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The Candidate Experience

05/25/2011 08.58 EDT

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I am often asked to speak at events where my audience is comprised mainly of executives in transition. Sometimes these are employed professionals seeking better opportunities, but the majority of these individuals are, for one reason or another, unemployed. Invariably, at some point in the conversation, I feel the need to apologize for the way they are often treated by people in my profession. From the candidate perspective, working with retained executive search firms can be a frustrating process. I hear stories of candidates never getting feedback on interviews, communication that is intermittent at best, and a general sense that the individual is a commodity – and these stories are from the candidates who are actively working with a search firm on a real opportunity. For those who are trying to build a relationship within executive search, the stories are even bleaker. I haven’t done any grand research on the topic, but the general consensus I have gathered is that the executive search profession on the whole just doesn’t treat people very well; and in my mind, beyond the fact that its bad behavior, it’s also just plain bad for business. We are extensions of our clients. How I treat a potential candidate will have a direct impact on that person’s perception of the company I represent. And, whether that executive ends up being a bona fide candidate for the position I am seeking to fill, they will remain a potential customer or business partner for my...

How Strong Are Your Weak Ties?

05/17/2011 11.02 EDT

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I asked my 16-year-old daughter how many friends she had on Facebook the other day. She has over 1,000. Her wall is littered with updates from people with whom she has no real connection and in whom she has no real interest. So what then is the point? When I asked her how many people are really her friends or, at least acquaintances, that number quickly dropped down to a more manageable level, well below what is known as the Dunbar Number. I haven’t done the primary research (very few of us do anymore) but Malcolm Gladwell popularized the Dunbar Number in his book The Tipping Point. Simply stated, the Dunbar Number defines the upper limit of the number of individuals we can have in a coherent social network — a network where we know how each member fits with us, as well as with each other. We know who is allied with whom, who hates who, etc. There is some debate as to what exactly that upper limit is but 150 seems to be the consensus. Now, let’s apply that to the current professional social network of choice, LinkedIn. As you send an invitation out on LinkedIn, you’ll see a message on the bottom of the invitation screen that says “Important: Only invite people you know well and who know you.” You know what? That is important. It’s important because the real power of a social network is in the weak ties it creates between two...

Replacing Executives When They Leave…

05/17/2011 10.54 EDT

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Where are the reinforcements? I was looking at some data this week about searches performed in our firm over the past five years.  What I saw supported something we have been seeing in the retained executive search business since the start of the Great Recession. Five years ago, about 80% of our search assignments were initiated to replace executives who had left their jobs for some reason.  It might be retirement, relocation, promotion.  Some were lured away for better jobs in different companies.  But whatever the reason, the job was open and the company needed to fill it.  Some years, 90% of our assignments were to fill vacated jobs. Last year, 60% of our work was done to fill a vacant role, while 40% was for newly created positions.  So far this year the trend is continuing, with assignments for new roles outpacing replacement roles. So what does it mean? During the recession, many companies froze their hiring, people did not retire and “stars” were not answering recruiter’s calls.  When a job did open up, the company often divvied up the position’s responsibilities between other executives or let the number two person take over or just made due.  Whatever the strategy, the result was the same – fewer people were doing more work.  Still, with all the depressing economic news, no one was about to complain.  Employers didn’t have to tell people “You’re lucky to have a job”.  Employees were saying that to themselves. Now we are...

Why I Serve

05/17/2011 09.01 EDT

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On Sunday evenings when I look at my calendar for the week ahead, I’ll usually find a minimum of four to five appointments devoted to my non-profit responsibilities: board or committee meetings, talks with staff, fundraising opportunities, etc. Combined with the responsibilities of serving my clients as an executive search professional and running a small business, it can make for a long week – but one that is fulfilling both personally and professionally. I have found that serving as a board member over the years has broadened my perspective as a professional and a leader. By training and experience, I am an executive search and human resources professional. As the Chair of the Board of the Please Touch Museum, I also have to be part CFO, Vice President of Marketing, Head of Development and Strategic Planner. When we moved the Museum to its current and, might I say, beautiful home in Fairmount Park, I also found myself playing the role of real estate developer and architect. My experience as a volunteer leader has exposed me to a broad spectrum of business issues, which I have, in turn, been able to apply to the benefit of my clients and colleagues. Beyond honing my hard skills, I believe my volunteer experience has made me a much stronger leader. My fellow board members at Please Touch and previously at the Forum of Executive Women and the National Adoption Center, have often been more senior to me or hold broader leadership...