I was meeting yesterday with Jeff Cheng, the founder of GURU. He’s the guy who keeps our information technology running at peak efficiency – freeing us to do our jobs. (He’s good, you can read my testimonial here.)
Anyway, Jeff was saying that several years ago he had the technology to deliver great IT support remotely, with less client face time, but his clients weren’t going for it. They kept paying a premium for face time. Now, of course, his clients are rapidly adopting the less expensive (and better) managed services solution as a way to save some money. And we all know, they will never go back. They just had to be in a money-saving mood to start paying attention. (This is why recessions spur innovation).
Jeff was asking me why more search firms haven’t made similar innovations to cut costs and improve service. He said there is a huge market of CEO’s he knows who need staffing help from time to time, but are unwilling to pay 20-30% of annual salary to get it. (I like the sound of that).
It seems like every time I talk with a new client they are surprised by our speed, predictability, and low price compared to traditional search firms. They ask how we do it, they try it, love it, and then ask me why other search firms haven’t adopted our commonsense approaches to reducing costs and improving speed.
I think the answer is that most search firms are still built to solve yesterday’s problem, using yesterday’s technology.
Yesterday’s problem, yesterday’s technology:
Search firms are, for the most part, still built to solve the candidate outreach problem using the phone. Cold calling is where the costs are, and it is what most people associate with using a search firm - because it’s what they pitch. Think about it, have you ever heard the phrase “We have access to candidates you could never find on your own” or “We reach passive candidates, who don’t post their resume or answer ads” or “I have a golden rolodex of people I know in the industry – I know who the good ones are and who the bad ones are.” (I bet you receive a few voicemails like these every day.)
Hey, ten, twenty years ago, it used to be really hard to get the attention of the people you wanted to connect with. Cold calling was about all you had. But now, in the midrange search world where we operate, you just need to have a great message and the right online outreach strategy – cold calling is pointless. So, when I say search firms are built to solve yesterday’s problem, using yesterday’s technology, I’m talking about all the new ways we communicate in today’s connected world.
OK, so if not cold calling, what AM I paying a search firm to do?
You can have a Harvard MBA and not know how to define your performance expectations, not know how to interview people, or how to run your hiring process. Because most MBA’s don’t take any courses in that.
Which is a problem if you need to hire someone.
So here are a few of the consulting services that good search firms offer that do bring real value to the hiring manager, including:
- Helping managers define their expectations for performance, within the salary constraints.
- Helping define what skills will drive that performance.
- Defining the culture the new employee will need to work within (structured or unstructured, collaborative or individualistic, etc).
- Distilling that information into a compelling message that has the proper context to attract the interest of the right people. Then delivering that message.
- Rapidly assessing the candidate pool, to only put forward the most highly qualified candidates.
- Providing a structured interviewing and hiring process to ensure that managers get the timely information they need to make a fully informed decision.
- Helping the manager take action in a reasonable timeframe.
- Ensuring that someone experienced guides the process through to a successful conclusion, to avoid pitfalls.
- Helping to negotiate compensation to avoid problems.
- Ensuring that references are checked, degrees verified, and other process problems don’t derail the hire.
Yeah, so that’s a pretty long list of challenging stuff, but the cold-call outreach? That’s really not the problem anymore, as long as you have a compelling message. So why pay for it? That’s like paying my friend Jeff to drive to your office to fix an IT problem, when he could have found it, and prevented it from happening in the first place, if you had only let him.