“At that time I realized that after 20 years as a recruiter, this was the worst deal of my career; one in which everyone involved came out on the losing end, including the individual who was given the job by default”
At some point in every professional recruiter’s career, there is a certain deal that will be the defining moment in his/her career. A few will survive the experience and become great recruiters, while most will leave the profession, as a result.
Here is the story of my defining moment; a deal that took two years to close.
In November of 2009, a candidate, whom I have known for 15 years and have placed with her last two employers, sought my expertise in finding a suitable role in another country. I engaged in this search because her motivation to return to her homeland was a sincere one and there was a need for her skill-set in that part of the world. However I had no international recruitment experience and I was unfamiliar with the Asian business culture-but I thought the exposure could possibly lead to a new market for our services.
I went above and beyond my usual candidate marketing process on this particular assignment. I invested a significant amount of time in creating an on-line profile that would be accessible on the web. She has lived in the US for 20 years, so to market her international attributes, I created a profile that consisted of her resumes, photograph, personality test results, yearly sales performance graph, and a listing of countries in which she had reside. I also created a Twitter account, which was linked to her profile. The marketing strategy was to research/identify and follow executives/recruiters/employers; anyone on Twitter with a China interest or connection. I asked questions, participated in discussions on Asian oriented LinkedIn groups, created Google Alerts and RSS feeds for activities in that part of the world and learned as much as I could about China, as a market. In addition, I researched Asian niche job boards, created job alerts to email a link of her profile to potential hiring contacts.
Two months into the strategy, one particular job lead prompted me to make phone calls to multiple people across the US in hopes of identifying the right person in China to present the candidate. I discovered that the right person was the head of the entire Asian pacific region for this global employer. The break came when one individual indicated that she would send an email along with my contact information to that individual.
The challenge was to operate with a 12hr time difference; coordinating telephone interviews with folks in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Australia and the US operations to move this 3 month interview process along.
Looking back, all that effort was the easy part, because the problems started after the hiring manager decided to make an offer.
CLOSING THE DEAL
I learned that this particular hire would be the first of its kind for this particular region. This meant that new processes had to be created and implemented on the fly. It was also more challenging because China’s technological advancement was definitely about 10 years behind what we are accustomed in the United States. Also, the candidate’s demands from an acceptable offer perspective were even more challenging. (compensation, relocation, cost-of-living, retirement) as we had to take into account the before & after taxes, currency exchange rates, fluctuation in exchange rates and reporting responsibilities.
I suggested that the hiring manager and candidate negotiate directly on these offer issues because the candidate certainly had more expertise on than I.
During that period of time I received numerous phone calls of an urgent nature from the candidate -what’s taking so long? I really need to get out of here, dadadadah!
After a few days without a call, I followed up with the candidate and I was shocked to learn that an unacceptable offer was verbally presented, but it didn’t matter because her current employer became aware that she was seeking to leave and is now trying to create a role for her in their China office. (A recruiter’s worst nightmare)
A month later there was an announcement that her company was acquired by a competitor. I followed up with her and learned that her internal transfer was put on hold as her company now needed her skills to assist in the integration of both firms. Playing an instrumental role in the transition would create more meaningful opportunities for her career, she was told.
SAVING THE DEAL
She contacted me 3 months later and informed me that she is now willing to accept my offer if it was still on the table and if it was an improvement above the initial offer. I contacted the hiring manager and the offer was increased, plus a huge upfront and back-end bonus .plus relocation and living allowance; everything that the candidate asked for.
She verbally accepted the offer and requested a start date of 4 months; because the Christmas holidays were approaching and it would allow her to collect her bonus that was not yet paid. And also to follow through on her present employer’s planned trip to China. Another purpose of the trip was to meet with the hiring manager, who would travel from Singapore to China to sign the offer letter and discuss plans and strategies.
Upon her return to the States, she indicated that she had some concerns about the healthcare delivery system in China as she had a health related emergency which the medical professionals suspected to be cancer. Follow-up test were done in the US and thank goodness, all results were negative. That’s the good news; the bad news was that she was so concerned about her health while in China; she returned home without connecting with her new boss. (Who can blame her, given her state of mind!)
Now that her health was no longer an issue, she needed to resign from her current employer and begin making plans to start her new job with her new employer in a new country. However, the hiring manager has not contacted her or retuned her phone calls. (My calls to the hiring manager were also unreturned)
The candidate was devastated as she told me (90 minutes conversation) that her new boss was unaware of her health issues and totally mis-read the situation. (Since she left China without signing the offer letter; it was portrayed as not only as a turn-down, but she (hiring manager) was played for a fool after putting her neck on the line to get her what she wanted in an offer) But upon hearing the actual story, the hiring manager expressed sorrow because she had extended the offer to another member of her team-who was not qualified to handle the job done.
(At that time I realized that after 20 years in recruiting, this was the worst deal of my career; one in which everyone involved came out on the losing end, including the individual who was given the job by default.)
Three months later I received an email for the China HR Director indicating that we needed to discuss my placement fee. I contacted my candidate and learned that the hiring manager had kept in touch with candidate, made some changes in the division and had re-extended the offer-which she has accepted. Also, she had turned in her letter of resignation; a start date had been determined and the relocation process was in progress.
Fast forward, a few days prior to her departure to China, I received an email from the candidate, indicating that the work-permit was declined as she had failed her physical examination. (A work permit is a requirement for non-citizens to work in China) Instead of getting on a flight to leave the country, she was checking into a specialty hospital for further evaluations.
The candidate called a few days later to inform me of her specific condition (it was serious) with also a dose of reality. She was unemployed, unsure of her own health situation, paying expensive cobra health insurance premiums and not knowing her next step in life.
For a period of six months, the hiring manager, as well as myself continued to keep in touch with the candidate, providing guidance and support. Follow-up test were conducted and happily, the results were favorable which led to the issuance of a work permit.
After another month of internal red tape and new batch of signature authorizations, I received a voicemail from the candidate (Oct 21 2011) thanking me for my efforts and that she will reconnect when she get settled in China.
What have I learned from this experience? Nothing new, but this experience certainly solidified many things that I have heard before.
Technology, specifically social media tools in the hands of a good recruiter, will make that recruiter more effective in creating placement opportunities where opportunity did not exist. The skills of the old school recruiter is valued more in other countries where people still care about people, and have not yet replace them with the latest, cheap, fast and easy automated solutions.
To recruit top talent, it is the reputation and track record of the hiring manager that should be sold; more so than the role, the employer brand or the career opportunity. The successful hiring managers win by exceeding expectations to show how much they care. Sometime it involves breaking rules to make it possible. And, restricting a recruiter from interacting with a hiring manager is one rule that should be broken.
How much pain, failure or frustration should you endure before you give up on a goal that is important to you? The candidate and the hiring manager demonstrated that you should never give up because the pain is nothing; compare to the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that you will receive when that goal is achieved.