A friend of mine is a trustee in bankruptcy. As his title suggests, he and his firm serve those contemplating the ‘cleansing’ process of personal bankruptcy. Potential ‘customers’ shop and compare bankruptcy service providers, select one, and then pay the chosen firm a fee to initiate and manage the ensuing process on their behalf. However, as soon as the relief-seeking customer signs on the dotted line, the trustee’s allegiance pivots to the creditors for whom they then seek to maximize debt recovery. This shift in who works for whom must be a tad unsettling for people who already have a heap of problems and stress on their hands.
The question of who works for whom also befuddles many people who interact with the recruiting industry. Consider two emails I received in the past few days from job-seekers:
“If I meet your team’s requirements for representation, may we schedule a time to speak?”
“Your firm was recommended as knowledgeable in my field. I would like to speak with you about helping me find my next role.”
We acknowledge those who send us unsolicited emails/resumes and advise them that we will be happy to get back to them should the requirements of any of our ongoing searches align with their credentials. Unfortunately, while such a response suffices for some, it is decidedly unsatisfactory for others as evidenced by the following email:
“Well, I’ve waited nearly three weeks and still no help or further feedback from you. Rest assured, I will not be contacting you again, will not use your company for my future job searches or for any hiring I need to undertake in my new position. I will also not be recommending you or your agency to any of my personal or business contacts. Shoddy job all around.”
The frustration in this last email is rooted in the confusion over who works for whom. Many job seekers struggle with the overwhelming array of potential employers, the logistical challenges of sorting and approaching them and the not-inconsequential fear of personal rejection. Seeking to alleviate this burden, many job seekers seek an agent to help represent their interests in the marketplace, a variation of how real estate agents help individuals find a home in a sea of houses. Job seekers send their resumes to various recruiting firms (who have either been referred to them or sourced from various directories) and then await a detailed discussion on their qualifications, goals for employment and the plan by which the recruitment firms will help them. The job seekers view themselves as both the ‘talent’ and the customer in this relationship, and thus expect to be attended to.
Subsequently, it is understood that the recruiting firms will proactively venture into the job market, initiate contact with potential employers, unearth appropriate job openings, champion the credentials of the job seeker and report back regularly to the candidate with options for them to explore. In this scenario, the role of the recruitment firm is that of a placement agency, one that will be paid by whichever firm hires the job seeker. Since their revenues depend on finding suitable employers for the candidates, such firms are referred to as ‘success-based’ or ‘contingent’.
On the other hand, firms such as ours have a very different business model. We are hired by companies to help them find key senior executives. Once so entrusted, we cast a net looking for those candidates who will best fit those requirements. For us, everything starts with the organization that has retained us to help them. This is why we refer to ourselves as an executive search firm…we search for executives who will thrive in our client organizations and we are paid for our ability to add value every step of the way. If perchance we receive an unsolicited resume that happens to be well-suited for one of our searches, we are ecstatic at our good fortune and immediately engage that person in detailed discussions. For the vast majority of other resumes we receive however, we can do little more than enter them into our database, note their availability, and hope for a search in the near future that would trigger more detailed dialogue. There are many executive search firms in our industry, each distinguished by the industries or functions they specialize in, the levels at which they work and the geographies in which operate.
Over their careers, most executives have relatively few occasions to interact with the recruiting industry. As a result it is understandable why so many job seekers are unaware of how recruiting firms differentiate themselves by business model, industry, vertical and horizontal specialization, sophistication and level of seniority at which they work. And while sorting this out may be more work than some infrequent job seekers care to undertake they are certain to enhance the overall experience of dealing with the recruiting industry if they at least address the simple question of who works for whom.
About the Author
Robert Hebert PhD is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.
Contact Robert by email at email@example.com or call (1) 416-365-9494 EXT 777