….”daddy, why do you keep repeating the same thing?”

I was probably about 10 years old. Looking back I was probably pretty hardheaded and, also looking back, my dad was probably a lot more patient than I thought at the time.

He said, “Well, when you get the message and start doing things right, I’ll quit repeating!” And then we went back to what we were doing. I don’t really remember what it was, but looking back, I remember him saying that a number of times.

I was reminded of it this week when we had yet another search that took almost 8 weeks to complete, began all over again because our client simply just took too long to make a decision.

What happened was real simple; it was just real painful. Two months ago our client interviewed three really spectacular senior consulting salespeople to lead a national practice. After initially interviewing the three, he decided to pursue one. They told us that it would take at least two weeks for them to let him interview with the five people they needed to speak with. We explained to the client that two weeks was a very long time in this market and they would run a real big risk of losing the candidate. In a rather superior, egotistical tone the vice president told us, “Well, that’s what we have to do. If it takes two weeks, it takes two weeks!” Well, it took 2 1/2 weeks for five people to interview this guy. (It was so very important that five people talk to this guy because it was such an important position… Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

The five people interviewed the guy and he got a thumbs-up from everybody, which we knew he would because he was absolutely stellar. They went to make him an offer and all of a sudden, out of the blue a group of people that he had spoken to two years ago had called him up, “interviewed him,” and hired him.

Our client just couldn’t believe that the guy took another job. They were downright mad. So, we started again. The first candidate was kind enough to refer another candidate to us. We immediately referred her to the client. The VP liked her and wanted to put her through “the paces.” This time we asked if there was any way that we could shorten the time that it would take to do the interviewing and cut the number of people down because “time kills deals.” He stated in a very egotistical way that that wasn’t possible, that they’ll see what they can do about shortening it. They got through the process with the candidate and just as they were ready to do something with our candidate another candidate that they found on their own magically appeared. On paper the candidate looked better and the company decided to tell our candidate that they were pursuing another candidate and that if they had a chance to hire this come lately candidate, they would. Our candidate was disappointed, but there wasn’t much that she could do about it

Of course their process took another two weeks. We had pretty much written the thing off, but then got a call from the VP to say that their  stellar candidate had decided to stay where he was and wanted to  call our last candidate and offer her the job. Our candidate, whose feelings were hurt, had meanwhile been interviewing at other places. Our sense is that she told our client that she would be interested in an offer as payback for not hiring her to begin with. The reason I say that is because it took our client two or three days to put the offer in writing and when she got it she turned it down. She even wrote them that, “I was very interested in going to work for you, but when you told me that I was in second place to another candidate after I had spent a lot of time and effort interviewing with you and pretty much felt like you had told me I would be hired, I kept interviewing and I decided to take another position. Good luck! I suggest in the future that you don’t lead people on.”

That was probably a bit of a rude thing to write, because she may run into these people again somewhere down the line, but she has a point. Eight weeks later, our client is back to square one. They took too long. They had too many people involved in the process and their egos got in the way.

Like daddy said, “I’ll keep repeating the lesson until you learn it.”



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