…… short lessons from both sides of the desk

Dealing with people is obviously one of the most fascinating business “ventures” anyone can experience. Over the last two weeks, we had two extremes that are worth sharing because of the lessons they might give us all.

The first had to do with an accounting candidate who came to see us. He was working on an open ended contract engagement with an oil and gas firm and even though he had been there for a while, he knew that it could end at any time. And after all, he knew the oil and gas business is really rough right now. He was a very qualified candidate and had really good skills. But he was incredibly afraid of interviewing. When we would go to getting an interview for him, he would think of all kinds of reasons about why he shouldn’t go or couldn’t go or did not like what he heard, etc. It was all an indication that he was really just plain more afraid of interviewing than anything else. He was scared!

Most recruiters, after two or three attempts, usually drop a candidate like this and move on to one that’s more cooperative about going on interviews. Most of us in our organization have been doing this a really long time. Our average recruiter’s been in this business for 16 years and most of us had previous corporate business experience before we got here. It’s a nice way of saying we’re older, have patience and understand how emotionally difficult it is for many people to change jobs.

We received an opportunity for a permanent controller position. The company was not in the oil and gas business but was willing to consider any kind of good experience. Among a few other people, we called our candidate and, as in the past, he started giving us reasons as to why it wouldn’t work, that he didn’t fit and even though he was scared that he was going to lose his job at any day, he really shouldn’t go on the interview. Our recruiter convinced him that he owed it to himself, no matter how uncomfortable it would be, to at least go on the interview and speak with the employer. We literally pushed him into the interview.

We explained clearly to the hiring authority that the candidate was reluctant out of just plain fear. It took repeated attempts to get him to even go on the interview and we constantly reminded him how unstable his present job was. In spite of all of our coaching, the candidate finally interviewed in as much of a meek and humble manner as possible.

However, from the beginning of the interview, the hiring authority loved the guy. He was easily the most qualified candidate and, believe it or not, the best cultural fit. The employer, amazingly enough, was just as meek. Despite the candidate’s resistance to even looking for a job, our client substantially increased his salary, gave him a promotion in title and let him give a three week notice rather than a two week one.

The candidate was profusely thankful and acknowledged that if we hadn’t really pushed him hard to go on the interview, he would’ve never gotten the job. We are so pleased for him.

The other situation that came about in the last two weeks came about regarding a candidate we were representing. She has been selling IT project consulting services for a firm that sold to a Chinese company. The buyer was not interested in the IT consulting division of the company they bought and let our candidate go.

She was a fantastic candidate. She had been selling consulting services for more than seven years, had a book of business with a little better than $4 million per year in revenue with a 23% margin and no non-compete restrictions. In other words, she was totally free to take that business with her wherever she went.

Of course, at first, this situation was just too good to be true. But it was. She had a list of the clients that she had been calling on and selling to and even the amounts that they had paid for consulting over the last three years, as well as proof that she had no non-compete agreement.

Okay, so it’s a recruiter’s dream. I will admit that this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. This is still a tight market but you would think that anybody in their right mind would at least interview my candidate. I called a number of the clients that I’ve worked with before, but also spent some time cold calling competitors of this candidate.

One of the firms that I called, I had never called before. I spoke to a regional director who was very nice, but he explained to me that her company really avoided paying recruiter fees and that he wasn’t authorized to do so. I’ve heard that a few times in my career (probably thousands). I calmly asked him if it wouldn’t be a good idea to ask his management if it would be a good idea to at least speak to a candidate who could bring (most) of $4 million revenue stream with a 23% margin for a potential investment of a $25,000 fee? There was a long pause and he ended the conversation by saying that he might do that. I told him I would call him back in a few days, but that I was getting this candidate quite a number of interviews.

Two days later, just to see what would happen, I called the guy back. He was, again, very nice, but rather sheepishly said that he had talked to the owners and they didn’t think they would be interested at this time. (Ironically, I have had candidates come to me from this company and the company is having a very difficult time in their Dallas office. According to this candidate, they need all the help they can get here in Dallas. Any revenue increase here in Dallas would be a blessing for this firm. And yet, they’re not interested in almost immediate revenue. Go figure!)

I got the candidate four interviews and two offers within 10 days… (I wish they always worked out that way). The point is that it never ceases to amaze me how seemingly astute business people will adopt a principle regardless of the circumstances that could potentially make them a lot of money. I’m not really sure that the manager I spoke with ran the idea up the flagpole. It’s hard to imagine how any company in their right mind would not at least talk to a candidate who might have this kind of potential. It costs nothing to talk. The investment of $25,000 to get $3 or $4 million worth of revenue – who wouldn’t do that?

Both of these situations probably don’t have an impact on the greater world. They prove that people are absolutely fascinating. It’s one of the motivations of why folks like me keep doing this.

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