Wednesday Wisdom: Don't make me go there. Seriously.

Dear Claudia,

A recruiter in my office recently landed a VP search for a company I used to work for. I know a lot about this company’s dirty laundry, and the leadership is generally ruthless and unethical. I tried to warn the recruiter before he took the search, but he doesn’t seem to care about the background information. My real problem is that it’s now my job to generate candidates to fill this role. I absolutely don’t want to work on this search. Am I right to feel this way? What should I do?

Seriously Frustrated

Dear Seriously,

Honey, it’s time to take a big girl pill. Unless I’m missing something obvious, you’re working for a search firm and getting paid by the placement, right? That means you have a job to do, so tuck your disapproval into your back pack and start recruiting.

This situation is not about you. It doesn’t matter how valid your perspective is, although you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and to act on it in any way that you please. Just like there’s no crying in baseball, there are no victims in recruiting.

Situations like this test our abilities to recruit professionally. They teach us to step out of a personal frame of reference to recognize and build relationships between people who can fundamentally work well together in business. They teach us to speak the truth with respect and transparency to others: not just in terms of the situation that is, but also in terms of the opportunity it presents to the individuals and the business.

You may think that your chance to bring about positive change for this former employer ended when you left the company. I think that you’ve come full circle, and you are empowered once again to drive change – only this time in a much more strategic way than you could have done in your old job. Bring that mindset to your candidate development, and see what happens.

The best revenge is living well, don’t you think?


In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Views: 99

Comment by Philip Eames on May 7, 2008 at 4:33am
Tough love!
I would add this - companies get the people that they deserve.....somewhere out there, waiting, is a candidate that is right for this company. Get that mean, ruthless individual, make the customer happy and collect your bounty!
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on May 7, 2008 at 9:09am
Claudia, great response :) I love that - a "big girl pill"! Timeless :) My guess is that this recruiter will "go through the motions" and make it look like she's trying while putting effort into other searches. I mean, if your heart isn't it, it will show, right? I do empathize with the fact that it's tough to sell a garbage product . . . even for the greatest salesperson around. Anyway, I'd have fun with this search, but I'll leave it at that ;)

Joshua Letourneau
Mg Dir, SSF (Strategic Sourcing Framework)
LG & Assoc Search / Talent Strategy
Comment by pam claughton on May 7, 2008 at 1:16pm
I disagree on this one. I personally would have a very difficult time working on a search if I knew there were issues like this. I think I'd take a pass. Sure, you could fill this position, but if the environment is really that bad, what are the odds the person will even stay? So you could spin your wheels, make a placement, and then have to give it all back? No, thanks. Fortunately, there's enough business out there that you can say no to crappy clients like this, and focus on the good ones.

Just my take on it anyway. It's never fun to turn down business, but it usually works out for the best. I turned away two potential new clients last week and was feeling a bit torn about it, then picked up a phenomenal one that will more than make up for the two I passed on. What goes around comes around.

Comment by Claudia Faust on May 7, 2008 at 5:45pm
Hi all, and thanks for chiming in.

Pam, I understand your perspective as I'm guessing that you're the one who chooses to take on the search (or not) in the first place... unfortunately, our friend isn't in that position. She steps in after the search is on deck, and doesn't get to pick and choose which ones to provide candidates for. As someone who feels strongly about stepping away from the business, how would you suggest that this recruiter proceed?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about another option.
Comment by pam claughton on May 7, 2008 at 6:17pm
Claudia, that does put an interesting spin on things. When I worked at an agency, we were all full-cycle recruiters so we had the option of picking and choosing which reqs of our co-workers we wanted to devote time to. It sounds like she might be in a different model, where she is assigned a search and has to recruit on it. If I were in her shoes, I think I'd at least ask to be reassigned to a different search...given that she used to work at the company, it seems like an ethical dilemna on her part, maybe her manager could have a different person take this one on. If not, then she has to decide if she can do it. Maybe the best decision might be to move on. I think you need to feel good about the work that you are doing, and to knowingly represent a company that is shady and to then present that company to a candidate as a good career choice might not feel like the right thing to do....and then the question also is how much of this background do you disclose to the candidate? Are you upfront about perceived 'issues' or do you not share that information and let the candidate find out for themselves? What if they take the job and then discover these shady goings on and then blame you for not disclosing it ahead of time? You have to consider how representing a company like this will reflect on you and your company. Is that something you are okay with? Maybe, maybe not. Overall I don't think there's a clear cut black and white answer to this one.
Comment by Claudia Faust on May 8, 2008 at 9:26am
Brilliant response, Ben. I especially liked this part:

"...stick to FACTS, don't let your personal experience predjudice the candidate. You are who you are and your experience was subjective, Someone else's personal chemistry might have an entirely different outcome... "

Perhaps one of the more complex challenges for career recruiters is understanding and leveraging the role of Influencer. We coach everyone in the search from time to time: candidates, hiring managers, interviewers, even spouses. Transparency is certainly one of the keys; truth in advertising ensures a good potential match for the role. Timing is another key. But how you articulate the message is also important, and there's a fine line between information and propoganda (which I like to think of as "information with an agenda"). It takes clarity for a recruiter to know where that line is, and discipline to leave the decision where it rightfully belongs: in the hands of the job seeker or hiring manager.
Comment by Dennis Dugan on May 10, 2008 at 2:27pm
I have to disagree with Claudia on this one.
I think you have to assume Seriously Frustrated is correct. therefore, I believe the ethical thing for the recruiter to do is inform the final list about the scuttlebutt concerning the company and let them make the decision to go or not for an interview. With the final candidates so informed, Seriously frustrated should have no problem working the phones and internet.
Comment by SE-R Austin on May 10, 2008 at 6:56pm
I concur with Dennis. It is ultimately up to the candidate to decided whether or not to pursue the position. To do that, they need the full story - I wouldn't pull any punches about the negatives; I certainly don't about the positives. I try to do this as objectively as possible, leaving out the "I" language. "Previous candidates have reported that..." is a good way to present it to the candidate.

I did this with a difficult client years ago and had great success staffing them up. The client's culture caught up with them, but in the two to three years my placements worked their, they gained valuable skills that helped their career.
Comment by SE-R Austin on May 10, 2008 at 6:58pm
"Doh" - I just caught my misuse of "their". Mea Culpa; I of course meant "there", then "their." I guess my OCD is catching up with me! :D
Comment by Toni Fisher on May 15, 2008 at 4:31pm
Integrity is GREAT to have but ya can't eat it. It's weird how like minds end up working for the same companies.


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