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Pitfalls of Taking a Shortcut

June 10, 2009
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It never ceases to amaze me how some clients or prospective clients expect immediate results in the search for new executive level talent. Recently I spoke with a CEO that told me in a phone conversation “I need this senior level search completed in three weeks”.


The conversation did not last long. We always set expectations that are in line with reality and it’s not always what hiring managers want to hear. Our process usually (90% of the time) takes 8-12 weeks from the time we sign the engagement letter to the day the new employee commences work. If we set an unrealistic expectation in an effort to make a quick fee – we have to live with the results of trying to expedite the search process. The results can be…well not very good. That’s not what we get paid to do and I want no part of sending half-baked candidates into the line of fire. It’s not fair to the candidate, the client or the firm and in general - it’s just not a good plan.

Our process includes going through multiple “touch points” with each candidate to validate their skill-set, experience and real motivation for their interest in making a move. That takes time. This includes multiple conversations by phone, in depth interviews written feedback from the candidate, video interviews, psychometric testing, reference and background work and a whole lot more! Skip any of the steps in the process and you have a real train wreck in the making. I can almost predict the outcome if we attempt to meet an unrealistic timeline just to deliver A candidate that has not been fully vetted. I’ve seen the movie a time or two. Not interested. Nope. As a candidate, you should be very suspicious of any search consultant that attempts to convince you that their search assignment is a 2-3 week engagement and unless you “jump in” you will be missing something big. What? What you may experience in dealing with an abbreviated search process is wasting a lot of your valuable time. Who needs that?

As a client what you will not be getting is a slate of highly qualified and motivated candidates that thoroughly understand the position profile, the culture of the organization and a real sense as to why they are qualified to do the job. What you may get instead are candidates that are ready to jump because of reasons unknown or worse- non-performing B-players. Without the proper vetting cycles we may not be able to uncover all of the details and validate their background, previous performance history and a whole of host of other key elements we learn about in the search process. Again, who needs that?

So I think you get the picture here. I made up my mind a long time ago that I do not want to conduct a search assignment unless we have the chance to do it right! As hard as it is (especially in this economy) I actually walk away from many search assignment if the client has unrealistic expectations. It’s a lose-lose-lose proposition. The candidate – the client and our firm all lose. It makes no sense to me to deliver a service unless I can do it the right way and deliver real value.

I’m just guessing as a candidate – that’s what you want as well. Right?



Thanks Tim. My experience has been that managing expectations in any area pretty much always makes the difference between a qualtiy product (or candidate, in this case) and one that is sub-par.

Thanks for the kudos Anthony. And you are correct. If any firm providing any service does so with a high degree of quality they will always stand the test of time. You are, in effect building your own brand and very quickly others in the industry will know if you deliver superior service ...or not. The HCIT business is very small and bad news travels very fast!

Thanks Tim. Interesting post. It will give me something to think about next time I here a retained search firm exec say "my client wants to move fast." Two to three months sounds about right (assuming the first choice candidate takes the position.)

Tim. What I appreciate most about your post is not the fact that you think a job search takes 8 weeks as opposed to 3 weeks, but your commitment to quality. If it's going to have your name on it, it's going to be done right. That is why you are such a valued business partner and why firms like yours and, I hope, publications like ours, will stand the test of time.


If you ever tire of Healthcare IT Executive Search, I'm thinking you'd be a natural at pre-marital counseling.

"Video interviews, psychometric testing, reference and background work and a whole lot more! Skip any of the steps in the process and you have a real train wreck in the making." Bet I'm not the only one who could have benefited from your expertise...


Being is a hurry to complete a senior level search is all downside. Pre-marital counseling? Maybe not! Thanks to all for your comments.