I Call Shotgun!

05/24/2017 10.31 EST

It’s about one aging GenXr trying to find his place in the world as his recall and his knees begin to fail him.

I had a twenty-something professional colleague give me an eye roll the other day that led me to a question of insidious intent, “Is it time to start thinking about hanging it up?”   It’s only been within the last few years that professionals who are my kids’ age started joining the workforce en masse. They are fearless, fun, and frustrating. Fearless in that they haven’t had a chance to experience any true failure yet, so they’re willing to try anything. Fun in that everything is new to them, and they have an enthusiasm that is refreshing and infectious. Frustrating in that while they’re smart, they’re not yet wise, and sometimes don’t understand the difference.   It’s been a challenge for me to adjust, as I am sure it has been for every 51-year-old that has come before me in the past 100 years. How do I treat these people? How do I swallow my own biases and pride enough to learn from them? How do I teach them without appearing condescending? How will I know when I should slide over to the passenger’s side and let one of them drive? How do I accept that they have a different approach to work? These are not rhetorical questions, people! There’s a comments section for a reason!   This is not a piece about Millennials as a group. Rather, it’s about one aging GenXr trying to find his place in the world as his recall and his knees...

Lessons Learned from 20 Years in Executive Search

08/25/2016 01.53 EST

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You can’t be in the executive recruiting business as long as I have and not glean a few pieces of information that others might find at least somewhat helpful. So, besides the fact that many of the dinosaurs in my business didn’t even start to use email until well into the 2000s, here are a few observations on 20 years in executive search.   Your client doesn’t want you to tell them what they want to hear; they want you to tell them what they need to hear. There are way too many “yes-men” and “yes-women” in our business.  This is because some are scared of losing business, some don’t know enough to advise their clients when they are moving down the wrong path, and some simply don’t care. When a white guy hires a white guy to fill a job, he will usually fill it with another white guy. Speaking as a white guy, I believe that our industry will not improve our ability to bring our clients diverse candidates until we become more diverse ourselves. Candidates rarely think an interview goes badly. I don’t know if it’s the candidates’ lack of self-awareness or interviewers being polite, but the large majority of candidates believe their interviews went great, regardless of how they really went, and are shocked when they find they’re not moving forward in a search. Most companies are horrible at hiring great talent. I wrote this blog almost four years ago and very little...

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

02/04/2016 01.02 EST

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The digital age has truly become a playground for the recruiting industry in terms of our ability to find information. Pre-internet, there was an entire research industry dedicated to providing recruiting agencies with background information on potential candidates, including names, ages and a sliver of insight into what those people did for a living. It was a lengthy and expensive process. Today, as a skilled research amateur, I can personally find equivalent information in a concerted hour or two in front of my computer, and often for free.   We are all out there: our professional information can be found on LinkedIn, our personal lives on Facebook, our opinions crystallized on Twitter, our wants and desires on Pinterest, and our biases anonymized (sometimes badly) on reddit and 4chan. Whitepages will tell ages and marriage details, while Instagram makes birthdays and anniversaries clear. And, if you think Snapchat isn’t data mining your information, I’d say you’re naïve. It’s all out there for anyone with the time and inclination to look. This is a recruiter’s playground.   I’ve outlined in a previous blog how digital access to all of this information has made recruiters lazy. That’s because a large preponderance of professionals in our industry don’t go much beyond exploiting this access to contact information. They become direct email purveyors, spamming inboxes with undifferentiated messaging to the same effect and results of a credit card campaign. However, there’s a small subset of search professionals who really know how to...

Rating Philadelphia as a Place to Live and Work: Senior Executive Insights

12/16/2015 02.42 EST

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Click here to view our report: Rating Philadelphia Survey Results – Salveson Stetson Group  

One Space or Two?

10/01/2015 11.55 EST

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I recently read an article whose subject was how to tell if someone online is over 50. Two of the telltale signs listed include having an AOL email address and putting two spaces at the end of a sentence. Some others include using “thou” in place of “you” or inviting your colleagues for lunch at the automat, although those seem to be coming back! (Eatsa)   The implication of the article is that it’s in your best interest to eliminate these old-timey habits in order to mask your age, particularly when searching for a job. Now, it has been ingrained in all of our heads that age bias exists in the employment market. Many of us believe that, given the explicit choice, a company will hire a younger employee for any number of reasons: cheaper, easier to train, less likely to leave for a better opportunity, etc. While I’m not going to argue that age bias doesn’t exist, I do think its prevalence is overstated in today’s hiring environment.   My rationale relates to the undeniable shift in the way companies and individuals view employment over the past 20 years or so. It has become more and more about the work rather than the social contract that employment has historically entailed. What matters more is that the relationship between the company and the employee is mutually beneficial and works to achieve a common goal. When that mutual benefit dissipates, so does the relationship (as it should). These...

I really can’t wait to see social recruiting at its best. Until then…?

07/01/2015 03.11 EST

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I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the current crop of social recruiting experts out there are simply full of it.  In a vacuum, this statement is going to delight one of my partners, who routinely rejects any application of ”science” to the “art” of retained search (yes, we know you had to walk ten miles barefoot to school every day, Grampa John).  However, I believe that social recruiting, and the creative use of current and future applied technologies, will have a huge impact on talent acquisition and the way we engage with the individuals we want to join our companies.  But here’s the thing:  I just don’t think the people leading the charge at the moment are very good at it.   I’ve reviewed the published lists of social recruiting gurus and the bios of speakers at talent acquisition and human resources conferences.  From these sources, it would appear that the two most significant qualifications required to be anointed a guru are: “I tweet a lot!” and “I have a ridiculously large number of LinkedIn connections!”  This, my friends, is a very low bar.  However, the demand for social media expertise is high, and if you tweet more than your clients then, to them anyway, you are an expert.   I equate the current state of the burgeoning social recruiting consulting industry to the state of retained search in a booming economy.  Just about anyone can throw out a shingle and make a quick buck...

I Feel the Need for Speed (and Accuracy)

03/26/2015 12.05 EST

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  When we pitch a search to a potential new client, one of the first questions we’re asked is how long we think the process may take.  Companies want to know how long it will take their search partner to identify and present a slate of candidates.  For the record, on average it takes SSG somewhere between four and six weeks to bring a highly qualified group of executives to any individual engagement.  Sometimes, we see either explicit or tacit anxiety from the company regarding the length of time it takes to generate candidates.  If I feel this anxiety roiling in the background, I often take out this chart:   These data are drawn from thousands of searches conducted by SSG over the past 19 years.  And, I am pretty sure that most other retained executive search firms could pull charts together that look similar – if not identical – to the one above.  So, as a hiring manager, human resources or talent acquisition professional, if you are asking your search firm how they can shave a few days off the time it takes to deliver a slate of candidates, you are asking the wrong question.  Alternatively, what you should be asking is: “Why does it take us so damn long to hire an executive?”   While there are a thousand little variations, thematically there are only a few large factors that influence the pace of the hiring process:   We really don’t have a hiring process....

What I Learned in Boston

12/08/2014 09.25 EST

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Random thoughts written on the plane ride back to Philadelphia after attending the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (October 5-8)   Over the past three days, I had the opportunity to participate in the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (GPLEX) in Boston.  The GPLEX serves as an annual experience that allows Philadelphia leaders in business, government and non-profit to learn about economic development initiatives underway in other cities with the hope that we can bring back useful ideas to apply to the challenges facing the Greater Philadelphia Region.  This trip was an eye-opening experience for me, and I wanted to share some of the highlights.   First and foremost, I found that there are a lot of incredibly talented people in Philadelphia who are deeply committed to improving the prospects for our Region and its residents.  Our delegation was comprised of approximately 120 outstanding leaders who I believe have the capacity to successfully address the challenges facing Philadelphia – such as educating our children, promoting the growth of our businesses, addressing income equality and modernizing our decaying infrastructure.  I would put these folks up against the brain trusts of any other major metropolitan area in the country.   Second, while there are a number of striking similarities between Philadelphia and Boston, we are very different communities.  Our region is much larger and more diverse than Boston.  As a result, our problems are more complex and our stakeholders are more numerous.  That being said, our friends in Boston seem to...

To Share or Not To Share

09/02/2014 11.28 EST

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Nothing annoys me more on LinkedIn than to find that one of my 1st connections has blocked the ability to view their connections (beyond the ones we have in common).  I don’t know why people do this; in my mind, it directly contradicts the social networking purpose of the site.  It also tells me that people are much less discriminating of whom they connect with on LinkedIn than they are of whom they connect with on Facebook.  Most Facebook users don’t limit the ability of their friends to view their other friends.  So, why do people do it on LinkedIn?   First, I really don’t think people give much thought to responding to a LinkedIn request.  I know I don’t, beyond checking to see how that person is connected to people already in my network.  If they are a 2nd connection, particularly one where we share several folks in common, I automatically add them.  If they are a 3rd connection, I give it a little more thought, but more often than not, I add them as well (unless it’s obvious that they are cold selling something).  Let’s just say I’m not conducting thorough due diligence.   LIONS I occasionally debate whether I should be more critical when accepting connection requests.  After all, LinkedIn does advise you to only add people to your network whom you trust and would be comfortable referring to other connections.  And, as I noted in my first-ever blog, referral functionality decreases exponentially when...

Why Would You Want to Work for a PE-Backed Firm?

10/24/2013 11.35 EST

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This article originally ran on CFO.com.  To view it, click here.   For CFOs who may be of a mind to hook up with a private equity-backed company, open your eyes wide and tread very carefully.   When speaking with senior financial executives about their career aspirations, the conversation often turns to a desire to work for a private equity-backed company. I am talking about a large majority of respondents here – at least 70 percent. When I ask why, the answer invariably focuses on the opportunity to participate in a transaction and the potential financial rewards to be reaped by doing so.   That is a pretty naïve answer. For every success story out there in private equity-backed firms, there are many more failures. Working in private equity is difficult, particularly for a CFO. Any financial officer contemplating making this type of move for the first time in his or her career must to go into it with eyes wide open. At a bare minimum, consider the following:   1. Not all private equity sponsors are created equal. The industry is not monolithic. In addition to industry specialization, private equity differentiates by what type of asset each firm considers. Is the firm buying the asset to clean up the balance sheet and quickly turn it over? Is the investment for long-term growth? Does the private equity firm have a habit of breaking up the companies in which it invests? CFOs contemplating such a move should investigate how the private equity...