Struggling With A Search?

By Ted Dieck | Employers Intelligence - Pick - Search - Special Report | Nov 1, 2013

Let’s get you on the right path.  The fix is straight forward, and the results are dramatic, simply by reinstating important principals that always belong in any quality search.

WARNING:  Sensitive readers should go no further.  Direct language and harsh reality dead ahead.

When I get a call, asking for help, it doesn’t take long to figure out whether we’re working on a Grand Strategy or just fighting the latest emergency.

Most of the time, it’s an emergency.  Or, it’s a developing emergency, featuring a search that’s been lost in the shallows for half a year or more.

We don’t need to replay the misery of these situations.  I think everybody’s got a pretty good handle on the misery part.

What I do want to highlight is that search problems, strangely enough, are usually self-imposed. And they can become deeply entrenched.

As time passes, reliable solutions may seem out of reach to resistant managers, who have been on the defensive for way too long.

So, let’s see if we can fix that, OK?

Pre-Cardiac Arrest Search Symptoms

From a Recruiter’s point of view, it’s pretty easy to recognize when we’re headed into a troubled environment.

Pre-Cardiac Arrest signs of trouble come alongside these statements from a Hiring Authority:

  • Restricted access. (“Don’t talk to anyone but me.”)

  • Limited interaction. (“By the way, you also can’t talk to me.”)

  • Minimal and/or conflicting information. (“And don’t count on the printed information I just gave you.”)

OK, then.

Professional Help is cut off by:

  • Low fees,

  • Intense deadlines,

  • Excessive competition, and, even worse…

  • Competing directly against your own Search Firm.


Managers In Hiding

I’ll see these symptoms in a young or newish HR Manager who is terrified of looking weak.

Instead of opening up to learn about Search – not to mention participating in it – many will default to a defensive position.  They’ll reduce their exposure to people who might know what they’re talking about.  And they’ll scramble to catch up, putting in all kinds of clandestine, late-night study.

The cover story includes phrases like, “You have no idea how busy I am.”

It gets worse in the upper levels of a corporate hierarchy.  This is where people have much more to lose.  So, this is where defense becomes institutionalized as policy.

And this is where the cover story includes phrases like, “You have no idea how important I am.”

I’m not kidding.

Eventually, it all typically escalates into someone pounding their desk, yelling, “I want bodies, and I want them now!”

(Oh, yes.  People actually say that.)

Meanwhile, all the good resources – internal and external – run for cover.  Brainpower shuts down; creative energy shuts down; and somewhere, somebody with facial tics tries to crack open a smile and say, “You’re going to love working here, now tell me all about yourself.”

BOTTOM LINE: This is a collaboration. If your team is confidently working together to bring new people into your organization, then you’ve got yourself in the game. But organizations with attitudes that range from neglect to sabotage… They don’t have a prayer.

The Discovery

Reasons that I meet with clients – in person – and take the big tour…

  • Of course, it gets me informed.

  • It relaxes the lines of communication.

  • It peels back the layers of secrecy.

It doesn’t take long for me to find the, umm, blockage.

Most often, searches run aground over an internal conflict or weakness that is readily apparent to almost everyone else in the organization.

Is it any wonder, then, that I’m not always welcomed with open arms, when I invite myself to come and visit? Who wants to display their dirty laundry?

The good news is, those who do open up are generally rewarded with solid and receptive candidates.

So, What Are We Doing, Here?

In the early phases, we’re setting up a basis for success. I get unlimited opportunities to get sucked into the problem side of the equation, instead of building on the success side of the equation.

Now, understand what I just said… The very people who are complaining about results are the same people who encouraged – or at least allowed – this situation to develop.

Some would have me join the pool of “other people,” so that everyone stays in their compartments, nice and orderly.

And dead.

So, we’re going to remove some of the roadblocks. (And hopefully, we’ll keep them removed.)

And we’re pre-paving a route that will get us across the finish line.

All of that leads to…

A Change Of Focus

Odd as it is, up until this point, the focus of the struggling search is usually internal, not external.

The Employer will focus on…

  • Why it’s necessary to find a new employee.

  • What’s wrong with the search.

  • Who’s not delivering results.

  • Why none of the candidates are any good.

  • How much this is going to cost.

  • How much time this is taking.

  • What else could go wrong.

The Employer will rarely focus on…

  • The future employee.


At the risk of sounding like Bill Murray in Caddy Shack, “Be the candidate.”

Believe it or not, no U.S. engineer is going to be all atwitter, just because you have a job opening.

At a minimum, a potential candidate is going to want to know three things:

  • What’s going on? (What’s your story? You wouldn’t believe how many employers can’t tell their own story!)

  • What’s in it for me? (You wouldn’t believe how many employers… Oh, never mind.)

  • Why do I care? (This is where troubled employers really get huffy. It’s beyond their comfort levels to suggest they should make job opportunities seem special.)

So, could you take a minute to get inside the candidate’s head? See things from his perspective just long enough to know what he wants to hear?

That search you’ve been having trouble with…

Can you tell me why a candidate should think this one’s a big deal?  What about it is so fantastic that a candidate says, “Wow! You bet. I’ll trade in the job I’ve got for the job you’ve got. Absolutely.”

It doesn’t HAVE to be about more money. But, come on, there has to be something!

Spend more time thinking like the candidate you want to meet, and – you guessed it! – you’ll start attracting candidates you want to meet.

One Last Thing

Remember the part about removing roadblocks?

That includes detecting secret, unnamed, and unseen entities that creep around in the shadows.  These are creatures that jump out of nowhere – after everyone has approved a candidate – and squash a deal like it never existed.

As usual, everybody else knows this Candidate Killer is out there.

But until you ask three times and click your heels, there’s nobody gonna tell ya.

I suppose you realize, this isn’t going to make you more friends, right?  Constantly asking who else should be involved.  And probing into who else has to approve a new hire.

Yeah.  Sorry about that.

Getting It Right

So, as it turns out, my two keys for repairing a damaged search are kind of obvious. They’re two of my essential principals for any search:

  • Make your opportunity attractive to the kind of person you’re looking for.

  • And open the door enough so that person can actually get in.

It ain’t easy, but it will fix your search.

— TD