding appropriate candidates, when I call or email on Monday or Tuesday, the client doesn’t respond until Friday.   And when they do respond, it may take a week or two to set up the first round of interviews.  Huh?

2)    Candidates who don’t tell their recruiters that they have accepted an offer
Every recruiter knows this one:  you interview a candidate and call them a week later (or a month or six months, doesn’t matter) with an opportunity only to find out that they have already accepted a job and did not tell you. It is rude and it makes for a lot of wasted time. 

3)    Clients who give assignments and then don’t return recruiter’s calls or emails
Weird, right?  Happens all the time. It has even happened to me once on a retained search after I have been paid.

4)    Candidates who don’t return calls
People who say they are desperate to leave their jobs and when they are called with an opportunity, simply don’t call back.  When a recruiter calls, the call should always be returned – you never know if it will make you rich or famous.  I have actually had candidates tell me that they are on a business trip and couldn’t call.  No excuse, still rude.

5)    Candidates and clients who cut recruiters out of the negotiating process
One assumes it is because there is some lack of trust, but if you don’t trust your recruiters, don’t use them.  So often, after the fact, I have seen offer letters which are just plain bad and not what the candidate was told, but the candidate didn’t know to show it to me or to tell me about the offer.  Very often, I have had clients who would not send me a copy of an offer letter, telling me it was between them and the candidate.  Figure that out.

6)    Clients who will not give job information to their recruiters
So often clients will not give specific information on a job search; instead, they provide a generic job description.  In advertising and marketing, sometimes they will not tell me what the product is or why the job is open or what the issues are.  How can a recruiter be effective with no information? And again, trust.

7)    Clients who will not give recruiters accurate feedback after an interview
Talking in generalities, which often happens, like, “Not a match,” or, “Not a good fit.” doesn’t help them move the search forward.  I always say to reluctant clients that if they tell me, “too tall, too short, too thin, too fat,” it provides good direction for the search.  And not being able to give feedback to the candidate is unfair and, frankly, unprofessional of the company.

8)    Candidates who don’t or won’t give recruiters complete information on their jobs
It is important for recruiters to know about the jobs they place people in.  It not only helps for future searches, but in many cases, an effective recruiter can give the company necessary feedback and resolve problems.  If a person does not like a job or it is not what was originally described, it is important that their recruiter know.

9)    Recruiters who are not involved with the process
Years ago, when I was an account person, I had a recruiter introduce me to a company.  He told me to make an appointment and gave no further information.  In fact, he told me to call him if and when I got an offer, but was not interested in any feedback.  That means the recruiter is only doing a small part of his or her job.  I don't understand why companies accept that kind of behavior from their recruiters..  

10)   Candidates and clients who grade recruiters on the number of send-outs
Especially now, with the internet, the quality of interviews far out-weighs the quantity.  I have always sent a limited number of people.  I once had a client tell me they wouldn’t use me because I sent too few candidates.  I have had candidates tell me the same thing (my response is the same to both: how many of those jobs did you get offered or how many of those people did you hire?).  I will never just send bodies to up my odds and I don't understand why companies tolerate that from their suppliers.

11)  Clients who give salary requirements and then offer candidates jobs that are either at the bottom end or below
I have been trying to figure this out for years.  The candidate who is making $160k and interviewing on a job that was specked at $160-175k who is offered $150 or $160k.  And then the client is surprised that the candidate turns the job down.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Adventures In Advertising: The Secret Of The Best Presenter I Ever Saw

I thought I would share the secret of the best presenter I ever saw.  His advice is the secret to making great speeches and presentations.

Ad agencies love to rehearse pending client presentations.  It is understandable:  they want the presentation to be perfect so they can sell the work or land the account.  There is only one problem.  Everyone in the room, from the most senior person to the most junior must be of one mind - they must believe in and love what they are selling.

Rehearsal cannot sell. Correcting people's syntax and the way they express themselves cannot sell. Only attitudes can.  Having confidence in in the work and communicating that belief is far more important than any talking points which someone might want to include in the presentation.  It isn’t that the talking points aren’t valid, it is that they have to be made in a forceful and passionate manner – from the gut.

In my first advertising job, I worked for the Richard K. Manoff Agency (subsequently bought by McCann).  Dick Manoff was the best presenter I ever met or saw.  He was an account guy and he was mesmerizing when he talked to clients (all employees loved to go to the one way mirror in the conference room and watch him present).  One day I asked him what his secret was.  He told me two things which have stayed with me for my whole career, even still.

First, he said, you have to absolutely believe in what you are selling.  Second, your words have to come from your gut.  In fact, words matter less than attitude when presenting.  To put it another way, words don’t sell, attitudes do.   

What great advice!

Ad agencies tend to practice and re-rehearse their presentations, sometimes to the point where they sound over-rehearsed and the actual presentation sounds memorized and insincere - kind of like reading a speech, . From the time I was an account supervisor, I had a hard time practicing what I was going to say thanks to Mr. Manoff. In fact, when agencies I worked at insisted on going over and over what we were going to say, I said what they wanted me to say in the rehearsal and then simply spoke from my gut when I presented, forgetting the practiced script, except very important points.  Clients believed me and I was generally able to sell the work if it was right.  It was my attitude that sold the work.  If I really believed in it, clients believed me and, if it was on strategy and there were no other unanticipated problems, the work sold.

This is a lesson that needs to be taught in every public speaking course and in every presentation class.

I promise you, David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach did not rehearse (they may have practiced, but like Mr. Manoff, when the actual presentation came, they spoke from their heart.  This is also true of icons like Mary Wells or Jay Chiat.  When they planned presentations, they told people what they were going to say without actually saying it.  As a result, their presentations were unstilted and believable. They came across as experts and the sincerity of their message came from somewhere deep inside them. 
When run-troughs are so over structured that the speakers sound stilted, the chances of selling the work goes way down.  Worse, during the client presentation when asked a question which is unexpected, over practiced people have a good chance of being unable to parry the response because it did not fit into the pre-rehearsed responses.  

I have previously written about the role of passion in success.  The story of legendary ad man George Lois is worth retelling.  When a client questioned his presentation, he threatened to jump out a window and went so far as to raising the window in his conference room and began to put his body outside.  The client was so alarmed that he immediately approved whatever it was that was presented. True?  Maybe.  But the point is that it proved to the client that George Lois believed in what he was saying and they bought the work.

I always believed that clients actually do support their agencies and want them to succeed.  Clients should be treated like friends, because they are.  And, for the most part they want to believe what you are telling them, especially when an effective account person has worked with them and pre-sold the work.

Pre-selling is one of the hallmarks of a good account person and a smart agency.
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