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INTERVIEW With "Dynamic Manager"
(an LRP/ Dartnell Newsletter focusing on the "big management picture")
Full Interview by Kate Jablonski with ART's Managing Director

Topic: How Can HR Directors Best Utilize Headhunters?

Question: What information can managers give to recruiters that will make the process go smoothly, so that the best possible match can be found? I mean, beyond the everyday job description and description of company culture, what can managers tell you about themselves, their company, and the job that will give you a more in-depth idea as to what will work and what won't?

ART: "First thing after covering the basics, we try to lay out a juxtaposition between 'what you absolutely, positively need the person to have done' versus 'what experiences you would be happy to consider.' Very often company job descriptions are arrived at by committee comments hastily patched together or, worse, simply based on the resume of the previous officeholder. A job description provided to a recruiter might actually then be either theoretical or even an inadequate, outdated picture of a company's true needs. The real job description is in everyone's heads, waiting to be discovered.

"Because hiring authorities often are hurried and need to focus their attentions on their normal duties, not on recruitment, they sometimes concentrate on just finding a replacement clone of the last person. But we try to encourage them to rethink not where they were or are at this moment, but where they are going. We want to encourage some thought by the client about their long term goals and how the new person might help them reach those goals. By causing them to think about this, we are gaining knowledge into really how exciting this job might be for one of our candidates. For example, if a company asks us to find a CFO, they might be describing a person whose duties are largely those of a chief beancounter, but we might ask if the firm plans to go the IPO route or to engage in mergers and acquisitions, and if they say yes, then we know that just a good finance manager would not be enough for them, that they needed a 'dealmaker.' Just a few extra questions can reveal an entirely different type of person needed for a particular job.

"When we are working on senior and middle management searches, we of course like to understand the employment experiences (companies worked for, titles held, etc.) not only of the hiring manager, but also of those managers who would be parallel to and one rank below the person we are asked to recruit for. This is a sort of "managerial topography" of a department or a company. Some employers at first find it a bit intrusive to delve into the experiences, strengths, weaknesses and duties of many of the people around our target officeholder, but we try to show them that this is a better way to ensure that everyone will get along and complement each other's strengths. Otherwise, they might inadvertently hire a second 'Director of Sales and Marketing' type person or might hire a person who could do the job well for a while, but not have much room for professional growth and want to leave.

"We rather spend a half an hour discussing tough questions about a company and its staff than to for them to hire someone who could end up unhappy.

"Perhaps one thing that people enmeshed in a hiring decision forget is what it was like for them to have gone out on interviews. We try to get people to loosen up, so that interviews become more like mutual discoveries than interrogations. Sometimes the best thing we could do is to remind hiring managers that they have to explain themselves to candidates. It's easy to look at a resume and say, 'This person could do this job. Let's make an offer.' But what we want employers to do is to ask themselves, ' Would I want this job if I were this person?' It is really hard when people are trying to meet deadlines and are short on manpower to pass up on a candidate who could meet the needs of the moment, but we rather that they allow themselves a moment to analyze what they really could bring to that candidate over years of employment and what that candidate could really bring them over the same amount of time. We try to encourage both parties to probe each other to determine the 'real company' and the 'real candidate' and then, afterwards, we debrief both parties to see if their images of each other are real."


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