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Why does your talent quest take so long and fail?

A Case Study

The HR Manager of Talent Short Company has received a call from the CEO, notifying him that the Finance Director (FD) has resigned and will be leaving in three weeks. 

In a hurry, the HR Manager engages two "agencies" to do the search on a contingency basis. At the same time, the HR Manager also gives the go-ahead to two other firms who have "volunteered" to provide candidates without a contract. The CEO has not had time to talk with the HR Manager about his specific requirements and expectations of the FD role. A job specification has not been prepared. However, the HR Manager has briefed the headhunters quickly over the phone on the background of the company and the high level scope of the job.

The contracted firms and the other two "opportunistic" headhunters have initiated searches. Some of the Finance Directors in the market have received multiple calls about the same opportunity from different headhunters. They found that many of the callers did not have adequate knowledge about the company of the position they are "selling". Also, the information provided among the headhunters is inconsistent. Some of the potential candidates soon lose interest in talking with the headhunters and exploring this particular opportunity.

Two headhunters have managed to submit some relevant candidates' profiles to the HR Manager for review and selection. Not satisfied with the outcome, the HR Manager wonders whether he should consider using a retainer firm. He then reflects on his past experience which was not satisfactory either. Although the search processes were better managed, the outcome did not meet his expectation. He thought it was due to the consultant who was more of a generalist than a specialist. To expedite the process, the HR Manager selects the top profiles for discussion with the CEO who subsequently agrees to meet with the candidates in view of the urgency. 

After the interviews, the HR Manager asks the headhunters to provide more candidate choices. By this time, two search firms have "exhausted" their candidate pools and moved on to other more "closeable" jobs. As both the headhunters and the HR Managers are very busy, there is not enough time to communicate what are the specific reasons that the two candidates interviewed are not a good fit to the position. 

Two months have elapsed. The Company has finally seen one candidate that they are prepared to make an offer to. The CEO and the HR Manager have chosen to negotiate with the candidates directly for two reasons: Firstly, it is more convenient. Secondly, they fear that the headhunter may not act in the company's interest in the negotiation. The candidate is earning RMB 1M (80% base and 20% bonus). The Company wants to test the water and prepares an offer of RMB 900K (70% base and 30% bonus) plus minor stock option. After a couple of rounds of negotiation, the candidate declines the offer as he is uncomfortable with its terms and the negotiation process. The search and selection process has to be re-initiated with further investment in time, energy and efforts from all parties.

A key learning point from the above scenario is that when a company issues an offer to a candidate at the end of a selection process, the job is not done. Most candidates, at this stage, are not 100% committed to joining the company. Top talent do not take career decisions lightly as a mistake could have a negative impact on their track record. Furthermore, the client should get the headhunter closely involved throughout the whole recruitment process. Their true business partnership will ensure that the marriage of the company and the candidate will be a successful and lasting one. 

Top talent are usually not looking for a job. The hiring company should partner with a specialized and committed headhunter to do the selling job.

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