Putting the “Service” in Customer Service:
4 tips to create an exemplary customer experience

08/02/2017 02.36 EST

Recruiters who don’t strive to provide outstanding customer service are missing an opportunity to create lasting relationships with candidates and clients.

Imagine this: you’re sitting at your favorite restaurant waiting excitedly for your meal, when suddenly, your server tosses your food carelessly onto the table, refusing to make eye contact with you. Before long, you’re marooned with an empty coffee cup, thinking about how Tom Hanks felt more connected to humanity in Castaway than you do in this very moment.   We’ve all been there at some point. Unfortunately, these experiences with non-exemplary customer service often lead people to create inaccurate, negative generalizations of an entire industry. The recruiting industry is no exception to this. Despite the many brilliant professionals who are always “on the ball,” a few bad apples can spoil the barrel for many job candidates and employers seeking help from search firms.   Those professionals who don’t strive to provide outstanding customer service are missing an opportunity to create lasting relationships that will further the interests of both their companies and clients. Over the years, I have developed a few key customer service principles that I use during every interaction I have throughput the day. Here are a few:   Become a subject matter expert. Sharing your specific knowledge in a meaningful way can help create positive experiences for your customers. Whether you are talking with a prospective client or attempting to solve a problem within your own organization, researching topics like current trends or emerging issues in your industry will develop a more memorable dialogue. Go the extra mile for your clients. Having an...

It Takes Two: Tips for Clients and Search Firms to Build an Effective Relationship

06/21/2017 08.45 EST

Lack of communication and feedback from the client can be the most frustrating aspect of the search process.

When clients retain us to conduct an executive search assignment, they usually have a definitive sense of who they want to hire. Typically, the position has been open for some time, it’s a critical role for the organization, and the client is feeling frustration and a sense of urgency. Time is of the essence, but they also want to ensure they hire a highly qualified candidate and avoid a missed opportunity.   We’ve worked with many clients over the last 20 years and seen some of the same patterns in searches across varying industries. Based upon our experience, I’ve highlighted a few suggestions that may help organizations maximize their experiences with search firms:   Role Clarity: Take the time up front to gather as much information on the position’s responsibilities, key objectives and priorities, and create an overview of the team reporting to the role. This insight helps the search consultant be more efficient when launching the search. Key Stakeholder Access: The search consultants should have a series of conversations with whoever manages the specific role, members of the team, and key internal clients. This information allows the search firm to learn more about the position and what type of person will be a good fit, as well as get a sense of the overall office culture. Additionally, it helps the client and consultant make sure they’re both on the same page. Collateral Materials: Provide the search firm with background documents, such as an organization chart, company...

Unintended Consequences

02/15/2017 10.46 EST

...

The life sciences sector has continuously been one of our most robust practice areas at Salveson Stetson Group. We regularly perform searches for pharmaceutical and bio tech companies of all sizes to help them find their newest executives. Although we normally work with these organizations to recruit talent across multiple functions, there’s one specific group of people on my mind today: scientific and research professionals.   I have always described the research and development professionals we recruit as “citizens of the world.” They are highly degreed, often holding both Ph.D. and M.D. degrees, and usually have been employed and educated in several countries. While we may find these people in different places across the globe, they are all connected through the common goal of identifying new therapies for various diseases. Their conferences may look like United Nations meetings, but their focus is not on where they were born or educated; it is on treating one of hundreds of diseases that still baffle and torment the human race.   Through our work in the life sciences sector, we’ve collaborated closely with these exceptional people for many years and have formed great relationships. However, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a change in their spirits that we’ve never experienced before. They have become cautious – even fearful – about joining an American company. When discussing relocation, they show even more hesitation. The reason for their concern is obvious; the announcement of our new President’s travel ban from a...

Lessons Learned from 20 Years in Executive Search

08/25/2016 01.53 EST

...

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...

Why We Still Exist

06/27/2016 03.48 EST

...

When Sally Stetson and I started our firm 20 years ago we were full of excitement, ambition and more than a little trepidation about the path ahead.  The saying, “We didn’t know what we didn’t know” certainly applied to us, but we were convinced that a highly consultative, responsive approach to executive search – which included a major focus on assessing the cultural fit of candidates – would be a success.  I think it is fair to say that the past 20 years have shown that our belief was correct, and we believe it is even more true today.   When you deliver professional services for a living, there are some things that are always going to be true:   The quality of the people you employ will determine the quality of the work you do for clients – which will directly define your reputation in the marketplace. There is a constant, unrelenting drift toward the commoditization of professional services. As a result, one must always be adding value to service offerings to differentiate from the rest of the pack.   The other truism in retained executive search is that someone is always predicting that you are about to go out of business.   In the late 1990s, as the Internet was on the rise, there was much discussion about whether executive search firms would become obsolete.  We didn’t.  In the ensuing years, most of our clients created sophisticated internal recruitment functions so they could recruit talent...

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

02/04/2016 01.02 EST

...

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...

Predictions for 2016

01/13/2016 09.23 EST

...

Most people spend the beginning of the year trying to keep the New Year’s resolutions they’ve embraced alive until at least the end of the month. Because most of us fail at this endeavor – including me – I’ve decided to take a pass on New Year’s resolutions for 2016 and share my predictions for what will happen in the coming year instead. And, to demonstrate the degree of my misguided confidence, I promise to report back next January on my batting average.   Here we go.   The US stock market will go up, down and sideways. However, it will have almost no correlation to the health of our economy and will leave us with the impression that the people and institutions that make the markets move have all of the judgement, patience and emotional maturity of a spoiled 13-year-old. Approximately 50 percent of the country will awake on November 2nd completely panicked and appalled by the voter’s choice for our 45th President. The Republic will survive. I will meet with over 100 executives in transition as a favor to a client, friend or other member of my network. Every one of the 100 executives will tell me they are being completely ignored by the people they know in large global search firms and will express genuine gratitude that I took the time to meet with them. When those 100 executives eventually find employment and need a retained search firm to help build their team, 97...

Hong Kong Meeting

10/22/2015 02.46 EST

...

I’ve just returned home from a global IIC Partners meeting which was held in Hong Kong this year.  We had three days of meetings with our partner firms from around the world, and spent a lot of time talking about talent, leadership, executive search and executive assessment.  There were 35 firms participating in the conference from around the world:  18 from Europe, the Middle East and Africa; 6 from Asia Pacific and 11 from the Americas.   I’m always struck by both the similarities and differences in our work across the globe, and I learn a great deal from our discussions of best practices, industry trends and new developments in our field.   Here are some observations and takeaways gleaned from the three-day meeting:   The Rise of Digital. One of the presentations focused on the explosion of digital tools that impact the executive search industry. Although our firm uses every one of the ten tools discussed, over 40% of the firms report that they don’t use social media resources at all.  That was a shocker to me. The world of retained executive search is diversifying. Many firms spoke about their executive assessment practices and the development of market mapping tools.  This is particularly true of firms in Europe, where retained executive search seems to be a bit less prevalent. While every firm is obsessed with how to provide the highest quality services in the shortest amount of time, there is a growing sentiment that excellent work...

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

07/01/2015 03.11 EST

...

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...

Emerging Issues in Executive Search

04/29/2015 03.16 EST

...

Last week I attended the annual Global Conference of the AESC – The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants – in New York City.  This is the sole organization that represents the $11 billion global executive search industry.  The mission of the AESC is to serve as the voice of excellence for executive search and leadership consultants worldwide.  This year’s conference was attended by about 200 search professionals from 23 countries, and it was organized around three themes – innovation, inclusion and intuition.   I have attended this conference for many years and served on the Americas Council of the AESC, so I have a rather good sense of where our industry has been and where it is going.  Here are some observations about things that have changed – and some that have stayed the same – over those many years.   When I first began to attend this conference in the late 1990s, there were only a handful of participants from outside of the US, and a handful of women attendees as well. It was truly the land of old, white men.  This year, about 40 percent of the participants were women.  The average age was far younger, and I spent time with people from Brazil, Ireland, Dubai, South Africa, Venezuela, Canada and Belgium. In my 20 years in the executive search industry, the word “innovation” has rarely passed my lips when discussing our profession. Last week’s meeting didn’t change that.  The basic foundation of...