The Ideal Retained Search Relationship

11/21/2011 12.27 EDT

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While conducting the search for a Vice President of Human Resources for an international consumer goods company last year, I had the hardest time convincing the hiring manager to interview one of the candidates we surfaced for the position.  She had fewer years of experience than he was seeking, her industry exposure was related but not a one-to-one match and she had several moves early in her career – something he reacted negatively to.  He just did not want to interview her.  After going back and forth with him as the search progressed, I finally said “Brian, trust me. She’s the right person for the job.”   He begrudgingly acquiesced and, after three rounds of interviews, enthusiastically offered her the role.  He promoted her within six months of her start date.  While speaking with him recently about his reluctance to grant that first interview, he said “I would never have interviewed her based on her resume.”  At that point, I knew I had earned my fee for the assignment.   Retained search did itself a disservice during the pre-information age when it held up the mysteries of candidate development as one of the key differentiators for the industry.  The message was “we can find people that you can’t.”  The industry made it seem like there was some black box—locked away in the safe at corporate headquarters—that held the names of executives who somehow couldn’t be accessed by those not initiated into the executive search club.  As candidate...