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Inside the Red Zone

November 23, 2011
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Keep your search firm in the game till the very end of your CIO search

OK – up front – this is a rant! The things that happen in this business rarely surprise me, but they do make me take pause and ask a few questions. Executives hire search firms to find the talent they can’t source on their own, conduct a precision search for a purple squirrel, or perhaps attempt to hire away superior talent from a competitor. Regardless of the mission, the search firm (if they're worth their salt) follows a defined process from start to finish. This includes the profiling, sourcing, interviewing, coaching, negotiating and closing the candidate, and delivering a signed offer letter. It’s been proven to me time and time again that the last mile or the offer are the most sensitive and critical elements of a search.

I recently worked with a hiring manager who somehow developed amnesia when it came to the final steps in the process - when it was time to deliver and negotiate the offer. She felt so strongly about this step that we were essentially excluded from the entire offer process. There's a reason we're active in a search until the end. We do this for a living and have seen this movie over and over, and can detect dissatisfaction or hesitation from a candidate as they approach the finish line. Hiring managers should allow their search partner to do their job and be that trusted 3rd party to ensue everyone has a successful outcome. Being on the outside looking in, wondering what’s happening is no place to be at the end of any search assignment. Candidates have built trust - a rapport - with that person who convinced them to consider interviewing in the first place. Taking that trusted advisor out of play at the most critical part of the search makes no sense to me at all. Nope. I just don’t get it, and I never will.

I really enjoy working on an engagement from start to finish or until the final whistle blows. That’s the way I’m wired, and quite frankly, I can’t determine the outcome unless I'm involved. It’s not an ego thing for me at all - just a proven process we recruiters follow every day in our business. It’s sort of like asking a football quarterback to sit on the bench once he drives his team 80 yards (all the way down the field), and it’s time to score. Now, really, how smart is that? Take the guy who drove the offense to the red zone and then ask him to sit down? C’mon! Not me. I want to work each engagement from start to finish.

Once the whistle blows, I'm happy to sit on the sidelines - but not until we score!




I appreciate your perspective however on the flip-side, there is too much variance in the process at firms where you say should be "worth their salt." I've seen far too many searches go through the motions, relying on a stable of known candidates that seem to relocate every few years. I too often don't see genuine care for the client situation and need or the kind of follow-through you speak of.

I understand your desire to see things through to the end and good for you, that is how it certainly should be. Finishing this process on their own, the client might come away with only a 'field goal' or may come up empty. Unfortunately, many clients do rely totally on their search consultant and come out the same.


Very interesting post. First off, thanks for the new term, Purple Squirrel. The link was helpful. And, it was a pleasure to see some reality language around the concept of an ideal candidate.

Second, has this hiring manager ever been placed by a search firm? My guess is that they have the same lack of understanding that an outsider has to parenting and teaching. Unless you've done either, you aren't qualified to have and hold a strong opinion on the topic.