When one considers a new recruit for an organization, a key decision is what recruitment methodology would be the right one.

A first intuitive driver points to the network of colleagues and acquaintances. This is a natural decision and works well for more than half of the times. However, the higher you go in the organizational hierarchy (up to the board) the less outstanding available executives you will know.

The acid test then for the company is to hire or not a recruitment firm, that is: to spend money on external help or managing the recruitment internally. If an organization decides to hire an external firm is thereby stating that the position is senior and important and they want to avoid making a mistake. The organization may be either too busy, understaffed or, -desirably- giving value to the consultancy contribution of the external firm. In terms of outsourcing services it means recognizing that somebody “out there” can be specialized and complete the recruitment process in a more professional, objective  and efficient way that oneself.  

The methodology possibilities are:

* An interim (renting an employee) agency can be quick and effective with some technical jobs. Pro: after an agreed period, the candidate may join the company, which knows well who is buying. Con: how many really good candidates will be out there willing to accept an interim job? And interim employment is less than popular in some countries…

* Selection by advertisement. Historically in the newspapers and now with the on-line portals, the system is the same. It is passive and the recruiting organization will only get candidates who are at that precise moment interested in a new challenge. One may certainly get good candidates (and that may be enough) but will never be sure if it is the best candidate available.

* Then we have the only active methodology: direct search. Recommended when the recruiting organization wants an executive who must bring a senior background and track record, so that  1) he or she is likely to have a similar or slightly inferior position in a direct competitor company  2) he or she are successful, and will possibly be happily employed, therefore, not replying to job ads or interested in a move. 

Direct search is worldwide known as headhunting and must be carried out by retained executive search consultants. The next question is: Why retained and not contingency, that is, firms which will only get paid when and if they produce the final candidate? And the answer goes implicit with the question: how much dedication and energy would anybody put in a project if they know that it is likely it may be done for free?

The value of a seasoned, experienced headhunter is the value of personalized consultancy. He or she will give a client the input from the marketplace, the perception of potential candidates about our company and other players and most important: will be a senior consultant devoting personal time to persuade the best talent in the marketplace that our professional challenge fits their expectations and ambitions. New technologies and social networks are a new way to get many names and positions, but the personal value of human appraisal (personal interviews) cannot be done by machines (yet).

Retained search firms have an Association www.aesc.org that has been defending the values of this professional form of Consultancy for 50 years now. Members are only admitted after an audit of procedures and must follow a strict Code of Conduct. They also edited the first Client’s and Candidate’s Bill of Rights.

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